Ethics Debate Continues in Royal Oak

Commissioners want more information on recent ethics investigation released to the public.

Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello is questioning the seriousness of a recent investigation on whether or not the actions of a Royal Oak city commissioner constituted an ethics violation.

Capello told commissioners Monday night that when she requested a special meeting in August, along with Commissioner Peggy Goodwin, she expected an independent investigation concerning the actions of City Commissioner Jim Rasor and an 

"No investigating took place. There was only interviewing and not even face-to-face interviews," Capello told fellow commissioners. "There was no sworn testimony required."

Attorney William Hampton, a former state legislator and Oakland County Circuit Court Judge, orchestrated telephone interviews and prepared a report for commissioners to determine whether Rasor violated the city's ethics ordinance when the commissioner filed an application for a parking station at the former Fresard property, a site the city previously relied heavily upon for parking revenues during the Labor Day weekend festival.

On Dec. 20, commissioners voted to release the attorney-client privileged legal opinion prepared by Hampton.

'Not at all what I asked for'

"To the extent that (commissioners) withheld important information, the whole truth was not asked for, nor given, nor demanded," Capello said. 

Capello expressed disappointment that no corroboration from outside the table was asked for, "even in light of conflicting information," she said. And, she questioned Hampton's choice of telephone interviews, since the interviewer was unable to read body language.

“No one outside this table was interviewed to determine what happened, what may have happened, who initiated what, who did what and who played what role," she said. "(Hampton's report) was a very nice self-contained package and not at all what I asked for."

'Sin of Ommission'

Capello continued her prepared remarks by informing the public Hampton's report also had an appendix that contained many pages of supplemental interviews. That information was redacted when the report was made public in December, she said.

The edited information "told the story of who knew what when and what they did about it," Capello said, adding that at least one elected official and one city administrator were aware of Rasor's actions and sheltered it from commissioners.

"I will not participate in shielding this information from the public," she said, calling it a "sin of omission."

In the interest of full disclosure, Capello moved for the release of the version of the Hampton's legal opinion that includes the appendix. 

Mayor apologizes

Mayor Jim Ellison called Capello's assessment of what transpired "very prepared and detailed" and “for the most part accurate.”

"I am the person she refers to as dealing with this issue," said Ellison.

The mayor said he first heard about the incident from City Manager Don Johnson within days of Rasor submitting his application for the use of the former Fresard parking lot. The mayor noted he also talked to City Attorney Dave Gillam.

Since there is not an established policy for dealing with such issues, the mayor opted to have a "very frank" discussion with Rasor, he said.

"I told Mr. Rasor I felt what he is doing is wrong," Ellison said, adding that at the time he believed what Rasor did was not technically in violation of the city’s ethics ordinance.

On further reflection, the mayor said he could have done things differently.

"There are some fingers being pointed at me that I didn't deal with this properly," the mayor said. "For those in the community that feel I let them down, I apologize," he added.

The motion to release the version of the legal opinion from Hampton that includes the appendix was adopted unanimously and is posted on the City of Royal Oak’s website.

In addition, a motion to release the legal opinion of the viability of the ethics pledge, which , was also passed. 


Anne M. January 08, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Wow! Read the investigative report. http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/sites/default/files/meetings/City%20Commission/2013/AppendixA-Oct152012-legalopinion.pdf Fournier is absolutely useless. Rasor needs to resign.
Royal Oak Bob January 08, 2013 at 06:36 PM
Reading this report sheds a whole different light on this issue than the way the newspapers originally reported it. Frankly, I'm disgusted at Rasor, mayor Ellison, city manager Don Johnson, and others. And what a surprise that Rasor has political hacks like Dennis Cowan and Dave Gorcyca lobbying the attorney who generated the report.
M. Baker January 08, 2013 at 07:23 PM
After watching the meeting and reading this report that the city commission suppressed from the public when they voted only to release the legal opinion in December, I think most of the commissioners and mayor need to take an ethics class. In addition, the city manager should be fired for not conveying this to the entire commission. He doesn't work for just the mayor. He works for all seven commission members. Also, after reading commissioner Fournier's comments to the investigator, I think maybe he should be drug tested.
JC January 08, 2013 at 07:59 PM
I feel sorry for Mayor Ellison, and having to take all the heat for the transgressions of Mr. Rasor, and I do think the mayor handled this situation poorly. But Mayor Ellison has been Rasor's biggest supporter, and if you're going to sleep with a dog, you're gonna get the dog's fleas.
JC January 08, 2013 at 08:00 PM
LOL..........more than one of 'em need to be drug tested!
48073 January 08, 2013 at 09:39 PM
With the exception of Pat Capello, the mayor and remaining members of the city commission tried to suppress this information from the community when they voted only to release the legal opinion in December. Shame on them all. Thank you commissioner Capello for being the only one on the commission to do the right thing.
Debbie Campbell January 08, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Commissioner Goodwin wasn’t allowed to speak at the 12/17 meeting—When she tried to comment she was verbally ‘back-handed’ Watch the video: http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/meetings/city-commission/2012/12/17/city-commission-meeting –Ellison appears to be in cover-up mode when he manipulated and abruptly shut down the discussion after allowing Rasor close to 7 minutes to pontificate about his ethical high standards—The Mayor also allowed Rasor to throw a 2 minute name-calling temper tantrum in what appeared to be an attempt to intimidate Poulton and keep him from bringing forward a citizens formal request to investigate yet ANOTHER potential ethics/conflict violation. And in theTribune article dated January 3rd -- Rasor has vowed to file a lawsuit against the resident who followed proper procedure in requesting the investigation: http://www.dailytribune.com/article/20130103/NEWS01/130109800/0/SEARCH/royal-oak-official-threatens-to-sue-rabble-rouser
Nancy Barnett January 08, 2013 at 11:38 PM
This is not good.!!! I think that a few elected officials are going to have one hell of a time getting re-elected next term. I watched last nights city commission meeting and I have to say this, that Commissioner Pat Capello took The Mayor's and Commissioner Rasor's britches down and wacked their BUMS......OH YES SHE Diiiiid.!!!!!!. Now it's for damage control.!!!!
George Costanza January 09, 2013 at 12:04 AM
"This thing is like an onion. The more layers you peel, the more it stinks!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e9YUXE8Gzk
Ray Smith January 09, 2013 at 12:33 AM
While I don't always agree with Capello, it took courage to make that statement last night. Had I been in the audience, I too would have stood up and applauded as one or two people did. As for Fournier, I've met the guy and he doesn't strike me as the political type. I think he's a straight shooter, but being new on the scene, wasn't fully aware of the entire ABE parking situation.
Nancy Barnett January 09, 2013 at 03:51 AM
Oh he knew..he had to have. He is Jim Rasor's friend.
Lois January 09, 2013 at 04:56 AM
Ray, based on his comments to the investigator, Fournier knew what Rasor was up to, but decided to do nothing because he saw nothing wrong with what Rasor was doing. That's either ignorant to ethical behavior, and/or being an enabler. Either way, it isn't the kind of leadership Royal Oak deserves. His silence at the table during these discussions speaks volumns, too.
Lois January 09, 2013 at 04:57 AM
Rasor is the yellow M & M. This is too funny. Thanks for the clip.
Nancy Barnett January 09, 2013 at 02:55 PM
Again I want to thank commissioners Pat Capello and Peggy Goodwin for bringing all of this to light. It is reassuring us that we still have a few good and hard working people at the commission table who are honest and truely have the public's interests at heart. If this issue we have been dealing with for some several months now were to not be brought out, Pat Capello is correct it would still be going on behind closed doors.If we allow these other elected officials to behave in the manner they have, we are going to be in BIG trouble.So y advise to everyone is to keep your eyes and ears peeled to everything that is taking place or about to take place.
Oakie January 09, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Citizens have become fearful of speaking out because they don't want to be threatened by a baseless lawsuit by one of their ethically challenged elected officials.
Oakie January 09, 2013 at 06:57 PM
The person who submitted the anonymous Whistleblower letter exposing this mess should be nominated for Citizen of the Year.
A. Adams January 10, 2013 at 12:28 AM
In today's Tribune, mayor Ellison was quoted that he didn't participate in a cover up. I disagree. 1.) By trying to handle this issue by himself, and not alerting the other commission members he was trying to cover this issue up from the others, and the community. 2.) In December, he and 5 of the commission members only voted to release the legal opinion portion of the investigation. In fact, they never even mentioned that there was more to the story. Only when Capello demanded that everything be released to the public did he support doing so. That was a cover up. Now he is apologizing to the community, but only because his efforts to cover up Rasor's dirty dealings were exposed by an anonymous letter and one courageous city commissoner. Sorry mayor Ellison, but you've lost my trust. Thank you commissioner Capello. You're the only commission member exhibiting leadership and integrity.
Ray Smith January 10, 2013 at 01:21 AM
A. Adams, I disagree. When a colleague -- in any arena -- errs, the first thing you do is NOT shout it from the mountaintops, and make a public spectacle over it. You go to that person privately, as Ellison did, and instruct him/her to correct the problem. At that point, if the individual fails to do so in a timely manner, THEN, I agree with you, you should get others involved. Through the years, I have found Ellison to be an upright person who wants nothing more than to better this community and serve it honestly. To criticize him because he didn't handle this situation as you would have, is unfair. Furthermore, to my knowledge there is no city commission "handbook" that gives step by step instructions on how to deal with this situation. It is left up to the those in charge to use their best judgment. Should Ellison have handled it differently? I suppose, but he nor you are perfect human beings. Ellison will always have my support. He's a good man.
Mark Itall January 10, 2013 at 02:55 AM
Sabre Dance by Aram Khachaturian. Great Rock and Roll redo by Dave Edmunds.
Mark Itall January 10, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Oops, page flipped on me. Feel free to delete this post.
A. Adams January 10, 2013 at 03:13 AM
Ray, Royal Oak has a weak mayor form of government. That means the mayor is equal to each of the city commissioners. The only difference is that he chairs the meetings. He does not have any additional power to try to solve these issues by himself. The citizens of Royal Oak elected seven individuals to run the city and to address issues like this as a collective body. Detroit, Warren and Southfield have strong mayor form of government where the approach you are suggesting would be more appropriate. I have a real problem with the city manager only sharing this information with the mayor. Frankly, it goes against the city's charter. He is supposed to share the information equally with all members of the city commission.
TED January 10, 2013 at 04:37 AM
Ray Smith you could not be more wrong. Read the transcripts. He thinks Rasor did nothing wrong. Watch the meetings. He is the problem. He allows Rasor to do and say whatever.
Ray Smith January 10, 2013 at 02:17 PM
Ted, Ellison DOES believe Rasor did something wrong, that's why he told him to "undo" his attempted transaction. Did Ellison allow Rasor more floor time at the meeting than others that night? Probably, but Rasor was the "accused" and consequently, had a right to make a statement after the legal opinion was revealed. Don't get me wrong: I am NOT a fan of Rasor. In fact, I hope he doesn't win another term, because he allows himself to become perpetually immersed in controversy. However, I don't think Ellison is some kind of evil conspirator. He is a decent guy, who probably could have handled things differently. He is not perfect. Of course, it's easy for all of us to be an armchair quarterback here, when, who knows, we may have done the very same thing as Ellison. Just sayin.
George January 10, 2013 at 05:41 PM
Ray, this informtion should have flowed to ALL seven commission members. I trust the discretion of seven individuals on an issue such as this, versus the discretion of one close political ally.
OakieRO January 10, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Ray, Ellison said he believes Razor did nothing wrong several times on Monday. Watch the meeting. He doesn't believe putting pressure on his City Manager to do a deal where the Commissioner gets 75% and the City Manager gets 25% is wrong. And you defend this behavior? This is only what we are aware of. Where there is smoke there is fire.
John P. January 11, 2013 at 03:20 AM
If city manager Johnson answers and serves all 7 members of the city commission, why did he only share this with the mayor? That seems to be the crux of the cover up of Rasor's dealings.
Debbie Campbell January 11, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Excellent point John P—The City Charter-Section 1—Royal Oak has a Commission/Manager form of government—The City Manager should have notified ALL members of the Commission, not just the Mayor, when he first had concerns regarding Commissioner Rasor’s activities? Section 19 of the Charter specifies that a majority on the City Commission at any time and for any reason can vote to remove the City Manager from his position. On the ABE parking issue the majority on the Commission, including the Mayor, appear to side with Commissioner Rasor. Why would the City Manager do anything that might cause him to lose favor with the majority on the Commission that could, at any time and for any reason, vote to fire him?
Leslie A. January 11, 2013 at 05:10 PM
When one becomes aware of dirty dealings, the only way to deal with it is in the light of day, and not trying to solve the issue discreetly behind the scenes. Two wrongs don't make a right!
Leslie A. January 11, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Perhaps the city manager needs to explain in a public meeting why he chose to only share this with the mayor when his responsibility is to keep the commission members equally informed.


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