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Is It Time for Another Ethics Investigation of City Commissioner James Rasor?

Is it time for another ethics investigation of City Commissioner James Rasor?

It appears the findings of the ethics investigation into Commissioner Rasor’s parking lot wheeling and dealing will soon be revealed. I am curious to learn its outcome and interested to see whether or not it has maintained a focus on ethics.

The vast majority of people operate well within the boundaries of the law, their behavior governed by personal values, morals, etiquette and ethics. But Mayor Ellison and others repeatedly announced Commissioner Rasor broke no laws, even before an investigator was hired. These repeated comments intentionally misdirect public attention away from ethics to legal questions. This misdirection also taints public opinion with an unsubstantiated conclusion.

In fact, it doesn’t matter whether Rasor’s actions were legal or not. What matters is whether or not his actions were in the best interests of the City of Royal Oak. That is the ethical issue to be resolved. Keep in mind that many perfectly legal activities that occur every day in business are totally unethical for a person in a position of public trust such as a sitting Commissioner.

I am also concerned with the hiring of an attorney for an ethics investigation. Even if this was the Commission’s attempt to misdirect the investigation’s focus into the legal arena, they should have hired a judge. Lawyers lead their clients in, around and through the law, judges determine whether laws are broken.  And finally, I ask readers of this blog; do you think an attorney can appropriately judge another person’s ethics?

This week I became aware of another possible ethical violation by Commissioner Rasor. On December 6th, 13th and 20th, 2012 The Oakland Press published (and listed on its website) a supplemental section titled Notice of Delinquent Tax Parcels Subject to Foreclosure February 13, 2013, Andrew E. Meisner County Treasurer. One of the parcels listed, # 25-16-483-032, 423 N. Main St., Royal Oak, has delinquent property taxes totaling $311,631.32. The property owner listed is Murray Investments, LLC and the contact as Bob Murray c/o James B. Rasor, Attorney.

Is it ethical for a City Commissioner to represent a taxpayer owing $311,631.32 in delinquent taxes to the city he was elected to represent?  Shouldn’t a City Commissioner always represent the City in any situation involving something as critical as delinquent taxes? I think so. This appears to be a major conflict of interest; I believe this should be investigated and I will request the city to do so.

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.

N. Binkowski December 16, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Every Royal Oak resident should read this article and be concerned. Mr Rasor needs to decide whether he wants to represent the best interests of the citizens of Royal Oak, or be an attorney representing people against the city of Royal Oak. He can't be both!
Jerri N. December 16, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Rasor's actions are disgusting! Why is mayor Ellison, commissioner Capello, Poulton, and the rest of the commission members allowing this garbage to happen? It's embarassing for the entire city. The rest of the commission needs to call this guy out on these obvious conflicts and put a stop to it?
Jerri N. December 16, 2012 at 04:49 AM
BTW...When is Rasor's term up?
Bill December 16, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Last year Razor had a political fundraiser at his house for Andy Meisner. Also, if my memory serves me correctly, Razor was pushing for a parking waiver request for a gym on Bob Murray's property located on Catalpa where the school district garage used to be located. If he represents Murray, he shouldn't be voting on any of Murray's requests. Of course this guy is conflicted! The sad thing is that it is only brought to light by citizens like Mr. Vasquez, or the volunteer who wrote the anonymous whistleblower letter exposing the Arts, Beats & Eats parking deal he had with the hotel developer. The city commission needs to start policing iteslf, but hell will freeze over before that happens. Jerri N., to answer your question, Razor, Capello's and Poulton's term expire in Noverber 2013. The mayor's seat also expires then, too.
Ray Smith December 16, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Near the beginning of last week's planning commission meeting, Rasor made a formal statement that he no longer had any association with this particular development and he participated fully in the discussion that evening. I will be curious to see at tomorrow night's city commission meeting if the results of the investigation will force him to preclude himself from participating in any future discussion on this project as a planning commission board member.
HHT December 16, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Rasor needs to be recalled. Do us all a favor and just step down Mr. Rasor.
Raven Soccer Fan December 16, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Ray, did you notice how Rasor conveniently bootlegged out of the meeting prior to the vote saying he had another commitment near 10 pm on a Tuesday night? Just because Rasor no longer has an active business dealing with the hotel developer doesn't unconflict him, Ray. Former Mayor Cowan used to recuse himself from voting on issues when he represented someone in the past that had issues come before the city commission. Why doesn't Rasor? This type of political business dealing stinks and belongs in Wayne County, not Royal Oak.
Debbie Campbell December 16, 2012 at 05:52 PM
How can such a well- educated individual such as Mr. Rasor be so completely clueless concerning the meaning of the oath he took when sworn into office?
Raven Soccer Fan December 16, 2012 at 10:31 PM
No one is saying his representation on the tax issue at 423 N Main Street presents a conflict for the hotel development at 400 N Main Street. They are two seperate conflicts. I suggest he is conflicted at 400 N Main Street on the hotel because he had a past business arrangement with the developer at 400 N main Street, even though the business arrangement was aborted before ABE. It still presents a conflict. Most in an elected position will recuse themselves even if they had past business dealings with someone that comes before them. Secondly, Rasor representing a Royal Oak yaxpayer, be it a individual or a business is a glaring conflict since Rasor can't possibly represent the best interest AND the City at the same time. It's like an attorney trying to represent both parties in a divorce, the Court doesn't allow that.
Raven Soccer Fan December 16, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Thirdly, since Rasor has voted on past matters involving Murray's properties, without disclosing his relationship as his attorney, he hasn't disclosed that relationship as YOU expected. Going back to last years foreclosure publications, Rasor was Murray's attorney on the same property. This isn't the first year that Rasor has represented Murray. Since then Rasor has participated in discussions, and maybe even voted on Murray's request for a parking variance on the Catalpa property referenced above. Remember when the gym in the Freed project wanted to move to the Murray property, but wanted relief from parking requirements? Quit making excuses for this guy.
Ray Smith December 16, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Oops, my mistake. When reading the Geoff's story above, I assumed he was referring to the hotel development. My bad. Sorry.
Raven Soccer Fan December 17, 2012 at 02:36 AM
OK Pasternak, here it is. Do me a favor, you send it to the city attorney. 123 Catalpa is the old school district garage that Murray owns. The following link is from the 06/20/11 city commission meeting. Go to the Traffic Committee recommendations, 5E, specifically. Take note how the vote was unanamous to deny, except for Rasor. Go and watch the video on the city's website for even further proof and how Rasor argued against the recommendation. You'll find it interesting. http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/sites/default/files/meetings/City%20Commission/2011/20110620m_0.pdf Rasor clearly voted on a Murray property without disclosing that he was Murray's attorney. The request was regarding parking for tenant Koi Studio/Gym, but as you can see, the traffic committee recommendation references the property owner, too. Interesting how Rasor was the only vote against denial. Do you think it had anything to do with his professional relationship with Murray?
Raven Soccer Fan December 17, 2012 at 02:46 AM
The video.....go to Part 3 and the 38:00 minute mark. http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/meetings/city-commission/2011/06/20/city-commission-meeting
Cheryl Loukinen December 17, 2012 at 07:39 AM
The question is, does Razors actions provide any confience in the residents of the City of Royal Oak. If for any and all reasons the residents feel that his actions are not in the best intesert of this City, than does it become an Ethical problem for Razor. As I seee it, this than does become an etchical problem. It is what the residents believe that raises the issue of a viloation, as I read it.
Cheryl Loukinen December 17, 2012 at 07:43 AM
What does the CBRE analysis sa,y to the Hotel being built there. As a representative of the City, the best interest should be held in priority. I am not against Razor, but we need to ask ourselves, what is the best interest.
Raven Soccer Fan December 17, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Looking forward to a response Pasternak. Still not convinced? I found another example even closer to home. Here Rasor stumps for a parking request for RTT, USA which is a tenant located on the top floor of Contract Design located at 423 N. Main Street. Sound familiar? Oh, that's right, that the building Bob Murray owns that has the $300K+ tax arrearages and the one listed in the foreclosure publications listing Rasor as the contact. May 2, 2011 City Commission Agenda Item # 15 "Fresard Property Parking Lot" http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/sites/default/files/meetings/City%20Commission/2011/0502-125-11.pdf http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/sites/default/files/meetings/City%20Commission/2011/0502-124-11.pdf Letter # 124-11 May 2, 2011 City Commission Minutes. See page 8 "Fresard Property Parking Lot" Rasor made two motions. Both died for lack of support. http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/sites/default/files/meetings/City%20Commission/2011/20110502m.pdf May 2, 2011 City Commission Video, see Part 5 http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/meetings/city-commission/2011/05/02/city-commission-meeting
InsidePolitics December 17, 2012 at 06:56 PM
I think this is evidence Razor is caught red handed. Hey, hasn't that Murray guy had all kinds of city contracts?
Raven Soccer Fan December 17, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Some intersting observations on the video. Rasor begins against the proposal. By the end he does a 180, and makes two motions that die for lack of support. 0:00 to about 01:30 minutes. Ellison claims he was the one who proposed this idea behind the scenes. Interesting, I believe Ellison's son works/or worked at RTT, USA at his location. Ellison makes no mention of that. 02:30 to about 05:00 minutes. RTT was looking to utilize 60 spaces, even though, Contract Design was given a mamoth parking variance when the building was constructed. 08:38 minutes. Drinkwine smells a rat! 12:20 minutes. Semchena asks what happens with all the parking overflow from N. Main businesses when property is developed? 13:35 minutes. Rasor flips from against to support and gives RTT history. 17:00 minutes.
Raven Soccer Fan December 17, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Rasor offers first motion to approve. It dies for lack of support. 18:20 minutes. Andrzejak flipflops after original supportive comment earlier. He mentions large parking variance requested and granted for Contract Design. 18:45 minutes. Rasor makes impassioned speech why this shold be approved. 20:40 minutes, and offers second motion to approve that dies for lack of support at 23:30 minutes. Through it all, Rasor makes no mention of his professional relationship with 423 N Main Street, and Bob Murray the property owner of the tenant seeking the parking spots from 423 N. Main St. Equally disturbing, Ellison makes no mention of his son's employment with RTT, USA. Who needs ethics?
Mark Itall December 17, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Concerned: No, just an employee.
Mary R. December 18, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Anyone that has taken an Ethics class, or even been to an Ethics seminar/training knows that even if it is deemed that the mayor is not conflicted by his son being employed by a petitioner, at the very least, he is obligated to disclose that he has a relative employed by the petitioner. It doesn't appear the mayor did that. Does the mayor fear transparency?
Mary R. December 18, 2012 at 02:21 AM
My comment is regarding Mr. Rasor representing the property owner at 423 N. Main Street and his tax arrearage situation. It appears to be a clear cut conflict. The city commission is the taxing authority for the community. Mr. Rasor serves on the city commission, or taxing authority. He is also trying to serve as counsel to a property owner against the very taxing authority of which he serves on a taxing issue. He can't possibly serve the best interests of both his client and the taxing authority at the same time. Thus, the conflict. It's pretty clear cut.
Ray Smith December 19, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Pasternak, thanks for posting the link to the opinion. Also, how did you even find the document? I scoured the City website and could not locate it.
Judy Davids (Editor) December 20, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Note: As of Dec. 20, 2012, the tax status for the property at 423 N. Main St. is $6,447.71 or the balance of the 2012 Winter Tax, according to the Oakland County tax collections hotline.

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