Ethics Fight Poses Threat of Returning to Bad Old Days

It was a sad Royal Oak City Commission meeting Monday night.

After listening for more than two hours to 44 Public Comment speakers, CITCOM conducted business to 12:31. Unfortunately, Two of the matters they discussed -- ethics and, separately, Arts Beats & Eats -- combined to reveal that the commission may have reached a tipping point and will return to the across-the-table animosity which characterized the previous commission.

About Ethics
Commissioner Pat Capello introduced discussion of an ethics pledge, which she had composed, as an agenda item. Taking the long pledge herself, she asked that the commission immediately agree that commissioners should publicly take it before each meeting.

The discussion that followed went sour immediately. Most other commissioners and the mayor agreed that they were offended. Jim Rasor quickly contended that Capello's move was aimed at him. He and others reminded Capello of there is a rule against unilaterally introducing new items without prior notice. Jim's anger led him to make using derogatory personal terms while making his case that Capello was ignoring the " "innocent until proven guilty" tradition. Peggy Goodwin, who shares with Dave Poulton the reputation of being the quiet ones at The Table, became visibly angry objecting to Rasor's rhetoric.

Mayor Jim Ellison asked City Attorney David Gillam to comment on the legality of some of the language in the Capello-composed pledge, and Gillam demurred. On a 5-2 decision, CITCOM sent the document to the Rules Committee to see if some of it might fit the city's Ethics Ordinance. Rasor and Kyle DuBuc voted No.

Listening to speaker after speaker praising ABE, I assumed that Witz had arranged for a claque to defend the festival against complaints about noise, which were streaming through blogs. Then someone mentioned the Detroit Free Press article, which I had not seen. The article apparently dealt with complaints about more than just loud music. Witz later presented his views and essentially said that he would work on reducing the volume and that if the sound level is controlled, the matter of the music running beyond scheduled hours would become less of a problem.

The anger, which arose during the ethics discussion flowed into and distorted the ABE debate, with Rasor suggesting that the Free Press story had been planted. The festival's producer made soft promises about addressing the complaints, repeatedly saying he would have face-to-face conversations with City Manager Don Johnson, who unfortunately is considered part of the problem by many of the unhappy residents.

A less angry discussion about the loud music running past agreed upon time appears elsewhere on this page. ABE as an issue will go on for a bit more time, I'm sure.

Despite the worrisome new tone, which pervaded the evening after the ethics squabble, CITCOM professionally dealt with issues like changing policy to permit the selling of some land to Oakland Community College and mandating annual hotel/motel inspections, before ending after midnight.


Frank Versagi is the editor of Versagi Voice.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Shrine Family September 11, 2012 at 05:15 PM
It was rough watching the latest city commission meeting. Rasor is a cancer to the our city.
Ray Smith September 11, 2012 at 05:20 PM
The anger generated among the commissioners as a result of Capello's sudden introduction of an ethics pledge was palpable. I haven't seen this level of wrath at the table since Drinkwine used to go at it --all guns blazing -- with some of his colleagues. And while I think Capello's intensions were good, perhaps she didn't think through how her colleagues would feel when presented with this "insulting" oath.
Terry G. September 11, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I've dealt with Capello before and one thing you can be sure of - she did not have good intentions. Furthermore, the only thing she knows how to do is block progress. So, instead of getting any meaningful work done this 'ethics pledge' will be discussed ad nauseum and she will try to fashion herself the hero of this whole time wasting mess. This commissioner needs to go and we need more productive business people on the commission.
symes September 12, 2012 at 12:34 AM
"...doth protest too much, methinks." Aspersions aside...the simple business placed in front of our elected officials was to affirm the absence of any conflict of interest. UNBELIEVABLE that we would have elected officials bombastically claim IMMUNITY from the very ethics standards that are in place to protect our interests. As a result of the apparent position of the majority of our elected officials, the only interests guaranteed protection are those of their own. This in the name of PROGRESS? This very approach has brought the City of Detroit to its knees and the former Mayor to his second trial. Our city must grow and robustly. What is taking root now will destroy this city not further its growth. How is it possible for our staff to have confidence in our elected leadership when their intentions are to potentially further their own interests? This environment stifles open deliberation and lends itself to attracting developers who believe they can influence the city through "ATTORNEY CLIENT PROTECTED" relationships. If our elected officials are unwilling to state clearly that they are free of potentially conflicting relationships regarding business in front of them they can go back to being private citizens. Leaders who will put our interests first should fill those seats. It also speaks volumes that the first act was to attack the messenger. Poor form and bad show. It's time to put citizens first in Royal Oak that appears easier said than done.
Yeah, Whatever September 12, 2012 at 12:55 AM
WHAT are you talking about, Shakespeare?
Royal Oak Raven September 12, 2012 at 01:22 AM
One shouldn't flaunt their lack of education.
Craig September 12, 2012 at 09:44 AM
Terry G so in your world, only business people who fear an ethics ordinance and will vote for anything as long as they are somehow profiting from it should be on the commission? Bring in the Feds. RO is in serious trouble with this attitude.
Brenden September 12, 2012 at 03:21 PM
-Rasor started this latest fire by his unexcusable personal money grab on the parking lot scam. He put his personal financial gain in front of the city's. The city controled the two Fresard lots for the last two years, prior to Rasor trying to gain control. -Capello has been put in the position to respond to Rasor's activities, because no one else on the commission will. And it deserves a response. Unfortunately, she mucked her attempt up preety badly. It came off as a grandstanding excercise. Right intention. Bad delivery. -Ellison hides from the tough issue as usual. When Royal Oak needs leadership, where is he on this issue? More than anyone, he should be mentoring Rasor on how to govern. He doesn't. Rasor is his boy. Why isn't he counseling Rasor, so that Rasor doesn't get himeslf (and the city) into these idiotic positions. If Ellison was leading. many of the Rasor problems could be minimized and mitigated. -Fournier and Dubuc, members of Rasor's "dream Team" haven;t said "boo" about Rasor's parking lot scam. Why not? In fact, they said more in defense of Rasor at Monday's rotten city commission meeting. Sad. continued
Brenden September 12, 2012 at 03:21 PM
-Poulton's position is based on which way the wind is blowing. He has been voting identical with Rasor on many issues, especially bar expansions, but is trying to distance himself on the parking lot investigation. Completely useless. -Goodwin. I didn't vote for her, but feel sorry for her, because she is surrounded by a bunch of useless colleagues on the city commission
Bill September 12, 2012 at 04:41 PM
This editorial on Rasor has summed it up best so far. http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20120909/OPINION/209090324/What-Jim-Rasor-thinking-?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|South Oakland|s
Fitzgerald September 12, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Wow! The editorial puts the hammer down on Razor. Thanks for providing the link Bill. :>)
Sue Biskner September 13, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Is anyone starting a Recall Rasor petition?
Ray Smith September 13, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Brenden, while I agree that Rasor's ill-advised business transaction was nothing less than a 'money grab,' I take issue on some of your other points. 1. With Rasor's situation undergoing investigation, neither Capello, Ellison, or anyone else on the commission should be commenting about it. Wait until the investigation concludes before suggesting an ethics pledge and what not. I do agree, however, that a certain amount of grandstanding took place on Capello's part. 2. In my opinion, Ellison and the majority of the commissioners are honest, honorable people, who want to do a good job. And remember, they are essentially volunteers and being paid a pittance for an extraordinary amount of time they devote to the job. 3. Ellison is THE mayor, not the "mentor in-chief." He is not responsible for tutoring commissioners, particularly ones with strong opinions of themselves, if you know who I mean? And as I asserted earlier, Ellison should be making no comments about the Rasor affair until the investigation concludes. Again, I believe that 95% of our commissioners are honest people, trying to do what's right for the city. It's a shame, however, that the acts of one member of the board can make all of them look bad.
The Duke of Royal Oak September 13, 2012 at 01:51 PM
The best thing for the city and residents is for Mr. Rasor to resign immediatley.
Renee Gibson September 13, 2012 at 05:26 PM
As a Royal Oak resident, I was embarassed after watching the replay of Monday nights city commission meeting.
Debbie Campbell September 14, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Symes-- Thank you for your spot-on assessment—Having just viewed the meeting video I find Debuc and Rasor’s appalling comments and behavior to be extremely revealing— Thank you Commissioner Capello for being a champion of transparency. http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/meetings/city-commission/2012/09/10/city-commission-meeting
JD September 14, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Capello gets credit for calling Rasor out on this issue, but let's not forget she gave Rasor credibility (when he had very little) during the 2009 election when they both got elected/ she re-elected. They combined their campaign efforts towards the end of the 2009 campaign process and sent a broad joint mailing towards the end of the cycle. Let me share some of the verbage from their joint mailing verbatim: "THE CAPELLO-RASOR AGENDA FOR ROYAL OAK * Return respect and civility to Commission meetings * Stop any attempt to raise property taxes * Support balanced and sensible business growth * Demand transparency in city government" On the other side of the postcard in extra large font reads: "PAT CAPELLO AND JIM RASOR ARE A TEAM ROYAL OAK CAN BELIEVE IN."
K. Dill September 14, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Royal Oak deserves better than this. Recall them all!
Colleen September 14, 2012 at 06:26 PM
The fact that anyone has a problem with a pledge of ethics is enough for me. Rasor has been a cancer for too long. First the ZBA, then sleazy campaigning, tieing up the CC with his marijuana clients and now this. This is serious folks.
JD September 14, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Here is the balance of the joint Capello-Rasor postcard from Fall 2009: "AN INPORTANT MESSAGE FROM CITY COMMISSION CANDIDATE PAT CAPELLO If you have decided to vote for me this Tuesday, I would like to ask you to consider supporting my friend, Jim Rasor, as well. Jim and I come from different backgrounds and have different experiences but we share similar golas for our city. I know he weould be an asset on the City Commission and I hope you consider casting a vote for him on Election Day. Respectfully, (signed) Pat Capello"
Debbie Campbell September 14, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Yes-- I’m aware Capello somehow got sucked into the void back in ’09 and put out some joint campaign lit with Rasor— But we all make mistakes—and I give her credit for working to correct that mistake.
M. Tillotson September 15, 2012 at 01:56 AM
After reading that campaign lit, and her enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Rasor, my problem with her would be her judgement. In politics, all one has is their reputation. One shouldn't endorse anyone, unless they are completely comfortable with the other person, and that person reputation.Rasor's rep wasn't stellar in 2009 (or prior). Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased that Mrs. Capello is leading the charge on getting to the bottom of the Rasor business dealings. That is the primary issue. But, I also find it ironic and interesting, that it boils down to that she is now in the untenable situation of trying to abort someone that she helped give political birth to. Mr. Wolf, I reject your premise that Mr. Rasor has somehow turned. He kas had a tarnished and sullied reputation prior to being elected in 2009. That is why he finished dead last the first time he ran for city commission. The only reason he barely gained a seat, finishing third in 2009, is because Capello generously offered her good name to his political mailing. Also, both Capello and Rasor have failed miserably on the first two points. They have worsened respect and civility at meetings. They both lied about "stopping any attempts to raise taxes". Promise three is debatable. And Rasor absolutely fails point 4, and I'll hold opinion until the investigation results are in on Capello and transparency.
The Duke of Royal Oak September 15, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Why waste the city's money ($5,000.00) pursuing an investigation, everyone with a pure heart and mind KNOWS that Mr. Rasor and his PARKING LOT SCANANDAL is WRONG!!!! Please Mr. Rasor RESIGN so that the city can move on and save $5,000.00. If Mr. Rasor is found guilty he should have to reimburse the city $5,000.00
The Duke of Royal Oak September 15, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Does anyone know if the city(residents) financially gain from the ABE event? And this of course is after all the expenses are paid out. How much, financially goes to the city(residents) and where? This was the third year, if this years numbers are not in yet, what about the past two years? It seems that the ABE event waste a lot of the citys time such as DDA, Comissioners, etc. A good article for Patch to post. Thanks.
Ronald Wolf September 16, 2012 at 07:27 PM
DT I believe strongly that the complicated accounting of ALL city related expenses that have gone into AB and E will never fully be totalled. The city ideally should keep a book like any business does, but there exists the fear that someday it may be discovered that our fair city spent far more then it took in. Not something any mayor, commissioner, or city manager would want to take credit for. The most important result is that our DDA members and the majority of businesses downtown who give our commission palpable support are all able to dip their beak. As for the city coffers, see, hear and say no evil. If I am incorrect please correct me. Kind of sounds like Wall Street does it not? I would love to be totally wrong and made the goat of derision in this instance. Pasternak I am sure will take a shot at it.
Ronald Wolf September 16, 2012 at 07:49 PM
DT I believe that the complicated accounting of ALL city related expenses that have gone into AB and E may never fully be known. Ideally the city should keep a balance book but there exists a possibility that someday it may be discovered that our fair city spent more than it took in. Not something any mayor, commissioner, or city manager would want to take credit for. What is most important is that our DDA and the businesses they represent who all support our commission are equally able to dip their beak. As for the city coffers, we already are aware of the moth eaten condition they are in, so please speak, hear and see no evil on this topic. If I am incorrect please correct me. In this instance I would relish to be totally wrong just so my friend Pasternak can be the first let me know.
Ray Smith September 16, 2012 at 08:43 PM
From listening to the ABE financial reports of over the past few years, the city typically breaks with this event. If I remember correctly, we came out slightly ahead in year one, but lost some money in year two, as a result of the bad weather. According to Don Johnson during last Monday's commission meeting, early reports show the city may have gained a bit this year. The final numbers will be available in about 3 or 4 weeks.
HB September 16, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Political abortion is the best term to date to describe Commssioner Rasor.
HB September 17, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Financially, it may be a wash, but is this where the city should be expending their staff time, and employee time? I would prefer that their time be spent maintaining neighborhoods instead of putting up barricades for streets, and erecting no parking signs for a festival that a private individual profits from. DPW workers and police officers are burnt out after Dream Cruise week and ABE. They aren't burnt out from patroling, or maintaining our neighborhoods. That is where I think the city has the priorities for our community backwards.


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