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Posted on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 9:23 a.m.

Half of Augusta Township Board of Trustees sues the other half over alleged Open Meetings Act violation

By Tom Perkins

Three Augusta Township board members and a former trustee are suing three other board members and a former treasurer over an alleged Open Meetings Act violation.

Supervisor Pete Hafler, Trustee Mike King and Trustee Dan Lula charge that the way in which former Treasurer Angela Sherbine resigned and the remaining board members appointed Susan Burek as interim treasurer was done deceitfully and violated the OMA.

The plaintiffs are asking Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge Timothy Connors to invalidate the board’s vote to accept Sherbine’s resignation and its vote to appoint Burek. The entire board has been named as a defendant and the township's insurance company is handling the case, though the plaintiffs aren't allowed to speak with the attorney on issues concerning the case.

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.

Lula, King and Hafler, brought the suit along with former Trustee and Supervisor Kathy Jackson. They say they were unable to attend the special meeting because of its short notice and it being scheduled on a Friday afternoon prior to Labor Day weekend.

They also charge in the complaint that the notice for the special meeting "deliberately misstated" its purpose, which was said to be for a "Treasurer's staffing report." It did not directly say it had to do with that it had to do with Sherbine's resignation.

King, Lula and Hafler are often at odds with and have had a contentious relationship with the other board members, who include Trustee Bill Tobler, Trustee Brian Shelby and Clerk Kathy Giszczak. Both sides have been engaged in a power struggle for several years.

The special meeting was called on Thursday, Sept. 1 and scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday Sept. 2.

"It comes down to the spirit and intent of the OMA,” King said. “It's there to make for transparent government and to include citizens, the board and the community, and that spirit and intent was violated.”

"A portion of the board conspired to hold a secret meeting. They went by the letter of law, but they chose a meeting time strategically. It’s intentionally exclusionary of half the board.”

Tobler challenged King’s assertion that the scheduling of the special meeting violated the spirit and intent of the OMA.

“There’s a legal requirement that was met, and there’s nothing in the law that talks about the ‘spirit’ of it,” he said. “The board members received the notice, and Mike King and Pete Hafler responded that they weren’t going to attend, and that was a choice they made. Instead of coming to a properly called board meeting they chose not to.”

Giszczak contended board members were given more than adequate notice. She said the OMA requires board members to be notified within 24 hours, and public notice must be posted within 18 hours.

She said those deadlines were met and notice was placed in Hafler’s mailbox at the Township Hall as she said he requested be done for special meetings. An email also was sent out to all board members, Giszczak said.

Sherbine said she resigned because she is moving to Alabama to be with her family.

Shelby, Giszczak, Tobler and Sherbine were present at the meeting, which is enough for a quorum. They voted on Sherbine’s resignation, which was approved unanimously. The remaining three board members voted to approve Burek's appointment.

Giszczak called the lawsuit political.

“After 3.5 years, you do not understand the laws that govern this body with regard to calling a special meeting?’” Giszczak asked.

She said the other board members had “every opportunity” to come to the meeting.

“You can say it isn’t fair but the laws were written how they are,” she said. “If you don’t like the way the law is written, then contact your legislator and have the laws changed. You have to be responsible and come to board meetings when they're called, and if you’re not there then shame on you.”

King said the notice was presented so late in the day Thursday that he couldn’t get work off in time to make it to the meeting.

It’s not the first time there have been questions about OMA violations in appointing a member to the board. When former trustee John McGeehee resigned in 2008, Sherbine had given birth and was on medical leave, giving King, Hafler and Lula the majority vote.

They appointed an ally in Jackson, and Tobler said the public was given no notice and the issue wasn’t on the agenda.

But King said the latest move was part of “systematic manipulation” on the part of his political foes. He said they have been trying to regain control of the board since McGeehee resigned.

“So we’re back at it, and it will never change as long as we have Giszczak and Tobler on the board,” he said.


average joe

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

I find it interesting that the entire board is named as a defendant, even though three members of the same board are the plaintiffs...

j shelden

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

but of course! The pot of gold is there for any ole joe, past or present, to stake a claim from. The risk to the fab 4 plaintiffs is ZERO money up front. Just imagine for a minute if these abusers had to put up $10K in this frivolous gamble..."winner take all"


Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

Just kinda wondering who is not only paying for this.. but did you all not learn anything from London Township not so many years ago?? Come on.. you all know the laws and frankly there have been some of the "Elected Officials" have not been on the up and up.. that is no secret.. but yet at election time.. you all reelect them..I am not real sure why... I am not a fan of the clerk myself.. finding that she is less then helpful and rather rude. I am really ver concerned about my tax dollars.. at a time when we are trying to scrimp and save.. and many of our township residents are losing their homes.. that the "elected officials" cannot settle like adults. I for one live in augusta township and have been broken into not once but twice.. we can afford police protection but we can afford this?? really .. I am sorry I would love to know where the priorities are? Protecting our citizens.. or engaging in this power struggle.. I for one would say the Police protection!


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 12:56 a.m.

Maybe the whole board needs tobe replaced .. lets start with team players, people who have their communities best interest at heart, and oh.. will not sue the township and remain in office.. I hope these people know how much money they are spending!! If I recall.. and I may have to FOIA the info .. but when London Township went through this the bill was pretty hefty.. some where in the neighborhood of tens of thousands of dollars.. Now I ask you.. is that good tax money being spent.. or should we wipe the slate clean and start over.. ??I am thinking that wiping the slate clean, and starting over with fresh with new officials!!!

j shelden

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

The harrassment and interference is very clear and truly pathetic. Sour grapes from the peanut gallery. Seems they need cheese with all that whine. It is so sad that the minority 4 can waste taxpayer dollars in their continuing charade that only adds more proofs of their own not so humble methods of harrassment which abuses the circuit court system of Washtenaw County. At what point does the county say "No More!" and start penalizing these less than perfect 4 specimens of humanity? At what point will the defendants lash out and countersue these 4 hecklers? Gizcak et al did all they could to make them aware of the special meetings and that's all they need do.. Jackson and Hafler and their henchmen need to stand down and pipe down! I am certain that in the next election the persons who are morally in the RIGHT will prevail......Gizcak, Tobler, Shelby, and Burek are each reasonable and concientous citizens and they are trying to get the job done. Yet the forces of the darkside just won't let up. I hope that the Hon. Judge Timothy Connors uses his wise judgement to not only toss this frivolous suit, but I also hope Judge connors takes the opportunity to verbally spank the 4 plaintiffs into submission.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 12:18 a.m.

Hurray! Judge Connors did indeed strike down those dirty dogs. And he went on to lecture them as you predicted God Bless America. Right (Shelby/Gizcheck/Tobler)wins--self righteousHafler/King and company) loses


Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

1. So this all came about because public officials didn't want to work the Friday before Labor Day? How is it a secret meeting if there is public notice and especially considering vested parties acknowledged the meeting by stating they weren't attending? I think a staffing report would cover workloads, hiring, firing, resignations and items which could affect a budget. 2. Who is paying for this lawsuit, both side of it at that?