2017-10-19 / Letters to the Editor

Ostergren: ‘Time for a change’

In last week’s Resorter (”FOIA lawsuit settled between Ostergren, Gerrish,” October 12), it was reported that Gerrish Township and I settled on the lawsuit I had filed against them when they denied my legitimate Freedom of Information Act request regarding what they paid their attorney for. Some things weren’t reported. One was the fact that I gave Gerrish several chances to release the billing records before I reluctantly filed the lawsuit. It was clear that the township didn’t want the taxpayers to see what was being spent on swimmer’s itch when they had promised that no taxpayer money would be spent. Now we know that was not true. Gerrish Township ended up paying my attorney $2,500 and they also provided me with all the information I requested originally. In other words, they wasted $2,500 of the taxpayers’ money attempting to hide information regarding what the taxpayers should have had access to in the first place. They also spent over $2,800 in 2015 and 2016 on swimmer’s itch when they said they weren’t spending township money. It was very dishonest. We still don’t know what was spent in 2017.

Also, the board’s decision to deny the release of the billing records was not unanimous. [Treasurer Leasa] Tulgetske, [Clerk Kathleen] Patchin, [Trustee Jim] Lippert and [Trustee Mary] Link voted to deny access to the billing records. They wanted to hide what they have been doing. [Supervisor David] Udy voted to allow access to the billing records. Why didn’t the board want to provide the information? Why did they try to hide this information? It was a foolish decision and the board received very bad legal advice from the township attorney, Scott Hess. It looks like Supervisor Udy is the only one who understood FOIA law. That leads us to another problem with the township attorney.

Last week I filed another FOIA request asking for the billing records sent in since the first of the year and no bills have been submitted. It is nearly November. This practice has been going on for years. I am puzzled why the board continues to allow it. Are they trying to hide something? Are they hiding things from each other? Perhaps it’s time to change attorneys. Aside from the terrible legal advice they received in the FOIA case described above, the board has no idea what the township attorney has been working on at all this year. Or, maybe they do. It looks like we have a shadow government operating in Gerrish. The problems with submitting a yearly bill is obvious. It leads to substantial mischief. It’s difficult remembering what was worked on a month ago, much less a year ago. Board members can hide what they are doing from other board members. The township is keeping us in the dark regrading what their attorney is working on, which means the public is in the dark concerning what the township officials are working on. Are laws being violated by allowing this practice to continue? Maybe they should ask their attorney. It’s time for a change.

Eric Ostergren

Roscommon

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