I made a FOIA request because I saw what in my mind was clear collusion between the ballot question committee Connect Franklin and members of our village council. It seems to me the collusion is actually worse than I though and they are not only colluding which would simply be unethical, but they seem to be using government resources to promote this committee which would be a MCFA violation.
The following email chain shows what I believe is clear collusion between three council members (Hanke, Hansen, Seltzer) and the ballot question campaign committee founders (Notter’s). This email is including the use of village resources. Our paid PR representative (Cohen) and the village administrator (Fraser) to align the village messaging with Connect Franklin (CF).
By Law the village communication should not align with a vote yes or no committee, but should be fair and completely unbiased. This seems to be a violation of Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA).
Collusion with Connect Franklin
This e-mail came from a FOIA request looking into corruption in our village government.
Here we can see that Pam Hansen is driving a “voter education” initiative. The purpose of this voter education was not to provide unbiased information including both sides of the issue, but it was to push for a vote YES as is clearly indicated by the statements “we are asking for voter approval” and “I agree on simplicity and alignment of village messaging with CF.“
This email also shows the misinformation campaign of informing residents “Why the charter needs to be amended”. The village was mislead for many months with council members claiming the only way to install sidewalks along Franklin and 13 Mile Rd was by approving this charter amendment.
We have 3 trustees working with the 2 founders of “Connect Franklin”, (Rick and Josandra Notter) alongside our village PR person (Karen Couf Cohen) and the village administrator (Roger Fraser).
The Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA) is a law intended to remove the unfair advantage that people in a position of power have over the voting public.
This act strictly prohibits any use of government resources in promoting a particular stand on an issue. The reason this is important is to protect the public from being overrun by a small majority in government who are abusing their power.
Clearly when we have a village trustee who is preparing “voter education” materials to “align village messaging with CF”, all the while using village resources like mailers, our webpage, letters from the clerk, along with using a highly paid PR person, and the village administrator we have a huge problem of corruption that MCFA was intended to prohibit.
Misleading Voter Education
The result of this unfair advantage is that voters received one sided information that included major factual misrepresentations that has affected the way people voted.
The most important fact left out is that the Village Charter does not need to be changed for residents to approve sidewalks. The charter amendment is taking the rights of the residents and giving it to the council. Thankfully 18 days before the election we finally see the truth from our village in our weekly newsletter.
Unfortunately, the Bias is Still Present in a FAQ
The village “voter education” material was updated but done so in a manner to confuse and mislead voters into thinking the process is very complicated and unlikely to really be implemented.
The following public letter from the village attorney to the village administrator was released on Tuesday 4/27.
Mike Seltzer went ballistic when he found out this public letter was released to the public. He demanded an full independent investigation into how this “leak” occurred.
Why The Concern? This completely blows up the false narrative that Mike Seltzer, Pam Hansen, and Brian Gordon were pushing which was that a charter amendment is required. Remember the FOIA fact that they had to explain “Why the charter needs to be amended”.
President Bill Lamott told the Village administrator to include this letter in the weekly e-blast so residents could have all the facts when voting, but the Village administrator refused to include it.
Was there any doubt that the council majority wanted to release this only after the election, or never?
Why did they not update the FAQ this time like they did immediately for the difficult, convoluted process previously mentioned?
Why couldn’t we have a fair election where voters are simply provided the facts and vote?
Why did we have to see totally one sided “voter education materials”, and have our village resources working with a vote yes campaign committee?
Non Compliance with subsequent FOIA requests
Based on the evidence I received in my first FOIA request I made two follow-up requests. One to look at the clear OMA (Open meetings Act) subversion tactics, and a second to find more evidence of MCFA (Michigan Campaign Finance Act) violations.
The village administrator ignored both requests. He also ignored subsequent follow-up requests.
Non response to FOIA requests is clearly illegal and is being done to protect those who have violated their oath of office and the law.
Open Meeting Act (OMA) Violations?
Apparent evidence of OMA violation. FIVE Trustees (Hanke, Hansen, Saenz, Gordon, and Seltzer) are included in this email thread.
This also includes the statement from Pam Hansen “Will send to you separately Brian but I prefer you get them from Mike. OMA“