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.

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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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