A challenge to Van Buren Township Board Trustee Philip Hart by resident Charles Tackett caused Hart to lose his cool after the March 15 board meeting and charge into the audience to confront Tackett.
The two exchanged words, with Hart leaning in close to murmur a taunt in Tackett’s ear and Tackett ordering him to get out of his face.
After more back-and-forth verbiage, the confrontation ended, but several members of the audience milled around commenting to each other on how the trustee started the face-to-face part of the disagreement.
Hart’s temper started to rise when near the end of the meeting, Tackett addressed the board concerning the some $32 million in bonds that the former township administration had approved to help build Visteon Village.
Tackett said he has been discussing the action with his attorney and there is a question on the legality of the board’s action.
He directed a question to Hart, since Hart was one of the former board members voting in favor of approving bonds for Visteon.
“By what authority did you use our full faith and credit to give money to a private company?” Tackett asked.
“It was done legally,” Hart said, adding the board had the advice of three attorneys.
Tackett pressed for the names of the attorneys involved and Hart said he didn’t have the names.
“You don’t know the name of just one?” Tackett asked and Hart said he didn’t.
“Who’s your attorney?” Hart demanded of Tackett.
Tackett replied his attorney is the law firm of Williams Williams Rattner & Plunkett and, in particular, Ernie Essad.
Tackett said Essad told him to request three things under the Freedom of Information Act: the bond counsel’s opinion, a copy of the specimen bond, and the prospectus for the bond issuance.
Tackett read the state law to the board and then said, “You cannot use our full faith and credit for private purposes.”
Tackett said he has filed the FOIA requests, but has yet to receive the documents.
Clerk Leon Wright, who is responsible for FOIA requests, was not present at the meeting, so Supervisor Paul White responded.
Supervisor White said the township is trying to resolve Tackett’s “FOIA issues.” White said there were several bonds sold in 2002 and the township has to determine which ones are needed so they don’t print off copies of large documents that are not needed by Tackett.
Tackett said all the bonds benefit Visteon and not the township. He said, for instance, the township paid $4 million for pilings that are “on-site” costs and should have been paid for by Visteon.
He pointed out that “this bond goes sideways in 2016,” which means the income from Visteon being used to pay the bonds will no longer cover the costs beginning that year.
This is when the full faith and credit of the township might have to kick in.
Tackett, who has many years of experience as a builder and financial person, also served on the Belleville Planning Commission. He is a Vietnam veteran and VFW Chaplain.