The Van Buren Township Public Safety Committee elected Ramone Crowe as its new chairman on a 3-2 vote at the group’s monthly meeting on March 2.
The former chairman Michael Miazga presided over the election and at first voted for himself, making a 3-3 tally.
Miazga had announced the committee would be strictly following Robert’s Rules of Order and when the vote came out a tie, he didn’t know the proper procedure.
The committee took a five-minute break while recording secretary Pam Fleming, acting as parliamentarian, looked up the situation in the rule book and found that the chairman does not vote unless there is a tie and so Miazga couldn’t vote for himself and he was unseated as chairman.
Richard Wardwell was elected vice-chairman on a 3-2 vote, with Madigan and Miller voting no.
Earlier in the meeting, Miazga said he would no longer allow anyone to give a report without it being reviewed by him and passed by the committee. He said under meeting rules, reports come from committees, not individuals.
This was at the point committee member Diane Madigan wanted to read a report on activities she did in January while representing the committee. (She originally planned to read it at the Feb. 2 meeting, but that meeting was cancelled because of a pending blizzard.)
“I’ve been reading reports right along,” protested committee member Reggie Miller.
“I’ve been allowing it right along and now I won’t,” he said, flinging his Robert’s Rules of Order book onto the table in front of Madigan.
“You’ve given your reports on what you’ve done,” Madigan said to Miazga. “I wanted to give a report on a ride-along. What’s wrong with that?”
Madigan gave a copy of her report to Miazga, noting, “There are no four-letter words.”
Miazga said he was trying to keep reports from being given that seemed to be from the whole committee.
Miazga, Wardwell, and Trustee Phil Hart had shown irritation that Madigan had given a report in January about the activities throughout 2010. They felt it should have been done by the whole committee. The bylaws call for a year-end report and Madigan said she had reminded Miazga of that, but he did not follow through, so she wrote her version of the report.
Fleming said a report is a “committee report” and Madigan replied, “This is Diane Madigan’s activity report. I’m an individual.”
Miller made a motion to accept hearing Madigan’s report. Trustee Hart first seconded the motion, but then withdrew his second because he wanted only to accept the report, not hear it. Crowe then seconded the motion, which was passed unanimously. Miazga said it wouldn’t be read.
John Delaney called out “point of order” from the audience, saying Officer Adam Byrd gives a report at every meeting and the report did not have to be pre-approved by Miazga.
“You have never censored his activity report,” Delaney said.
Miazga said he has been getting more familiar with Robert’s Rules.
“You’ve been violating it right along,” Delaney said and Miazga replied, “I guess I have.”
Later when Officer Byrd’s report was to be given, Miazga asked for a copy of the report so it could be reviewed and then presented at next month’s meeting.
“I’m keeping all reports … I don’t want to seem biased,” Miazga said.
Public Safety Director Carl McClanahan protested that the information in Byrd’s report was time-sensitive. He suggested Byrd’s “presentation” could be considered an extension of the police briefing.
“I’m requesting he give his presentation,” McClanahan said.
Miazga asked Bryd if he would mind giving his “police briefing” as part of the police report and Byrd agreed.
“I’ll call it a presentation tonight,” Byrd said.
In other business at the 4½-hour meeting, the committee:
• Added to the agenda three items Madigan had asked to be on the agenda but was refused by Fleming, who said, “We would not add them.” The added items were Blended Rate Costs, Stray Animal Procedures, and Property Checks. Also added to the agenda, at the request of Miazga, were the Truancy Ordinance and End-of-Year Report, and requested by Wardwell, Future Meeting Locations and the Open Meetings Act;
• Witnessed the president of last year’s Citizen Fire Academy present a 1960s or so vintage bronze-plated fire extinguisher to Battalion Chief Ron Folks as a thank you for the work he did for the academy. Folks accepted the gift on behalf of the whole department;
• Heard a Police Briefing by Public Safety Director McClanahan who said his department expects to lose 11.7% or $462,446 from the police millage levy in 2011 because of falling property values. He gave a list of nearby communities showing millage rates, including schools, indicating VBT is lower than others: VBT, 29; Canton, 35; Romulus, 37; and Belleville, 42. He said a team is being put together to work to pass the 4-mill public safety renewal this August and anyone willing to help may call the Public Safety Department;
• Heart a Fire Briefing by Chief Darwin Loyer, with Battalion Chief Folks reporting on the Feb. 12 accident of the month. Chief Loyer answered questions on the Feb. 25 house fire. He said there was only one duty crew member available for Station 1 for a shift, so they put three members of the duty crew at Station 2 and worked the shift from there. Paid-per-call fire fighters were called out for the house fire on Hoeft and they picked up the ladder truck from Station 1. Loyer said the Tac 2 Expedition is being retired at 100,000 miles and being replaced by one of the police department’s old Crown Victorias with 94,000 miles. This is for transporting personnel;
• Heard Byrd give his “presentation” on community policing. He announced a new VBT Public Safety Community Action Group that would be forming that is open to all residents and will be forming “strategic crime deterrents”;
• Discussed at length the issue of Blended Rate Costs, as requested by Madigan. McClanahan said there are nine cross-trained fire fighters and 25 fire fighters, with the cross-trained getting 46.12% of the payroll and fire fighters getting 53.86%. The fire fighters make up 75.6% of the department and the cross-trained, 26.4%. Madigan said with the figures obtained from the township, she has determined the nine blended rate fire fighters cost the township $200,171. “For every blended rate fire fighter, we could hire two full-time fire fighters,” she said. “It’s not fair to fire fighters who do the same work,” Madigan said of the discrepancies in pay. McClanahan said he would explain “fair” from a “critical thinking” standpoint, not from emotions. He said the township has a collective bargaining agreement with a contract that was fairly negotiated. When challenged by Madigan, he did agree that the blended rate is not in the POLC contract, but in a 2004 letter of understanding attached to the contract. The contract runs out this year and will be renegotiated with everything on the table, according to Hart, who is one of the negotiators for the township, along with Treasurer Sharry Budd. Marc Abdilla, a blended-rate fire fighter and president of the locals for the POLC (police patrol) and MAFF (fire fighters) said it is not a contractual issue, but a Fair Labor Standards Act ruling. He said if you are already employed by the township, you have to be paid time and a half, double time, or blended rate to serve as a fire fighter. He said this ruling came as a result of a grievance by a fire employee. Madigan said she’d like to know if all the millage money is going to be put out to pay the $200,000 to the nine blended-rate officers. When Hart asked if there are trends across the country for cross-training of police and fire, McClanahan said, “A lot are moving away from it, although it is an efficient way to do business”;
• Discussed Stray Animal Procedures and answered questions from Cortez Brown, vice president of Pine Forest Homeowners Association, about dogs running around without leashes and attacking children. He said he believes the dogs are from the City of Belleville;
• Discussed Property Checks and why the addresses are published, which could be a “road map for burglars,” according to Madigan. She suggested just publishing the street name and not the address. McClanahan said he would look into that. [The police logs released to the media on March 7 contained no addresses at all for property checks.];
• Discussed Wardwell’s request to move the committee meetings from the board room, where they are televised, to another smaller room at township hall where it would be more comfortable to discuss things together. He also didn’t like being televised. Hart agreed, saying when the committee moved into the board room from the smaller room where it used to meet, its dynamics changed. It was pointed out that most of the committee members also changed, thus the dynamics among them. Miller said residents have told her they liked seeing the cablecasts, but Hart said nobody ever told him that. “For the good of the township … we should meet in a more clustered environment,” Hart said. Cortez called for full transparency and full disclosure. Crowe said people really value seeing the cablecasts;
• Voted 4-2 to hold an untelevised workshop session on a leash law prior to the April 6 regular meeting, with Crowe, Miller, Wardwell, and Madigan voting yes and Hart and Miazga voting no;
• Discussed the Open Meetings Act and whether it was a violation to send emails to all committee members at once with information – not trying to persuade, but to inform. Cortez read to them from the Open Meetings Act on his smart phone and noted that under the strict reading of the law, it could be perceived as a violation to email all seven members;
• Decided to postpone any action on the Truancy Ordinance proposed by Judge Brian Oakley after Miazga complained committee members did not give him input, as requested. Miller said she called and sent him emails, but he did not return her calls, so it is unfair of him to say that. Madigan also said Miazga did not answer her emails. Judge Oakley was supposed to be invited by Miazga to attend the March committee meeting to explain the thinking behind his words, but Miazga said the judge is a busy man and can’t be coming to committee meetings and then to a board meeting, as well, for the final vote. The ordinance could be put on a future work/study agenda;
• Set up a committee to write an end-of-year report, with Miller, Madigan, and Miazga working on the wording and passing it around to get input;
• Heard a resident say he saw an unfamiliar van in front of his house on Harmony Lane in mid December and then heard a knock at the door. A large man was at his door asking questions about the house across the street, which was not quite vacant. Finally, he told the man he should leave and then saw the man go to another house to ask questions. The man said he has a CPL and he got his gun and followed the man who was driving at a high rate of speed, so he could get a plate number. He called police and got McClanahan, who he had put on speed-dial for another incident, and described the vehicle and plate number and his present location at O’Riley’s Auto Parts on Belleville Road. Police were sent to talk to the man and the man turned out to be a legitimate local businessman who buys homes. He praised McClanahan for his personal service and walked across the meeting room to shake his hand;
• Heard Carolyn Brooks, wife of Captain Kenneth Brooks, call the committee “very dysfunctional,” saying the committee should be more concerned with the August millage vote. “I saw arguing, arguing, arguing,” she said;
• Heard Police Officer Bart DeVos, a 20-year resident and 17+ year employee, complain about the committee. He also said the committee should be concentrating on the millage. He said it had focused on dog issues for months and now that’s over. “I was one of the people knocking on doors for the millage,” DeVos said. He said he works nights and came to express his opinion. He listed the things the residents got from the last millage vote, including fire department duty crews 24/7 and the hiring of eight police officers, the SIU, traffic unit, 5-beat system, community police officer, cutting overtime, evidence technicians on most of the shifts, becoming proactive instead of reactive. DeVos asked the committee to “Step up to the plate for us.” He also complained about an article in the Independent, which was laminated, in which an editor’s note said Madigan trained police dogs. That was incorrect. Later, the editor apologized to him personally, saying she found that Madigan trained the personal dogs of police and fire personnel from VBT, Border Patrol, Harper Woods PD, and other jurisdictions, but not police dogs; and
• Heard resident Reg Ion, who called himself the “Mayor of Ecorse Road,” tell the committee members that they have to learn to work together, even if they don’t like each other. He also said committee members should throw out Robert’s Rules of Order and suggested that they not even say those words for a long time.