This article is one of a series of editorial articles that express personal opinions and views. They are written with no pretensions to be error free. I will gladly correct substantial errors of fact. My opinions can change, depending upon my awareness of changes in factual information. It is my intent to remain focussed on specific public issues, regarding the personalities involved. For all I know, all the characters are saints, concerning their private lives and other public business...
Changes may be requested by E-MAILing the details to
Last night, sheriff Gary Maddox brought news and a request to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners. He stated that township supervisors would submit a letter requesting the county 911 committee be activated to bring a 911 service to Schoolcraft County, now that the required prerequisite of appropriate mapping and addressing was near completion. Mr. Maddox stated that 911 system costs should be met with revenue from a new state imposed surcharge on all cellular billing in Schoolcraft County, along with a Board of Commissioners authorized surcharge of up to 4% on the base rate of all conventional wired phones in the county.
In response to a question about system costs, sheriff Maddox mentioned that until the reconvened 911 committee considers all the current costs for today's 911 system, no accurate breakdown of costs could be provided on which to establish any wired phone surcharge request or a millage proposal. It was his educated guess that an operational county 911 system could be achieved without a millage but it would be the responsibility of the 911 committee to determine the actual financial requirements.
A Schoolcraft County 911 system was the major topic of interest at a Manistique Township Hall meeting 7 PM, 09/20/00. A number of Negaunee Central Dispatch officials of the Michigan State Police, knowledgeable of the various facets of regional 911 systems, fielded numerous questions from local residents, Schoolcraft County 911 Committee members and local government officials. Much of the discussion was of a technical nature relative to current 911 system requirements and would mean nothing to the average resident. What might be of greater importance is the following:
It was a general consensus of opinion, from those Negaunee officials that chose to speak of the subject, that the small population and the large area of Schoolcraft County precluded an economical and independent 911 system with all facilities located within the county.
No plans existed or are contemplated by the Michigan State Police to force small population U.P. counties to finance their own 911 system, independent of Negaunee Central Dispatch.
No one from Schoolcraft County suggested developing an independent 911 system, in the foreseeable future.
As long as a recently imposed state surcharge on certain wireless phones (cellular, ?) remains in place, producing adequate revenue, the local costs of the Schoolcraft County Board of Supervisors approved 911 system will be met.
The Negaunee Regional Dispatch personnel and equipment costs will be met with a 4% surcharge on the highest local base rate of each wired telephone service installed in Schoolcraft County. Without today's hard numbers that would likely be around 50 cents per telephone line, per month.
Certain telephone company recurring and non-recurring technical charges need to be determined. Those charges would be added to each telephone line monthly bill.
It was voiced, with no dissension, that all the townships request county action to achieve a functional county wide 911 system.
I was unable to be present at the 911 Committee meeting of 12/14/00, but after the holidays I spoke to Manistique Dept. of Public Safety supervisor, David Peterson and Schoolcraft County Sheriff, Gary Maddox, concerning the details of the meeting. The major feature of the meeting was a presentation of a Schoolcraft County E 911 Calculation Estimate for the known costs up to 12/19/00. The estimate was developed by Stephen K. Smith, Manager 911 Operation for Ameritech/SBC.
The estimate was not created by a consensus of 911 committee members' various public and private agendas. It is a legitimate, professional estimate of the "best value for money" 911 plan approved by the Schoolcraft County Commissioners several years ago. The costs are less than half of the previous fictitious estimate that was used to justify the 9-1-1 millage request, that was voted down, and represent the true costs of the plan.
For those folks that may wonder why their telephone bills might include billing for 911 operational costs, before a 911 system is actually operational and providing service; the option is no longer prohibited if the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners choose to impose such billing.
The original Michigan Public Act 32 of 1986, section 401(1) states: "As soon as feasible after installation and commencement of operation of a 9-1-1 system..." operational funds could be billed.
The current amended version has no similar limiting language.
The option for County Commissioners to authorize 911 operational costs billing before service is available enables poorer communities, such as Schoolcraft County, an option to fund the infrastructure startup costs of a 911 system.
I have followed the Schoolcraft County 911 Plan evolution, closely, and called the previous funding attempt the shell game it was. The current efforts to realize a 911 system in Schoolcraft County is as straight forward and honest as it should be, after the old game was trashed, appropriately, by the voters. I have no qualms about paying my share of the current estimated bill to bring Schoolcraft County closer to realizing a functional 911 system that represents a responsible and forward thinking view of our community.
I attended the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners audit and finance meeting with the intent of asking a few questions concerning local F.O.I.A. policy. My questions regarded the type and content of public documents that Schoolcraft County authorities considered necessary to be requested through the formal process of the Michigan Freedom Of Information Act, for information acquisition by members of the public. At that 02/26/04 County Board meeting, long time Schoolcraft County 911 Committee Chairman, Sheriff Gary Maddox, told the Board that it was his opinion that I had no right to the documents that I based previous public inquiries upon, and if my request had gone through a formal Michigan F.O.I.A. process, then I would not have them. Sheriff Maddox and I, with supporting comments from Pioneer Tribune reporter, Paul Olson, requested a legal opinion to determine what public documents, and circumstances, required formal F.O.I.A. procedures.
My questions to the County Board were prompted by a story that had reached me concerning a heated courthouse discussion, between Schoolcraft County Sheriff, Gary Maddox, and Schoolcraft County Commissioner, Doug Erickson, regarding my pointed questions directed to the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee meeting of 02/18/04. That meeting was convened for 911 Committee members to discuss public 911 business, with no formal public notice, at a local restaurant, with meals paid for with 911 funds. 911 Committee members considered various 911 business topics including new business of a $5,000 contribution to a Negaunee based 911 system wide equipment self insurance fund for the emerging Schoolcraft County enhanced 911 system. The bill was to be paid from the $295,000 of total 911 cash on hand, comprised of wired telephone 911 related charges of $115,000 and wireless telephone 911 related charges of $180,000, as reported at the 01/21/04 Schoolcraft County 911 Committee meeting.
It appeared to me, as the story was related to me, that Sheriff Maddox and other members of the 911 committee were incensed at my pointed questions, and, apparently, reached the conclusion that Commissioner Erickson was "feeding" me "privileged information" that I should not have been able to obtain without my request having passed the scrutiny of a Schoolcraft County F.O.I.A. authority. For the benefit of 911 Committee members, Mr. Maddox, and Mr. Paul Wood, both of whom considered it appropriate to gnaw on Commissioner Erickson's butt, concerning my recent public interest in Schoolcraft 911 business, I offer the following background and sequence of events that led to my request for specific public 911 billing and auditing documents.
After this lengthy attempt to communicate my 911 concerns, and why I chose to make life somewhat less pleasant for myself, I hope that any Schoolcraft County 911 Committee member that takes exception to what I say, at public meetings, or in my writing, accepts my offer to gnaw on my butt, instead of Commissioner Erickson's. Commissioner Erickson is not my dad, or my muse, or a conduit for "sensitive" 911 related documents.
To the best of my knowledge, now, and at the time of my request for two documents from my elected representative, Commissioner Erickson, the requested documents were only sensitive to those individuals that considered the 911 wireless telephone bill surcharge revenues as a means to their personal ends, in addition to those of the general public welfare that they represented. I inferred, from those documents, that, if an apparent surplus of 911 cash, derived from legislated surcharges on wireless telephone service, prompted 911 Committee members to buy meals and catered Christmas goodies for a select few, then the same committee members were likely to justify other more questionable expenses.
When there was no public money in the infant Schoolcraft County 911 account, when I was a member of the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee, to the best of my knowledge, no First Northern Bank 911 seed money was spent on paid positions, restaurant meals, catered Christmas goodies, out of town business-junket expenses, vague and unspecified services and costs, or anything similar. Now that the 911 coffer is flush with approximately $300,000, and growing with the popularity of wireless telephone service in the state, there appears to be a "surplus" of legislated wireless telephone subscriber bill 911 surcharge cash, to be spent on questionable discretionary expenses.
Based on my past experience with deceitful empire building members of the 911 Committee, I question the propriety of certain discretionary expenses billed to the 911 wireless revenue account, and the manner in which they are incurred and paid. I question the propriety of the 911 Committee chairman's effort to stifle my public inquiries with the suggestion that all requests for public documents must go through the bureaucratic process of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. I question the 911 chairman's motives for impugning the legitimacy of my possession of the documents on which I based my questions at the 911 Committee meeting of 02/18/04.
The suggestion that Commissioner Erickson was, or is, feeding me sensitive information about 911 accounting business, is false. I know of no legitimate reasons why County Board reviewed and paid 911 bills are sensitive, and, hopefully, for the benefit of county residents, there are none. What I have to say is based on my knowledge and perception, and that of others of the unwashed masses of Schoolcraft County. Most Schoolcraft County residents are not blind and stupid, even though they choose to be silent, in public. I need no help to voice my disgust, now, concerning certain 911 business; I had no problem voicing it in the past. I do prefer to have legitimate documentation and reasons to justify my questions, and with Commissioner Erickson's appropriate assistance, or not, I was going to have my say.
I still question the source of authority for certain questionable 911 system expenses. To me, a letter of "authorization" from Sheriff Dale Gribler, of Van Buren County, is a pitiful attempt to justify questionable 911 expenses. I have no reason to believe that Sheriff Gribler, Chairman of the Michigan Emergency Telephone Commission, would have endorsed, in any manner, the events I question, if he had been made aware of the particulars. I suspect he will regret his decision.
To the best of my knowledge, the Dale R. Gribler letter, relating the personal opinion of Paul Rogers, past chair of the Emergency Telephone Committee, is not a source of current legislated authority, or qualified legal interpretation, for legitimizing the specific Schoolcraft County 911 related expenses and procedures that I question. I have no reason to believe that the Sheriff of Van Buren county, or my mother, has the credentials, or authority to interpret 911 related state legislation, pertaining to the specific circumstances I question. Neither is in a position to justify local 911 Committee authority to purchase, with 911 wireless telephone surcharge revenues, meals for 911 Committee members at a local restaurant, or to purchase catered Christmas goodies for U.S. Post Office employees for "services" rendered; not to exclude other unnecessary expenses considered or made, that I know of, or not.
Does the sheriff of Van Buren County also justify the choice of time, date, meals, and local restaurant at which Schoolcraft County 911 Committee meetings occur, without adequate and proper public notice, and with no assurance that all Schoolcraft County restaurants get a share of 911 restaurant business? The cavalier spending of 911 revenues, and the manner in which it is done, has all sorts of implications.
It even occurred to me that buying, with 911 revenues, catered foods for federal employees, for "services" received, is bordering on ? Then again, perhaps the rules regarding the acceptance of gifts by U.S. ambassadors, and those for lowly post office employees are different. I am sure Sheriff Maddox did his homework, and did not compromise anyone's career.
Show me the "sensitive" relevant state legislation, or legal opinions, that justify any and all of the above, and other 911 questionable business I know of, or not.
It is not my mother that created a 911 business atmosphere that discourages open public discourse, by creating an atmosphere in which I felt as if I was crashing an exclusive party, and was as welcome as a heart attack. Given the circumstances, before and after that 911 Committee meeting of 02/18/04, I hope that I caused a great deal of indigestion for all 911 Committee members.
I might change my tune if I, and my friends, were invited to eat with 911 Supper Club members, and they shared other questionable 911 expenditures with us. For a price, my silence can be bought. Make me an offer; but make sure that it is more than the price of a meal.
Once again, I have reasons to believe that is not me that fell off the cabbage truck, in the third world country of Schoolcraft County.
From my perspective, some recent 911 related news and rumour's have cast a shadow over the integrity of those whose responsibility it is to insure the general public gets the best bang for their 911 buck, in a legitimate and ethical manner. With manna falling from a legislated Commercial Mobile Radio Service, (CMRS), subscriber 9-1-1 surcharge heaven, Sheriff Maddox's 02/26/04 feeble attempt to justify questionable 911 expenses and procedures, open meetings violations, and his suggestion that my possession of specific public documents is questionable, I conclude that my queries, and the rumors that prompted them, were justified.
If there is no general public necessity to spend public money, to achieve a benefit for the general public paying the bills, then I do not understand how it becomes appropriate to buy restaurant meals, catered Christmas meals, arbitrary position income, and other perks that benefit a select few. Neither I, nor any of my friends or acquaintances admit to being aware of a public invitation to share, apply for, or bid for exclusive CMRS subscriber based revenue purchased benefits.
After reading what I have to say, I hope the reader concludes that my recent interest in 911 business has nothing to do with Commissioner Erickson "feeding" me "sensitive" information that should have passed through a Freedom of Information Act process, that, likely, guaranteed that those involved would be put on notice to cover their tracks or manufacture plausible denials. You might conclude that the information I requested of Commissioner Erickson, was not sensitive, except to those that had something to hide, and that my request of Commissioner Erickson was a consequence of my own understanding, or lack thereof, of what I, and others members of the unwashed masses, perceived to be the inappropriate use of 911 wireless telephone revenues.
I have always supported a Schoolcraft 911 system, though reluctantly, at first. I never supported it so that a select few can eat well off my cell or wireline phone bill, or collect arbitrary salaries with no employment contract, service contract or verified itemized expenses.
With most of my lifetime behind me, learning about human predators, when I see a bill for "services", now, I always ask, "Who was serviced, in what fashion, by whom, and for how much?"
To provide some historical context and perspective that justifies my cynical view of certain 911 business, that I am aware of, I offer the following.
In another life and time, I was, for a short period of time, a Manistique city councilman and a member of the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee. As a working member of the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee, I learned that most members had reservations about designing, and presenting to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners, a good working basic 911 plan. They had visions of a self sufficient county 911 system, with few concerns about cost, or the value for money that county residents would receive. The apparent motivating interests of the most aggressive committee members was far more personal, than public, in nature.
The reality of a large rural county and a small population with limited financial resources forced the wannabe 911 empire builders to design a workable and affordable 911 plan that would be accepted by the Schoolcraft Board of County Commissioners.
Once a "best value" plan was accepted and approved by the County Board, the same 911 Committee people voiced no reservations concerning the ethics of creating a ballot proposal that sought more than twice the money required to fund the approved 911 plan, as approved by the Board of Commissioners, and touted to the public. No one, but me, took a vocal stand against that fraudulent act.
I listened to the 911 Committee empire builders talk of buying 911 related jobs, vehicles, communication equipment, etc., that was no part of the plan approved by the Board of Commissioners, or presented to the public. As Manistique city councilman, and 911 Committee member, I endorsed and supported the County approved 911 plan, and spoke and wrote ill of what I considered an act of fraud that sought funding inconsistent with projected expenses of Schoolcraft County's approved 911 plan. The ballot proposal was rejected by the voters, and shortly thereafter I opted to not run for office again, having found it most disagreeable to work with those virtually devoid of ethics, or the courage to take a stand against those that embraced the power of corrupting influence.
Most of my lessons learned, during my short stint as Manistique city councilman, were not forgotten. I never deserted my ethical position of representing the best progressive general public interests, and I never forgot the impotence of my moral public voice in an environment of rampant personal interests, at public expense. That impotence led to the creation of the manistique.org web site, a repository of my views regarding a multitude of Schoolcraft County political issues that continue to help keep Manistique and Schoolcraft County on the margins of civilization, and firmly secured as a laughing stock of Lansing.
With the Schoolcraft County 911 system born in deceit and corruption, I knew that the midwives bore watching. I had no reason to believe that any of them would do the right thing, if it was expedient to do the wrong thing. I was not disappointed.
In the late Summer of 2003, I attended a Schoolcraft County Board Audit and Finance meeting, for reasons concerning the unsubstantiated employment termination of a Schoolcraft County Public Transit driver. At that meeting, I noted the request and approval of a 911 related $2,000 raise for 911 Committee member, Tax Equalization Director Paul Wood, with no substantiating reasons offered, beyond unspecified expenses. That raise was approved, with no questions asked, while other county officials at the meeting sought, and failed, to recoup recent budget cuts. To me, that meant one thing; the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee was well-heeled and independent of county budget restraints. During hard times, it had money to burn, and was burning it.
In December of 2003, a county resident showed me a copy of a Schoolcraft 911 Committee agenda, stating that a meeting took place at the Anne Marie's restaurant in Manistique. The resident asked me "Who paid for the meals?" "Why local meetings in a restaurant?" I said that I was unaware of local 911 Committee meetings, with meals, at the restaurant. I had paid little close attention to recent 911 business.
Shortly thereafter, another county resident claimed that Sheriff Maddox had made an offer, of 911 money, to finance a Christmas party for the employees of the U.S. Post Office in Manistique, and the offer had been refused. Needless to say, no substantiation of the rumor was offered.
The next rumor I heard, in January 2004, was that the supervisor of the Manistique U.S. Post office, resigned from her position on the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee. I thought, to myself, if the rumors I had heard were true, then, had I been in her position, I would have done the same thing; but in a far more public manner.
In early February, 2004, I approached my elected County representative on the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners, Doug Erickson, and voiced my knowledge of the rumors, and then asked him if he had knowledge of 911 bills, paid with 911 funds, concerning the purchase of meals at Anne Maries or the purchase of Christmas related "goodies" for post office employees. Mr. Erickson said he was aware. I then asked him for representative copies of the bills, and voiced my disgust with what appeared to be something more than unsubstantiated rumors.
Both Commissioner Erickson, and I, spoke about the nature of the 911 bills, and concluded that the only sensitive nature that could be attributed to the bills, was the propriety of using 911 funds in the manner suggested by the bills. Neither of us could think of any apparent reason why there would be any violation of the Michigan F.O.I.A. by my possession of copies of the 911 bills. Mr. Erickson provided me the representative copies of the 911 bills that I requested.
At the Schoolcraft County Board of County Commissioners meeting of 02/17/04, at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse, Chairman Frenette stated that a 911 Committee meeting was scheduled for 02/18/04. That meeting was news to me. No public notice of the 911 Committee meeting was posted on the Courthouse public notice bulletin board.
Having been made aware of the 02/18/04 Schoolcraft County 911 Committee meeting, I attended it, and, without showing the documents I claimed to have, I asked questions about the propriety of certain 911 related bills I knew of, including the purchase of meals at similar meetings to that which I attended to voice my questions. I knew, by the obvious body language, and spoken language, that I had spoiled the opportunity for 911 Committee members to enjoy a relaxed social event, and meal, at Anne Maries restaurant.
For all the assertions of appropriate 911 business, at the 02/18/04 911 Supper Club event, and the following County Audit and Finance Committee meeting of 02/26/04, the fallout staggered me. If all was, and is well, why did Commissioner Erickson get his ass chewed by 911 Committee members for my business, and why the attempt to create hurdles for those that wish to obtain public documents. Attempts to track and monitor access to, or make more difficult to obtain, public documents, concerning public business with no sensitive qualities, implies, to me, an attempt to conceal questionable business from prying eyes.
Here is a transcript of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act and the Michigan Open Meetings Act, courtesy of the Michigan Legislature web site. I provide a transcript copy of Sheriff Dale Gribler's letter used by Sheriff Maddox to justify Schoolcraft County 911 expenses that I find questionable. 911 Catered food bill, 911 catered food paid, 911 lunches bill, 911 lunches paid.
No part of 9-1-1 Public Act 32 of 1986 states or suggests that 911 business is exempt from the requirements the Open Meetings Act. No part of Act 32 suggests that a local restaurant is the appropriate location to conduct 911 Committee business meetings. No part of Act 32 suggests that meals for 911 Committee members, or catered food for federal postal employees are appropriate expenses for CMRS wireless phone revenues. No legislation exists, to the best of my knowledge, that has been interpreted, by a legitimate state legal authority, to allow the use of 911 CMRS revenues in the manner that the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee has chosen to do business.
No contracts, no budgets, no competent oversight authority to consider, no audit to determine the legitimacy of expenses billed to cash accounts. If it sounds good, dip into the bucket of cash. The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners will approve almost any expenditure, because the majority of its members are ignorant, and don't care, and they relinquished much of their fiduciary responsibility to Sheriff Gary Maddox, who operates as much by personal whim as legitimate policy. He operates as if there is not a more appropriate way to determine lawful expenditures, as if ETSC Approved 911 expenses are difficult to determine; as if Sheriff Gribler is the fount of 911 propriety and wisdom, as if spending 911 wireless subscriber revenues, for private gain, is a divine right of those in public office, unconsidered by a Public Act 32 Compliance Review.
Incidentally, what is that $180,000+ pile of wireless phone derived revenues for? How can a "slush fund" of that magnitude be acquired by law? It came out of someone's pocket...what did they get for it? What do I get for it? A 9-1-1 wireless emergency service order, or Act 34? Was the "order" or "act" designed to allow some to extort cash from all wireless telephone subscribers for unnecessary, but desirable "public safety" related expenses? How does a surplus of wireless funds get reconciled by the Act 32 requirements of annual accounting? Was the funding for the "wireless emergency service order" created with no accountability? Who gets to spend the leftover cash? For what? Is it 911 Committee money, Schoolcraft County money, Negaunee primary PSAP money, or State of Michigan money? Is it money extorted from wireless telephone subscribers for the Act 34 stated purpose of wireless enhancement of the 911 system, that will be used, primarily, to finance the State's 800 MHz communications and data network that many local governments could not afford to use, otherwise? Are wireless telephone subscriber revenues really a tax for the unstated purpose of building the State's 800 MHz communications and data network with the sweat of wireless telephone subscribers, to create a source of revenue for communities to purchase the expensive radio equipment and network use rights that they would not otherwise be able to afford? Whatever the case, the current Schoolcraft County 911 system works fine, without the expensive 800 MHz toys.
If the 4% wireline surcharge is all that is required for central dispatch, at Negaunee, and the additional technical charges on my phone bill reconcile the network, hardware, recurring and "other" costs, what is the $115,000 wired subscriber revenue balance for? Anything deemed appropriate by the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee? Where does the $115,000 balance of wired funds come from? Is it spent already, on legitimate 911 system primary PSAP operational expenses incurred but yet to be billed by Negaunee? Does it represent a surplus that should be reconciled by the Act 32 requirements of annual accounting? Who gets to spend the leftover cash? For what? Is this a form of fraud? Is it, along with the wireless revenue surplus, representative of 911 start up business, state wide? Is it representative of a continuing process of legislated over funding, by mandatory surcharges on the bills for an essential utility service, the "surplus" of which may be spent by community officials on public safety equipment that current taxes and budgets cannot fund?
If a Schoolcraft County 911 budget exists, with appropriations for various legitimate Schoolcraft County 911 system expenses coming from wireless revenues, or wired revenues, what are they? If there is lunch money left over, who gets to eat? Why am I not invited? I know I have done more pro bono homework, regarding Schoolcraft County 911, than just about any other 911 Committee member, and I am still hungry.
Perhaps all is well, and all is a gross misunderstanding by me, fostered by my limited knowledge and vivid imagination that has conjured up apparent deceit and fraud where there is none. I need to hear, from someone I can believe, that either I am splitting 911 hairs, or something is rotten in Schoolcraft County. I want to know that I did not support a 911 system based on the implicit knowledge of others who knew it was based on a process of fraud, with the fraudulent intent of forcing telephone subscribers to finance far more than a 911 system I helped to sell.
The issues I elaborate are only those I am aware of, and choose to pursue. The problem with implicit trust, in elected or appointed public officials, is that it is so easy for public officials to betray the public trust, because most of the trusting or apathetic public find it more expedient to pursue the necessities of life, than to hold public officials responsible for their failures or betrayals. One of the necessities of life is paying the costs of government failures and betrayals. The average person does not have the time, resources, or inclination to understand public issues or try and hold public officials accountable, because, in most cases, the personal cost would far exceed their share of the public loss, regained, if it is possible to match the legal and political resources available to incumbent officials.
Few folk are willing to risk the costs of politically motivated retribution.
It is not necessary for public officials to screw the public, while pursuing appropriate public business. It is a conscious choice to spend public money for other than public benefit. It is a conscious choice to spend public money contrary to principles of ethical government, public business, and the law. It is a conscious choice to collect money for one purpose, and spend it on another. It requires a conscious effort to deceive and prey upon the general public.
As I read and understand both acts, regarding the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee business conducted under the circumstances I relate, multiple violations of the open meetings act occurred, and a false interpretation of the freedom of information act, and Sheriff Gribler's letter, was offered by Schoolcraft County Sheriff, Gary Maddox, for the apparent purpose of discouraging public scrutiny of documentation regarding questionable 911 public expenditures; questionable expenditures made by neither Commissioner Erickson, nor me.
As for the content of Sheriff Gribler's letter, it is nothing more than written personal opinion, and carries no more legal weight than mine to authorize specific Schoolcraft County 911 expenditures, and the manner in which they were incurred, and paid. From a personal opinion point of view, either Sheriff Gribler is right, or I am. Either the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee members acted appropriately, or not. I provide verifiable specific incident relatable information. The Schoolcraft County 911 Committee Chairman, Sheriff Maddox, offers a letter of "authorization" from someone I have no reason to believe knows any more, than my mother, about the specifics of the local 911 business that I question.
It is my personal opinion, based upon my understanding of specific events and legitimate authorizing documentation, that:
It is inappropriate for significant county 911 business, to be conducted by the Schoolcraft 911 Committee meeting at a local restaurant, without public notice, with meals paid with 911 funds. My personal opinion is based, in part, upon the Michigan Open Meetings Act. The other part of my opinion is based upon my shaky faith in the Michigan legislative process that would not provide the authorization to local 911 Committee members to dine at the public's expense, in a local restaurant, in their tiny home town, in such a brazen manner.
To me, it is a worthless personal opinion from the Sheriff of Van Buren County, to Sheriff Maddox, that is used to render appropriate the spending of 911 wireless subscriber surcharge revenues for catered Christmas favors for federal postal employees, and to purchase "in town" meals for "in town" 911 Committee members taking care of 911 business, in town. It takes a lot more than the opinion of someone with vested interests in a particular behavior to be accepted as a basis of authority concerning the propriety of such behavior. If Sheriff Gribler understood the circumstances I take exception to, his opinion means nothing more to me than a fox vouching for a fox, guarding a hen house.
I have no reason to believe that the letter from the Van Buren County Sheriff is any more a source of legitimate authority for the spending of 911 revenues in Schoolcraft County, than a letter from my mother, with similar content.
I have yet to attend a Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting, or a Manistique City Council meeting, at Anne Maries Restaurant, and watch members eating, literally, at the public trough. I do not remember the federal E.P.A. representatives sucking on the public teat, in the Harbor Restaurant, in such a reprehensible manner, while they spent some $46,000,000? of public money in the Manistique Harbor cleanup. Why do you think that is?
The copies of the two 911 bills, that I used to justify my questions at the Schoolcraft 911 Committee meeting of 02/18/04, were not mandatory or recommended fodder for the Michigan F.O.I.A. procedures. The Michigan F.O.I.A. does not state or imply that all information requested by members of the public, from their elected representatives, or public officials, must be vetted by a F.O.I.A. process. A cabbage can think of many reasons why, in an open society, that such a mandatory process would be an invitation to state sanctioned censorship, or intimidation, by overzealous officials, or those with something to hide.
Any public or private inference or claim, by members of the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee, that Commissioner Erickson was "feeding me sensitive information", are untrue. No information that he provided me is exempted from disclosure by the Michigan F.O.I.A. He did provide me specific 911 public auditing and billing information, that I requested. We did discuss public 911 topics of mutual interest, that I broached. I can claim, with few reservations, that, to the best of my knowledge regarding the history of Schoolcraft 911 business, the public's perception of certain 911 business is far more relevant to current 911 negative publicity than unfounded accusations, by 911 Committee members, of trouble-making by a commissioner who is doing the kind of job that I, and his constituents in general, should expect of him.
The current 911 "bad news" is nothing more than the consequence of my perception and ability to connect a certain combination of public events, real, imaginary, or rumored, to reach a reasonable tentative conclusion about public business and policy. If my tentative conclusion is of sufficient importance to me, I expect candid and appropriate answers to my candid questions that I have about the conclusions I draw from my perceptions of public business and policy. I have no particular reason to live in ignorance of the truth surrounding that which interests me, if I am willing to invest a piece of my life to seek enlightening information. What I do not need, in exchange for that piece of my life expended, is a line of worthless evasive crap.
I have no reason to believe that any public official, or employee, has an unquestioned right to a job, or position, or income, or the expectation that any public decision, concerning public business, should proceed, unexposed and unquestioned.
I have no reason to believe that the Michigan Freedom of Information Act was designed to confound open and simple public business, because Sheriff Maddox finds it is useful to do so.
I have no reason to believe that the Michigan Open Meetings Act was designed to be ignored by the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee that is too lazy, arrogant, ignorant, bent or stupid to provide adequate and appropriate public notice and location of scheduled meetings for important public business that can be scheduled, easily, in an appropriate location for the conduct of public business.
I have no reason to believe that, in Manistique, Anne Marie's restaurant is an appropriate place for conducting local public Schoolcraft County 911 Committee business.
I have no reason to believe that there is legislated mandatory consideration or use of Schoolcraft County 911 funds, for unwarranted local breakfast, lunch, supper, Christmas parties, catered foods, income supplements, out-of-town business-junket expenses, or anything else unconsidered when I was a member of the 911 Committee. That past inappropriate expenses are considered appropriate now, by those that milk a fattening $300,000 public 911 system cash cow, for the benefit of a distinct minority, implies, to me, that the ethics and integrity of Schoolcraft County 911 Committee members is inversely proportional to 911 cash on hand.
I have no reason to believe that any public official should hand out 911 funds, to those that claim they need it, without verifiable public data that justifies a payment, and/ or a contract to justify such payments. Fiduciary responsibility and accountability being the key concepts of such business.
I have no reason to believe that any 911 Committee member has any civilized reason to find legitimate offense to the sequence of events that brought me before them, on 02/18/04, to spoil the 911 Supper Club meeting with my justified questions. That I was unwelcome, regardless of protestations to the contrary, was not lost to me. I offer no apologies for my presence or questions in an atmosphere that stifled liberal, or liberating, public political discourse, from those not invited to supper.
For those that claim, or imply, that 911 wireless telephone surcharge revenues must be used for vague, unnecessary, discretionary or inappropriate expenses, I say show me the legislation, or appropriate legal opinion that supports your contention. Without it, I have no reason to think that foxes are not raiding the hen-house; because, they choose to do so.
I am not omniscient. I did not fall off the cabbage truck, last night. What I smell is not cabbages... or booze.
I hope that Commissioner Erickson's candid behavior is not subverted by Sheriff Maddox's, and Tax Equalization Director Paul Wood's claims of unsubstantiated rectitude. The responsibility for the consequences of my perception of inappropriate Schoolcraft County 911 Committee related business, policies and methods, is mine, alone, as stated. Whatever questions Commissioner Erickson has about 911 Committee behavior is the consequence of his independent knowledge and perception.
I know that there are more than two independently thinking residents of Schoolcraft County that have substantive reasons to question certain Schoolcraft County 911 Committee business.
As is typical for Schoolcraft County, the incidents, above, have become the subject matter for shameless public humor, by those directly involved. Rather than waste my life waiting for appropriate answers to my questions, at the local level, I thought it might be more productive to send the following e-mail to members of the Michigan Emergency Telephone System Committee. It will be interesting to see if the state professionals of the ETSC choose to address my concerns i.a.w. Public Act 32 Compliance Review.
Dear Mr. Kearny, and Munoz. It has come to my attention that the 911 Committee Chairman of Schoolcraft County considers my public inquiries, of questionable local 911 business, as appropriate subjects for public humour. Unfortunately, a letter from ETSC Chairman Gribler has been used as a source of authority that reduces my substantiated concerns to the basis of a comedy routine. If my concerns are humorous, unfounded, or inappropriate, I would appreciate a written communication to that effect. All details that I care to air, in public, may be found at: http://www.manistique.org/Schoolcraft_County_911.html I would appreciate your help to alleviate my confusion concerning the difference between humor and the consequences of an apparent dereliction of public responsibility, regarding Schoolcraft County 911 business. Sincerely, Peter Markham
I have been absent from the scene for a few months, so some updates are overdue.
No response was received from the above e-mail, indicating to me that it is all a joke to at least 2 members of the Michigan Emergency Telephone Service Committee and, most likely, E.T.S.C. Chairman, Dale Gribler.
As a consequence of my inquiries and questions, Sheriff Maddox offered the following letter, to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners at their meeting of ??/??/??, for the purpose of justifying the use of 911 funds to purchase restaurant meals for the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee members at their local meetings, at Anne Maries Restaurant, in Manistique. Questionable expenditures, other than meals, were ignored.
Dear Sheriff Maddox: Pursuant to our conversation of February 19, 2004, I have discussed with Mr. Paul Rogers, past chair of the Emergency Telephone Service Committee (ETSC) the previous conversation you two had regarding the use of wireless funds for official meetings of your 9-1-1 authority. The ETSC provides oversight for the legislation. As such, allowable expenses could be the rental of a meeting room, refreshments, and as in your case meals. I would reiterate Mr. Rogers' original assessment that these expenditures are for official business meetings only. Sincerely, DALE R. GRIBLER, SHERIFF Chair, Emergency Telephone Service Committee
Sheriff Maddox then offered the following letter to provide an audit company's sanction of 911 Committee expenditures for restaurant meals at local 911 business meetings held at Anne Marie's Family Restaurant.
ANDERSON, TACKMAN & COMPANY, PLC CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS Sheriff Maddox, This letter is in response to our phone conversation on Wednesday, May 19, 2004, relating to allowable expenses associated with your 911 authority. We have reviewed your correspondence with the chair of the ETSC, although we cannot give a legal opinion on this issue, we do concur that your meal expenses appear to be allowable under the guidelines relating to this funding. Thank you for the opportunity to address this issue. If you have any further questions relating to the allowability of County funds, please do not hesitate to call us. Sincerely, Kevin C. Pascoe, CPA
Once again, to me, it is an attempt at more subjective damage control. Sheriff Maddox offered the County Board two letters containing several layers of evasive personal hearsay, with qualifiers such as "could", and "appear". No sound legislative references or legal opinions from qualified legal sources are offered. Once again, I perceive a fox asking a fox to sanction his methods of guarding a henhouse, or asking those with little to no understanding of the issues involved for their personal opinion, based on what he, Sheriff Maddox, chose to tell them.
It was reported that Sheriff Maddox concluded his presentation to the County Board by stating that the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee would cease eating meals at Marie's Restaurant until a legal opinion was forthcoming regarding the issue.
Musta bin some doubt!
I can only imagine the details of the legal opinion request. I am sure it will NOT be of the form:
"Does Michigan Public Act 32, and other subject related State legislation, sanctioned Schoolcraft County 911 Committee's choice to spend 911 C.M.R.S. based wireless telephone subscriber surcharge based funds for restaurant meals and beverages, (not light refreshments of the "coffee and donuts" variety), for members of the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee, while they conducted administrative 911 business, at a local restaurant, for several years; without providing public notice of those meetings in which public business and policy was formulated and implemented, and public funds spent, with the subsequent unquestioned approval of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners?
Is it appropriate, and/ or legal, for the use of "emergency operational charge funds", derived from a state legislated 4% wired basic telephone service surcharges, as considered by Public Act 32, to be used for anything else other than that designated by the
EMERGENCY TELEPHONE SERVICE ENABLING ACT
Act 32 of 1986
484.1401 Agreement; emergency telephone technical charge and emergency operational charge; billing and collection service; computation; monthly charge for recurring costs and charges; ballot question; annual accounting; distribution of operational funds; limitation on levy and collection.
(12) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (13), or as provided in sections 407 to 412, the emergency telephone operational charge collected pursuant to this section shall be distributed by the county or the counties to the primary PSAPs by 1 of the following methods...
484.1406 Use of operational charge funds; accounting, auditing, monitoring, and evaluation procedures provided by PSAP or secondary PSAP; annual audit; conditions requiring audit.
(1) Except as provided in sections 407 to 412, the emergency telephone operational charge funds collected and expended pursuant to this act shall be used exclusively for the operation of the 9-1-1 system.
As of 06/08/04, the Schoolcraft County 911 4% wired primary PSAP operational expense fund has a balance of $132,312.08, accumulated over several years, under the premise represented to the public, by the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee, and me, as a past Manistique city councilman, that the funds were collected for the Schoolcraft County 911 system startup costs, after which, they would be used to pay the 911 operational expenses of the "primary public safety answering point” in Negaunee.
The legislated requirements for the Schoolcraft County 911 plan, as approved by the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners on ??/??/??, were completed early 2004, and the Negaunee primary P.S.A.P. started billing Schoolcraft County for the 4% surcharge revenues, in March, when it started to handle, officially, Schoolcraft County 911 calls at the central dispatch office of the Michigan State Police post, in Negaunee. The continuing operational charges will be paid with the continuing 4% 911 operational surcharge on wired telephone service subscriber bills. (02/11/05 - This statement is grossly incorrect, for reasons I do not fully appreciate. I "know" I heard Sheriff Gary Maddox report to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners that the Schoolcraft County 911 system was functional and billing was taking place. Maybe I heard wrong. Billing did not take place until September 20, 2004.)
To the best of my knowledge, to date, with a total of $132,312.08 Negaunee 911 operational expenses cash on hand, representing some three years of projected 911 operating expenses, there has never been an audit, or public discussion, sensitive to the changing requirements of 911 funding and expenses, to ensure the legitimacy and propriety of collecting, and hoarding, past 4% wired telephone subscriber surcharges, that were not used for the public purpose promoted by E911 Administrator Sheriff Maddox and other Schoolcraft County 911 Committee members. For approximately three years, Schoolcraft County wired telephone subscribers were billed for 911 startup and operational expenses, and the resulting revenues were not spent for those purposes.
Given the circumstances described, in a Schoolcraft County of ~8,302 souls, is there any reason for my concern when I consider that, based on population, a similar situation in Wayne County, population ~2,111,687, would mean an equivalent questionable 911 operational expenses fund cash balance of some $34,000,000? A similar un-audited Schoolcraft County's 911 CMRS wireless fund cash balance of $189,863.53, equivalent to a Wayne County cash "surplus" of $48,000,000, also makes me concerned about irresponsible 911 financing, in Schoolcraft County. I have no doubt that if Wayne County had a total cash balance of some $82,000,000, for discretionary 911 related expenses, a whole lot of people would have serious justified concerns, but in Schoolcraft County, the equivalent is "business, as usual".
The preceding Schoolcraft County scenarios and questions beg legal opinion(s) based upon the spirit, concepts and principles of applicable State legislation regarding the form of appropriate public business in the following context:
No other Schoolcraft County, or City of Manistique governing body, or related committee, conducts regular local business, with upper level county and city government members, in a local restaurant, with meals and beverages purchased with public money, without public notice, in the Schoolcraft County seat city of Manistique that has all the necessary infrastructure for all government business to be conducted in an environment conducive to open and accountable public business. No Schoolcraft County government entity has expressed any serious concern about what I perceive to be, at minimum, unethical, and most likely, illegal."
If needed, other supporting details and documentation may be found at http://www.manistique.org/Schoolcraft_County_911.html"
My perceived concerns, addressed at Schoolcraft County 911 Committee meetings, Schoolcraft County Board of Supervisors meetings, letters to the editor of the local newspaper, reported in the local radio station news, and e-mailed to two members of the Michigan Emergency Telephone Service Committee, have resulted in nothing more than a little evasive rhetoric, or no response, whatsoever. Therefore , I will spend more of my life, appealing to State authorities with no vested interest, hopefully, in the status quo in Schoolcraft County, regarding the issues I consider.
At 7PM, 06/10/04, I attended the audit and finance committee meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners and, during the public comment period, asked several questions regarding the current cash on hand in the Schoolcraft County 911 accounts. As of 05/30/04, the Schoolcraft County Treasurer's Office showed a 911 account balance of $132,312.08 of wired telephone surcharge based funds and a 911 account balance of $189,863.53 of wireless telephone surcharge based funds.
I asked what was to be done with nearly three years of "surplus" wired telephone 4% account funds that were collected from Schoolcraft County wired telephone service subscribers for the sole stated purpose of paying the startup and operational expenses of the Schoolcraft County 911 system, as approved by Schoolcraft County commissioners, and authorized by Public Act 32.
The response, to some degree, stunned me. Chairman Frenette wandered off on an irrelevant monologue concerning requested accounting from the Negaunee primary PSAP central dispatch office. His response indicated to me that he either failed to understand my question, misspoke, or is clueless.
He then proceeded to inform me that the county audit by Anderson, Tackman, & Comany, PLC, insured that nothing was amiss with the 911 cash accounts.
Why Chairman Frenette, and the other commissioners who supported the chairman's statement, expected me to accept and believe such hearsay, I have no idea. They had been provided a copy of a 05/20/04 letter, by Sheriff Maddox, from Kevin Pascoe, CPA, that stated that Anderson, Tackman, & Company could NOT provide a legal opinion, and as far as they was concerned, the questionable expenses that Sheriff Maddox chose to speak to him about APPEARED to be allowable, based on whatever Sheriff Maddox chose to tell him during a phone conversation. Kevin Pascoe's letter indicated that the auditors did not consider the legitimacy of the 911 revenues and expenses, beyond the balancing of the accounts and the "apparent" nature of both.
Commissioner Aldrich's response, as a member of the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee, was equally stunning. He wandered off on a minor dissertation concerning the use of the funds to replace, upgrade and purchase new 911 system related technology hardware, a purpose never considered, to the best of my knowledge, or authorized by Public Act 32, for 4% surcharge based revenues. Assuming that I am not clueless, he either misunderstood my question, misspoke or is clueless, also.
I then asked what was to be done with the 911 account balance of $189,863.53 of wireless telephone surcharge based funds. After a short discussion that revealed nothing, I was told to speak to the 911 Committee, at their next meeting. I said I intended to do so, if proper public notice of the meeting was provided.
After hearing a statement from Paul Olson, as Pioneer Tribune reporter, that indicated that I might have implied a "coverup" with my choice of words, I assured him, and the County Board, that the reason for my choice of words was that, to the best of my knowledge, I was unaware that any public notice of 911 Committee meetings was ever posted at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse, and if they had been, I had never seen one during my trips to the courthouse over the past several years.
To the best of my knowledge, the only correspondence based on an opinion from someone with some legal credentials, without a dog in the fight, regarding the 911 issues, is quoted, next. Peter Cohl provides legal assistance to the Michigan Association of Counties and is a partner of the respected Lansing law firm of Cohl, Stoker, Toskey & McGlinchey, P.C.
From: "Molly Cantrall"
In answer to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners' request for a legal opinion, concerning Sheriff Maddox's assertion that I had no right to reveal public information I requested, and received, from my elected representative, County Commissioner Doug Erickson, the following concluding quote, from the Schoolcraft County Prosecuting Attorney's 04/07/04 legal opinion, should discourage future efforts to muzzle political disention with specious F.O.I.A. arguments.
Commissioner Erickson, and I, exercised our F.O.I.A. options in a legal, appropriate and responsible manner.
... The Freedom of Information Act, however, does not provide for any penalty for a person acquiring, or a public official disclosing, a nonexempt public record by some means outside of the Freedom of Information Act. In other words, if a person inspects, or copies, or receives a copy of a public record from a public official without availing himself of the Freedom of Information Act procedures, there is no penalty under that Act to either party for doing so. The Freedom of Information Act protects a citizen's right to a public record; it apparently does not prohibit the voluntary disclosure of a nonexempt public record by one in possession of it, which disclosure, for any reason, is outside FOIA. A citizen, however, only has the right to the record if the FOIA statute is followed. In conclusion, based on the FOIA as presently written, the County Board should: 1. Adopt, or readopt so there is no question, and publish, a current fee schedule for copies of public records and brief procedure for obtaining them under FOIA. 2. The County Board Chairman should consider whether to appoint a designate FOIA coordinator. Each newly-named Chairman in the future, likewise, should consider this. Sincerely, Peter J. Hollenbeck Schoolcraft County AttorneyIt was interesting, to me, at the Schoolcraft County Audit and Finance meeting of 04/08/04, that Schoolcraft County Commissioner McKinney, who had the responsibility to inform the other Board members, and the public, of the relationship of the legal opinion to Sheriff Maddox's F.O.I.A. related assertions, chose to avoid speaking of it. All the other commissioners ignored it also, except for Commissioner Erickson, who found it necessary to speak up on his own behalf to establish the fact, in the public forum of that County Board meeting, that Prosecutor Hollenbeck's opinion found no fault with his, or my, use of the public 911 cost accounting documents that Sheriff Maddox preferred to remain private.
Two months later, evasion, ignorance and implicit deceit still rule.
At the Schoolcraft County Commissioners meeting, yesterday, I was approached by another audience member, who I thought was Under sheriff Mike Gray, who chastised me for my silence concerning the costs of a $500,000+ new kitchen, considered by the Schoolcraft County Medical Care Facility, verses my concerns regarding some $57 of meals charged to 911 funds.
I brushed him off, because my interest was thinking about the business at hand, and my dismay with his apparent inability to distinguish and separate the differences between the MCF spending their cash on a kitchen, vs. the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee taking my cash for their meals, perks and an apparent slush fund. Needless to say, reducing my concerns to $57 worth of meals did not prompt me to take him seriously.
I wonder if he was concerned with the report that Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital bought out, with no publicized reasons, the remainder of hospital administrator David Jahn's contract, with a $700,000 early retirement package, instead of the ~$200,000 balance of his contract. The "secret" reasons and details of that deal were with the hospital board's approval, a board of members appointed by the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners with a degree of responsibility to be candid with the public who depend on the hospital, and the well-being of its employees and finances.
No matter how hard you try, you can never see the world through someone else's eyes.
I attended the Schoolcraft County Audit and Finance Committee meeting, yesterday evening, with the expectation that more 911 related business would take place. It did, under the catch-all agenda item of "reports and communications" that denied the opportunity for public comment, since it followed the final opportunity for public comment. The inclusion of that specific 911 related business, in the "reports and communications" section of the agenda, was no accident. It was consistent with continued attempts to hide and obfuscate the unwarranted behavior of the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee; behavior that is contrary to all major Schoolcraft County and Manistique city public business that I am aware of.
Sheriff Maddox, Chairman of the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee, was present and primed to support his contention that the 911 Committee had every right to eat restaurant meals paid for with 911 telephone service subscriber surcharge revenues. He never said that it was proper behavior.
Sheriff Maddox claimed that violations of the Open Meetings Act did not take place, because the 911 Committee conducted no business, and made no decisions, therefore, was not bound to give proper public notice of its meetings. He never clarified what "no business and no decisions" basis justified the 911 meetings. He never mentioned the connection between collecting and spending >$300,000 and the fact that 911 Committee members decided on what and how it would be spent, and then made their recommendation to a County Board that had appointed them to consider such "non-business". Duh!
Sheriff Maddox claimed that a public restaurant was a suitable location to hold public meetings, to consider, in some undefined fashion, public 911 "non-business". He never considered the fact that no other local government entity conducted regular, scheduled public business in a restaurant, with meals, let alone to consider "non-business".
Sheriff Maddox offered nothing more than more here say from Sheriff Gribler, Chairman of the Michigan Emergency Telephone Service Committee, to substantiate the Schoolcraft County 911 Committees' behavior.
Regarding the three basic local government policy concerns, of mine, the County Board, with the lone vocal dissension of Commissioner Erickson, found no reason to take any action regarding the aberrant behavior of the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee, as determined by its chairman, Sheriff Gary Maddox.
Commissioner Dan McKinney made a short and cogent presentation regarding 911 finance issues. He said that the 4% wired telephone surcharge account funds were to be used, exclusively, for the 911 dispatch center, at Negaunee. He said that the "surplus" of wireless telephone surcharges were to be used for public safety related 800MHz radios. Even though the information was not new to me, I thank Dan for expressing relevant knowledge.
As I speculated, earlier, contrary to the 911 Committee's public deception, the wireless funds are far more for public safety related equipment, beyond the reach of legitimate local tax revenues, than they are about a functional 911 system that includes the Negaunee dispatch center technology to determine the positions of "cellular radio" users. The wireless telephone service subscriber surcharges are little more than a tax to purchase, in addition to restaurant meals, more public safety equipment and services, beyond what is required for a functional enhanced 911 system.
Chairman Frenette then spoke up, to exhibit, again, his ignorance concerning the purpose and use of the 4% surcharge revenues. He spoke, again, of his expectation of a full accounting, from Negaunee dispatch, for their use of Schoolcraft County 4% money. He has yet to show any recognition of what the money is for, how little it represents of the actual operational costs, at Negaunee Dispatch, and the nature of the contract with Negaunee Dispatch, as submitted to the County Board by 911 Committee Chairman Maddox, in March of this year.
Maybe Chairman Frenette expects Negaunee Dispatch to provide an accounting of how much of the 4% payments is used to pay for a dispatcher's time on the throne, and for trips from the dispatch console to the coffee pot, and back? Maybe he wants to know how much is spent for the time between 911 calls that a dispatcher may be thinking about his girl friend, wife, kids, vacation, etc? Maybe Chairman Frenette wants to know how much each monthly 911 call minute costs, after each month's 4% payment is divided by the monthly total time of 911 calls?
I dunno, Lindsley. I have described good reasons for me to conclude that you do not know what you are talking about. If you don't know, and Keith doesn't know, and Sheriff Maddox, the Chairman of the 911 Committee doesn't know; who does? The sheriff cannot know, because he claimed he is conducting "no-business" during 911 Committee "no-business" meeting times, while 911 Committee members fill their faces, at a local restaurant, using 911 funds. So who is doing 911 business?
A six year old can see through the Sheriff's deceit, when the Sheriff signs the restaurant meals bill. That's Schoolcraft County 911 business, at the most elementary level.
The reality, behind the public deceit, is; no one on the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners is conducting 911 business, because, generally speaking, they do not know enough about most 911 business to make informed decisions. Commissioner Aldrich, as a member of the 911 Committee, doesn't understand enough to answer my basic questions about 911 business. The County Board rubber stamps the 911 Committee's appropriate recommendations, because the 911 Committee, as a whole, has the responsibility to conduct 911 business.
Some 911 Committee members do 911 business for free meals. Others do it for free meals, perks, and a salary. To say or imply that 911 business is not conducted by the 911 Committee members, in and out of committee, is to deny the need and purpose of a 911 Committee, and makes de-facto liars out of the Schoolcraft County Sheriff and Commissioners that would have the public believe such drivel.
As a concerned citizen, I have the right to witness 911 Committee business taking place, in local government facilities, after adequate public notice, without feeling as if I am crashing a private party. I have little doubt that my presence, at early 911 Committee meetings, helped prevent the passage of a ballot proposal, based on fraud. I have no reason to believe that I should trust today's 911 Committee members any more than those I sat with, on the same committee, years ago.
At the Schoolcraft County Audit and Finance meeting of 06/10/04, I had asked the Board about the intended use of the "surplus" $189,863.53 of wireless telephone account funds. Chairman Frenette directed me to speak to the 911 Committee, at its next meeting. I said I would, if proper public notice of the meeting was given. Subsequently, I saw no public notice posted on the courthouse bulletin board and I missed the meeting. Mea culpa, again, for missing the non-public notice concerning the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee non-business of spending the non-public $189,863.53 wireless funds for non-public purposes.
So much for enlightened, open and honest local government.
The public record speaks for itself.
I attended the Schoolcraft County Finance - Audit Committee meeting of 01/13/05. All Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners, and the Schoolcraft County Treasurer, were present. During the public comment period, I asked the following:
It is my understanding that the Schoolcraft County 911 system became completely operational on September 20, 2004. It is my understanding that Schoolcraft County was to be billed for 911 telephone wireline services, monthly, from that date. It is my understanding that Negaunee Dispatch would be billing from September 20, 2004, for 911 operational expenses. To the best of my knowledge, in 2004, no 911 telephone services bills, or operational expenses, were considered, approved and paid by the Schoolcraft County Finance and Audit Committee. Regardless of whether my understanding of events mentioned is correct, where might I find the details of the operational Schoolcraft County 911 system budget, income, and bills, that have not been the subject of any public meeting I have attended, since September 20, 2004?I was ignored, by all public officials present.
Local 911 Committee Meals: A Whimpering Death Born of Official Deceit?I attended the Schoolcraft County Audit and Finance meeting, last night. Agenda item 7, prefaced as "Old Business Discussion", read:
"911 Committee meeting meals
Indirect charges for 911 Wireless fund
I was looking forward to some spirited public sparring, because, at the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting of 01/27/05, I had challenged the claim by Schoolcraft County Board Chairman Aldrich, that " ...all the paperwork indicates that it is a legitimate expense". He and Schoolcraft County Undersheriff, Mike Gray claimed that, between them, they had all the documentation required to justify paying for local 911 Committee meeting meals out of the 911 wireless telephone subscriber surcharge funds. The documents that both referred to were attributed to the Michigan Emergency Telephone Service Commission Chairman, Sheriff Dale Gribler, and legal opinions from the Michigan State Attorney General and the Schoolcraft County Prosecutor.
I had no reasons, documented here, previously, to believe what either said, and told them as much, at that meeting.
Now, on 02/11/05, I had expectations of dancing with Schoolcraft County Sheriff, Gary Maddox, as he found a seat at the meeting.
The anti-climax was little more than a whimper.
When the 911 agenda item came up for discussion, Schoolcraft County Board Chairman Aldrich leaned forward to scan up and down the meeting table, and said in a low voice, barely audible at the rear of the courtroom, "It's a none issue. There is nothing to discuss." He looked toward Sheriff Gary Maddox, who, taking his cue, stood up and stated that it was a none issue because the Schoolcraft County 911 Committee would no longer buy meals with 911 funds.
I sat in silence, stripped of my primary reason to address the fabrication of Undersheriff Gray, and Board Chairman Aldrich, at the last County Board meeting. After months of continuous claims to the rectitude of purchasing meals for local 911 Committee personnel, attending to local 911 business, in a local Manistique restaurant, instead of a local government facility; everyone got real quiet.
No one chose to share the reason(s) for the sudden official reversal of position. The same folk that strove mightily to obtain the community's acceptance of specious arguments and substantiation, gave up with little more than a whimper.
I suspect, but it is likely that I will never know for sure, that the 911 folk, downstate, or local talent, with clout, were concerned about the bad press concerning those Schoolcraft County 911 Committee personnel who traded whatever public integrity they had for a handful of ill gotten meals.
I have little doubt that E.T.S.C. Chairman, Sheriff Gribler, is grinding his teeth and ruing the day he stood up for a fellow lawman, without knowing the specifics and context of what he was defending, in public. I hope he spat out the hook.
I have little doubt that all of the "pro-local-911-Committee-meals-and-unjustified-perks-and-compensation" public official participants, in this little drama, are as devoid of ethics, or reasoning skills, as they ever were, and, when it suits them, they will still place their personal interests ahead of the general public interests they claim to represent.