Research Needed

Generally speaking I would like someone to do research to counter the ever typical Pete Byvoets smoke and mirrors rhetoric we are subject to at every Town Hall Meeting. This time in order to protect Dave Albers Volunteer Fire Service and keep financing its operation which has only answered two false alarms this year he sites comparison costs to Michigan City. These unsubstantiated figures were that Michigan City residents pay about $440.00 per household and if we used Michigan City we would pay the same. Long Beach has 1,220 homes that’s $536,800.00. However Albers can protect us by using Town equipment (remember the LBVFD has no equipment) only volunteers with blue lights and pagers for $44.00 per household 1,220 homes = $53,680.00 not the $28,000.00 figure like was always portrayed to residents, I suspect that it’s probably higher because the total cost to maintain facilities, equipment and benefits does not exist.

That being said can someone – anyone who’s interested contact the Shoreland Hills Home Owners Association and find out how much they pay per household to Michigan City for fire protection. Then find out from the Michigan City Clerk Treasurer how much is assessed per residence in Michigan City and how is it billed?

 Enough of this rabbit out of the hat City Council approach to justify playing fast and loose with Taxpayer dollars. What the Town really needs is a State audit. Knowledge is power and before you ask questions it helps to have the answers.

Anyone interested can e-mail me at: boyceindustries@aol.com

Bob Boyce

Appellate Court Decides Beach Rights Case

 

 

On December 7th, the Indiana Appellate Court published its opinion in the case of Gunderson v. State of Indiana, etc., et al. The case was originally filed with the Town of Long Beach as a defendant, but the Town was dismissed out as an improper party in an earlier incarnation of the case since the Town had no legal interest in the ownership or use of the property in question. Among the intervening defendants were the Long Beach Community Alliance (“LBCA”), Patrick Cannon, and others.

The case is a lawyer’s dream as it consists of all sorts of arcane legal theories and legal precedents, ancient surveys, common law citations and the like. It consumed several years of litigation, yet the actual holding of the Appellate Court is fairly simple. So why was this case filed, what was it about, and what is it to us?

For those of us who have lived in Long Beach for awhile, the rules for beach use have always been simple. If you wanted to use the beach you went down to the stops and used the public area the path led to. Since you knew the rest of the beach was private property, if you wanted to use it you asked permission of the property owner. Most of the time you got permission, but if you did not you asked another property owner and used his/her beach. Most of us never had a problem with this, and most of the beach front owners were agreeable.

That is, until recently….

Beginning about six years ago or so a group of people, both permanent and part-time residents, began to use private beach property without asking. One of them even began to argue with and antagonize the owners, to trespass, and to behave as if she and not they owned the beach. She and her friends disrespected the owners and the whole concept of private property. They used it even if the public area was available and empty. They parked their boats in the water in front of it. They pitched tents on it and left them there overnight. They were rude. They poked the bear and continued to poke it. Most of them now belong to the LBCA and the woman is now a twice-elected town board member.

In 2010, the Town of Long Beach came out with a Newsletter. The newsletter contained the following paragraph:

“LAKE FRONT BEACH PROPERTY: The police are going to be looking to enforce the site ordinance #154.060 for the lake front this summer. We believe that this will enable us to control items placed in the area between the rear property line and the high water mark. Riparian Rights: means you have access to the water; does NOT mean you own to the water’s edge or the high water mark.”

Two diagrams followed, both purporting to show an ownership interest by the State of Indiana and one purporting to show, in addition, an ownership interest in the Town of Long Beach.

This was too much, especially since the beach front owners’ deeds showed that they owned to the water’s edge or beyond. Once the Town took the position that they owned part of the beach, redress had to be sought. Don and Bobbie Gunderson agreed to become plaintiffs and sued to quiet title.

The case dragged on for years. At one point, a suggestion was made to settle the case by using the figure of 581.5′ from Lake Shore Drive as the Ordinary High Water Mark (“OHWM”) and providing the area between that and the low water mark (“LWM”) as public trust. This was rejected out of hand by the LBCA.

It soon became apparent that despite the statements in the Newsletter and diagrams, the Town of Long Beach owned nothing. They were eventually dismissed, yet the case continued.

Judge Richard Stalbrink finally decided the case locally and his decision was appealed. The case by now had eleven separate law firms or lawyers involved. The Appellate Court began its opinion by stating: “The shores of the Great Lakes may look serene, but they are a battleground….” Indeed.

The Court went on to give a well-reasoned, and remarkably uncluttered opinion. Essentially it held that the Gundersons owned their property to the water’s edge (the LWM) but the area between the LWM and the ordinary high water mark (“OHWM”), though belonging to Gunderson, was subject to a “Public Trust” held by the State of Indiana for the benefit of the public. All other land was owned by Gunderson without public encumbrance.

As has been stated, long ago it was suggested that the case be settled on these terms, but the LBCA rejected that summarily….and so the litigation continued….

The Appellate Court held that: “[The ordinary high water mark is] the point on the bank or shore up to which the presence and action of the water is so continuous as to leave a distinct mark either by erosion, destruction of terrestrial vegitation, or other easily recognized characteristics.” Activities permitted to the public on land between the OHWM and LWM are limited and as observed by the court: “(b)y no means does our public trust doctrine permit every use of the trust lands and waters….The public trust doctrine cannot serve to justify trespass on private property….” The court concluded by stating that it was generally limited to walking along the shore or having access to the water. It does not include pitching tents, blocking the beach owners’ access to the lake, staging beach parties, or “poking the bear”.

It should surprise no one if the LBCA comes out with a fund-raising letter claiming victory in this case, but that would not be true. At best this is a draw for them, and more likely a defeat. The ownership rights of the Gundersons were validated.

This case also gives a vivid illustration of the vacuity of Town Board President Peter Byvoets’ insipid excuses involving the Town not being responsible for legal fees because it is not a plaintiff in any of the cases in which it is involved. If it were not for the Town’s assertion of a right to property which it never had, it would not have been a party to this suit. Similarly, on another pending case, if the Town had not forbidden property owners to protect their property from the Lake by building or improving sea walls there would have been no necessity for a law suit on that issue.

The Gunderson case is the result of activism and zealotry by a small group of residents who value their own rights but no one else’s. The activists in turn are manipulated by those who wish to use them to wield power. Control the focus of the activist and you control the activist. An illustration of this can be seen from Patrick Cannon’s remarks to the state official regarding the securing of more than 200 signatures on a petition in favor of the capital improvement tax at the meeting on September 7th (see: Concerning the Capital Improvement Tax). He was able to access a block of 200 signatures after no more than a ten minute conversation each. Another illustration is the way Patricia Sharkey introduces herself to official commissions and boards, as appearing on behalf of “The Long Beach Community Alliance – 500 (sometimes 400) strong”. It is doubtful if she asks the members or contributors if they agree to have her speak for them in each and every instance, but she appears to suggest that. For these folks it’s all about power. All they have to do to maintain it is to give the activists a cause, and that is probably what was done in this case.

.

None of the Beach owners wanted to prevent residents from walking on the beach or accessing the lake. As described in “Concerning the Capital Improvement Tax” this was the “big lie” propagated to motivate and keep the zealots in line.

Unfortunately, it created needless controversy and bad feelings between beach front owners and other residents. The was not and never has been necessary. Moreover, it has been costly. The Town Board ordered a survey of the “meander line” by Palm & Associates at the cost of $12,300.00 of our tax money. The most obvious use of this survey would be to locate and establish the OHWM to aid the LBCA. They wasted our money! Remember this when the LBCA asks you for money or wants you to sign a form letter advocating a position. Think for yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Policing Jane Neulieb

In December, 2012, a Long Beach resident was accused of shooting and killing his wife. After several years of legal maneuvers, the case was dismissed by a Winnemac, IN, judge, where it had been transferred for trial. Several lawsuits involving the alleged conduct of Long Beach Police Officers and others were brought by the defendant. While those lawsuits were pending, Long Beach Town Councilwoman Jane Starr Neulieb began making public statements advocating her take on the issues of the case, prompting LaPorte County Prosecutor John Espar to request that she cease and desist.

That brings us to the Police Commission meeting of October 5, 2016. Although the Long Beach Police Commission consists of Chief Robert Sulkowski, Peter Byvoets, Jane Neulieb, and Barbara Morgan, of these only Sulkowski, Neulieb and Morgan were present for the meeting.

Chief Sulkowski started by reading the letter that had been prepared by Prosecutor Espar with regard to Town Councilwoman Jane Starr Neulieb discussing in public the Judge’s ruling on the three (2 were Long Beach) Police Officers. He noted that there was a pending civil rights lawsuit in Federal Court involving the officers. Mrs. Neulieb interrupted several times to state that she had every right to talk about the ruling. The Chief responded that he, like Mr. Espar, felt that as a town official she should not be advocating a position adverse to the town publicly, while the case was still pending, possibly is putting the Police Officers and the Town of Long Beach in a bad position before litigation had been completed. Mrs. Neulieb snapped that she should not have to give up her civil rights and feel threatened by the Police, and that it was cowardly for Chief Sulkowski to seek the protection of Prosecuting Attorney Espar. She then brought up the Flint, Michigan, water pollution situation and noted how those Town employees had kept quiet. (Mrs. Neulieb did not explain how the Flint lead pollution situation was germaine) She stated that she was going to continue to make the judge’s ruling public and state to her position.

Board Member Barbara Morgan asked if Julie Paulsen, our Town Attorney, had given any indication about how the case was going to be handled. Mrs. Neulieb didn’t know the answer but continued calling for an investigation into the “Ponzi scheme” (as she identified the situation) and then changed the reference to “organized crime”. The Councilwoman also said she wanted the matter investigated by the State Police, though it was a civil case in Federal Court.

During this time if anyone attending the meeting tried to ask a question or make a statement in a civil manner, Mrs. Neulieb told them to shut up because it was not public forum at the time. She also threatened to have police officers escort them out of the meeting if they did not comply! (One wonders if the officers she referred to were the same ones she wanted fired?)

Barbara Morgan then went on with the Agenda which included other items that the Chief and his officers were working on.   One item of interest was that the Town no longer has a Dispatcher from 10p.m. until 6 a.m. because of budget cuts. That upset the audience. Mrs. Neulieb, undaunted, wanted to know what percentage of the time that there at two Police Officers present on duty. She stated that the Chief is not all that busy and doesn’t need two officers on duty at the same time. She did not make it clear how she knew this. To further complicate the issue she changed the subject a second time and complained that the Chief didn’t respond to an e-mail in a timely enough manner. (Mrs. Neulieb was evidently referring to an email complaint from Jeff Bartlett, son-in-law of Peter Byvoets [See: It’s A Family Affair] Sulkowski responded that if someone had a complaint, he or she should call the Department. The Chief had been absent for a few days for medical reasons. No one had access to his e-mails for a number of reasons—so Neulieb and Bartlett complained about his timeliness.)

When the audience was finally allowed public comment, Mrs. Neulieb constantly degraded and interrupted them if their views were not consistent with hers. She gave every appearance of having a bias against the Long Beach Police Department its Chief and its officers.

One Resident attempted to defend the Long Beach Police Department for their quick response to complaints in her neighborhood. There were three separate instances, she said, one of which was a burglary in progress. Jane told this resident that if people didn’t call 911 instead of the LB non-emergency then they were “either stupid or pathetic”. The resident stopped and asked if the Councilwoman, as a representative of the Town of Long Beach, was calling her stupid or pathetic? Neulieb replied, “Yes, I am!”

Then the resident tried to explain that it was uncertain that the first two situations were emergencies, but on the third situation, which they realized involved possible personal injury to a resident, 911 was called. It is unclear whether Mrs. Neulieb heard any of this, however, as she was engaged in pounding her chest and repeating “poor, poor Resident” (in a mocking tone) over and over while the citizen tried to speak.

Apparently if  a Long Beach resident calls the Long Beach non–emergency number for a non-emergency, they are either stupid or pathetic, at least according to Jane Neulieb.

Nor did things end there. At the town meeting on October 10, 2016, which in the absence of Peter Byvoets was chaired by Councilwoman Neulieb, a Long Beach resident’s letter was read into the record. That letter follows:


October 7, 2016

Mr. Bill DeFuniak
Town of Long Beach

Dear Mr. DeFuniak:

We would like to file an official complaint about the conduct of town council member Jane Neulieb. I am requesting this letter be put in her file and read at the town board meeting on Monday, October 10, 2016.

We attended the Police Commission Meeting, on Oct 5, 2016, in the town hall meeting room at 8:30 a.m. During the meeting Mrs. Neulieb did nothing but berate our police department. She is extremely biased against the police department. She tried to get a second, to a motion to suspend two officers.   The entire meeting she was rude and insolent to most of the attendees including her fellow board member Barbara Morgan. There was no agenda just a constant crude and vindictive rambling from Mrs. Neulieb.

When it was time for public comment she was defensive, condescending and angry that not everyone agreed with her opinion. At this public meeting, for all to see and hear she stated addressing me, “Missy, you are not here about the police department but you are part of a group that is obstructing the progress of Long Beach. You have been doing this since you lost the election. You know this, I know this, it is true and everyone in Long Beach knows it is true. You are here to obstruct all of the good things we are trying to do!”

As an elected official she has no right to give her opinion of my intentions. She is verbally abusive and aggressive to everyone who does not agree with her. “Another member of the audience was complimenting the police department on their quick responses. This person indicated she was extremely grateful to the department for the handling of a situation in her neighborhood.   Mrs. Neulieb implied she was stupid.

Greg tried to make a point that her behavior was arrogant, disrespectful, condescending and she was acting as if she was superior. She started; “I am superior to this group!” Mrs. Neulieb is an elected official of this town. She needs to treat people with respect. We will not have her slander, disrespect and belittle us at a public meeting.


Mrs. Neulieb needs to be removed from office. It is apparent she is incapable of controlling her emotions and sustaining a rational thought process during a public meeting.

 

 

Mrs. Neulieb was not to be denied, however. First she had her husband make a statement broadcasting the very things for which she was being criticized, talking about the police officers and about the Chief, for which latter attack there were no factual underpinnings. Then Neulieb herself made remarks calling the allegations in the residents’ letter total “lies”. She went on to comment how dispiriting it was to have to constantly fight lies. Well, no kidding Jane!

She went on and on, ignoring one resident who said “There’s a tape!” Indeed the Police Commission Meeting was recorded, but the quality of the recording was so bad as to make it virtually incapable of being understood, but there are two things to be hopeful about. First, efforts are being made to “clean up” the audio so that it can be understood. Second, Councilman Nick Meyer said that not everyone agreed with Mrs. Neulieb’s position. That’s refreshing!

The most disturbing thing about Jane Neulieb’s conduct at the Police Commission Meeting, and indeed at many public meetings, is not only her crudeness, rudeness, incivility, and unwillingness to listen to other points of view, it is the fact that this was not a one time thing. She does things like this routinely. She did it in her first term, telling residents to “Sit down and shut-up”, or constantly using her position as a council member to accuse fellow council members of making “secret deals” or “under the table deals”. She is concerned about her own Constitutional Rights but not with anybody else’s. As a citizen she certainly has a right to say almost anything, but as a public servant she ought to be concerned about the discharge of her public duties and the welfare of her town. A public airing of her opinions does not accomplish this. She should not be so worried about whether she could, but rather whether she should. There is a Federal Civil Rights Suit pending. There is a good possibility that the Plaintiff’s attorneys will seize upon her comments and attempt to use them against the Town she represents.

She does not recognize that as a member of a larger board, she has no individual power, but only that vested in her as a member of a larger entity when it acts as a body. She sees her own views as superior and herself as an unaccountable autocrat.

At the October 10th Town Meeting, the board members again defended their refusal to release un-redacted copies of the Town’s Attorney Fee Statements using Attorney-Client Privilege as a pretext. The rationale as stated by two board members at this very meeting is that the revelation of the complete text of the bills might reveal litigation plans, etc., endangering the Town’s position on the lawsuits in which it is involved. Putting aside the fact that Attorney-Client privilege does not cover what “might” be revealed, but only confidential communications between lawyer and client, this argument by the board is itself refuted by Neulieb’s conduct with the police officers, which also might be used to injure the town. It appears that our board is inconsistent, at least when it comes to Ms. Jane’s position.

To say she is a loose cannon is understating it a lot.

Concerning The Capital Improvement Tax

On September 7, 2016, a meeting concerning the proposed Capital Improvement Tax (“CIT” also known as the “CCD” Tax) was held in the Long Beach School Gymnasium. After a brief problem with the air conditioning and microphone, the moderator, Steve McKinney, an official with the Indiana Department of Local Finance opened the meeting.

A number of witnesses for the remonstrators were then presented, and several letters from other remonstrators were read into the record by William DeFuniak, the Town Clerk. After this had been done, the supporters of the tax had an opportunity to present their side. This took the same form, with several speakers and several letters being read into the record. Among the speakers were Patrick J. Cannon, current Chairman of the APC, Doria LeMay, wife of Robert LeMay, a member of the Town Board, Jane Neulieb, a member of the Town Board, David Albers, Fire Chief, Kendra Bartlett, daughter of Town Board President Peter Byvoets, and former chairman of the Park Board, Peter Byvoets, Town Board President, and others.

The upshot of the remonstrators’ objections centered upon two major issues: (1) That the tax will be misused to pay bills other than capital improvements (not directly, but indirectly, by paying for things not forbidden but which are otherwise being paid out of the general fund, shuffling around money, robbing Peter (Byvoets) to pay (Julie) Paulson, the Town Attorney. In short, these residents do not believe their politicians do what they promise to do, or the reasons why they say they want the reimposition of the tax. (2) That there are questions about whether our volunteer fire department needs new equipment and whether or not there is a more cost effective and efficient way of dealing with the problem of fire in Long Beach.

The arguments of the supporters of the tax were more varied, but may be listed in general as follows: (1) The remonstrators are mean -spirited and are acting in bad faith. (2) There are some evil rich people who have vowed to bankrupt the Town by creating huge legal bills. (3) The legal bills are not our fault. We haven’t sued anyone. (4) We need the money to pay our legal bills (yes, you read it right!); and (5) Poor me! Let’s take the general problem first, and then deal with the supporters’ arguments seriatim.

Residents are concerned that if the money is going to be used for the fire department, that all reasonable options, such as leasing the services of other fire departments, like Michigan City, have not been explored. We are not going to explore it now either, but those concerned should be on notice that we will when the issue is ripe. This is too expensive and important a proposition for all residents to be considered a “sacred cow” or to be glossed over and passed without close scrutiny.

The reason for the scrutiny on this and all other issues was stated succinctly by Bill DeFuniak, the Town Clerk, at the September 12, 2016 Meeting of the Town Council, as he was defending himself from the board members who were criticizing him for reading residents’ letters into the record. Mr. DeFuniak attempted to explain that although he supported the tax himself he had to read the letters into the record at the September 7th Meeting because Mr. McKinney would not accept them or make them part of the record unless he did so. The board seemed to believe that the opinions of the residents who could not take off from work to be there personally should not be heard, and Peter Byvoets even suggested that the Clerk should forward letters that he received directly to Byvoets and the other board members. When asked why the residents didn’t want their communications sent to him or the other board members, Byvoets was told bluntly that it was because the residents did not trust him.

There is a credibility deficit in our town government since the change of administrations in January, and it is different from anything else we have ever experienced. It grows from month to month because it is obvious to those who look closely that our Town Board talks about transparency but practices opacity. There are a number of examples of this, far too many to bore the reader with here, except for a few of the more blatant ones.

Last Fall, the opposition was attempting to discover the secret ordinances that it suspected Peter Byvoets had been drafting with the help of the Town Attorney and at our expense, but were unable to do so. Attorney bills were withheld under a bogus claim of privilege, sub-committee members were not forthcoming, officials staged distractions, and Byvoets was evasive. As soon as he became Town Board President, however, there were the new ordinances, as though they had sprung fully grown from the head of Zeus. Mr. Byvoets spent at least 30 minutes during the February meeting regaling the residents with tales of all the ways he had been transparent. He just could not understand how the opposition did not know about these new ordinances. Those who had tried to discover his work product were mystified as well, since they were certain that they had looked at all the sources that he was now talking about and found nothing. New positions in town government were another issue. When at the February meeting it was observed that all the board positions then appointed save one were filled by members of the Long Beach Community Alliance, that fact was not denied. Instead, Mr. Byvoets expressed mystification that people did not come forward and volunteer. He then admitted that the slots were not advertized, that the public was not advised what was open or what talents were desired and that this was his responsibility. He did not state further how members of the public who were not members of the Long Beach Party or the Alliance would know what was open and what slots the new administration needed to fill. Pat Cannon and other Alliance members did not deny that all but one of the slots then available had been filled by alliance members, but instead asked how the questioner could possibly know that. You can look it up.

A number of other things have occurred since then: The secret meeting where they decided to fire Aaron Tomsheck; getting photos of the deputy clerk’s house and presenting them at a meeting to intimidate her; continuing to withhold attorney fee charges from the people and even from the clerk who must pay them, despite decisions from state agencies that they ought to be released to the public, and The LBCA being granted special dispensation by the BZA for four special meetings without charge. Significantly, properly submitted attorney bills do not contain confidential information subject to attorney-client privilege, but do contain information about what the attorney did in the way of services, who they talked to, the general subject matter, etc. This Town Board does not want us to have that. Why? Some residents believe it is because despite the State of Indiana’s policy of open government, this board does not trust us with having enough integrity or intelligence to understand or deal with problems affecting our town. Odd that, since we have done so for nearly 100 years. Nevertheless they do not trust us. They prefer to operate in secret and to impose their decisions upon us. We do not need to know. They know what is best for us. If you have any doubt about this, watch the videos of the various meetings, particularly Town Board meetings. Watch how virtually every matter is disposed of with no discussion and no dissenting votes. How do you think they arrived at their decision?

At the September 7th CIT meeting. The first speaker for the proponents of the tax was Patrick J. Cannon. Mr. Cannon advocated strongly for the tax and assailed the remonstrators as dishonest spoilsports who lost the election and could not deal with it. He stated that he secured a petition with 204 signatures on it supporting the tax, and each signature represented a conversation of approximately 10 minutes to obtain it. (9-7-16Meeting. Time 1.29.40-1.35) According to Mr. Cannon most residents in the survey which was done want improvements.

A closer look at Pat Cannon is appropriate at this point. He is a vigorous advocate for his point of view. It is he who was instrumental in founding the Long Beach Community Alliance, (“LBCA”) and according to him he remained an officer in it at least until August, 2015. He founded and led the Long Beach Party. It is he who secured the election of his slate by propagating the “big lie”; that is, the falsehood that the beach front property owners wanted to close the beach to everyone else. He was successful, apparently convincing a majority of voters that there was something to this canard, though even a casual inspection of the allegation reveals both its falsity and its inherent impossibility. Underlying the “big lie” is the darker shadow of class envy and prejudice which is what was really being pedaled. Though Mr. Cannon holds only the chairmanship of the APC Committee, there are many who believe he is still in control of events and operates the levers of power to some degree in the current Long Beach Government, the LBCA and the Long Beach Party, especially since he is a member of a large extended family, most of whom are also involved in town government. He is one of the reasons that there is a trust deficit in local government, and in any event he has missed the point about why people do not favor the tax. Many, if not most residents, favor improvements. What they do not favor is this town government, which has already given them ample reason to distrust it being responsible for deciding how the money raised will be spent. (For several examples of Pat Cannon’s attempts at secrecy, see: “Secret Meetings Are Not Transparent” and the first several paragraphs of “Secrets Hurt”)

Fire Chief David Albers also made a statement, much of which was devoted to his contention that a resident of the Town, whose “identity I will protect until my dying day” told him that the resident was going to bankrupt the Town with legal fees. (9-7-16 Meeting. Time: 2.11)

Kendra Bartlet read her husband Jeffrey’s letter into the record (see: “It’s A Family Affair”) then gave a somewhat rambling statement of her own. Though most of us know it, she did not reveal her connection to Peter Byvoets (daughter). Ms. Bartlett argued that there was some interest in securing an even greater tax increase than the 3% requested and said that for those residents criticizing the amounts of the legal fees “you are not fooling anyone.” She repeated what has now become a mantra with this administration. “The extraordinary legal fees we are sustaining are not our fault because we are not Plaintiffs. We have filed no lawsuits.” The extraordinary legal expenses, she argues, are the fault of rapacious beach front owners, some of whom have confided in Ms. Bartlett that they intend to bankrupt the town. (9-7-16 Meeting. Time 2.23-2.26)

Her father stated essentially the same thing. (Beginning at 9-7-16 Meeting. Time: 2.41) As usual Peter Byvoets was mystified by why people are disgruntled, especially by the huge attorney fees for which he continues to refuse the full billing statements. After all, he maintains, we are suing no one. He went on to deny that the money would be used to pay attorney fees (See also 9-12-16 Meeting. Time: 1.45 et seq) and argued that local government under his administration is transparent. He maintained that no one had ever been denied budget information. (9-7-16 Meeting. Time: 1.47)

Then there was the inevitable Jane Starr Neulieb who, among other things, read a letter into the record from a California lawyer/activist who lives here part-time and always sees to it that her opinion is heard. Councilwoman Neulieb went on for awhile, eventually coming out with a gaff. As defined in politics a gaff is a statement which is accidentally true. She said,

“I’ve seen people with the ‘Os’ (objectors) on their shirts who are plaintiffs and who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep (the Town) in court so we have to pay these legal bills for their selfish concerns and they don’t even want us to raise the money so we can pay our lawyers. Do they want us to default?” (9-7-16 Meeting. Time: 1.48.30)

Put aside for a moment the obvious question of why Jane Neulieb would know how much money private citizens are paying their attorneys for the singular purpose of damaging a town they love, and ask yourself if any of you still think our representatives are telling us the truth about what they need this money for? Here a council member is inadvertently (and if you know Jane you know it is inadvertent) telling you what their true intention is, while the rest of them dance and obfuscate. You see, Mr. Byvoets and Mr. Cannon, this is why we do not trust you and it is the real reason why so many are against the CCD Tax.

There are several other things. The Council still will not give up unredacted attorney bills, and they keep making this inane argument about not being responsible because they are not suing anyone and some unidentified evil beach owners are trying to bankrupt the town. If you were an evil beach owner would you share with the fire chief and Peter Byvoets’ daughter how you were going to hurt them? If the Town put a stop order on your repair or construction of a sea wall to protect your property from the lake, would you let the lake take your house, or would you fight? In law, it is not necessarily who is the plaintiff that is important, it is who is responsible for the situation being sued over. If the town, using the club of government sets up a situation where a citizen must sue or be injured, who is responsible for the litigation? In the suits being talked about, the town is in each instance a defendant, but in each instance the town or the LBCA or both are at least partially responsible for the litigation. Sometimes the town or its leaders are wholly responsible.

If you need further examples of the duplicity and hypocrisy of the town leadership, consider this. Bill DeFuniak was unfairly attacked by the Council at the meeting on September 12th. (See the video of the meeting generally after Time 1.45) The reason he was attacked was his reading of the letters of residents at the 9-7-16 meeting. Keep in mind that Bill supported the reimposition of the tax. The reason he read the letters was so that those residents who could not be at the meeting because of conflicts could have their objections and the reasons therefore heard. The state official said that he would not accept the letters nor make them part of the record unless they were read into the record. So, because he is a serious public servant, despite the fact that he was on the opposite side of the issue, he read the letters into the record. He then read them the letter that he intended to send downstate. For this he was attacked by members of the council even though at least one of his attackers, Jane Neulieb, also read letters into the record. I wonder if they can spell hypocrisy?

Actually, they have been treating Bill poorly for awhile. They refused to continue to pay his lawyer (which he felt he needed because they were requiring him to pay bills that he did not believe were appropriately submitted), and his every action is questioned at almost every meeting. Despite that and the constant criticism, at the last meeting Mr. Byvoets told Bill he wanted him to turn over all communications that the Clerk sent to any resident. He stated, “Any information that leaves this building…we should know about it….” He also said, “I can’t think of anybody who has supported the Clerk/Treasurer more than I have. I have done everything in my power to make the Clerk/Treasurer’s Office and your job as easy as possible.” (9-12-16 Meeting. Time: 2.05) Is he in another universe?

He does intend to stay the course, however:

“I can guarantee you that no matter what the situation is we are going ahead with our plans. We believe that we are right and we were elected to do, and we will continue on that path…. (9-12-16. Time: 2.00)

Jane Neulieb followed up:

“I would just like to say that our democracy is built upon people who are elected doing the appointing. It would not be responsible for us to appoint people who would not further the agenda that we put out at election time.and for you (DeFuniak) to send a letter saying that was something wrong is very disingenuous….” (9-12-16 Meeting. Time: 2.08)

So, this is where we find ourselves folks. We are being presided over by a local government that we elected based upon a lie, a government run either by people who are hungry for power and want to establish a Daley family in Long Beach; mindless, controlling bureaucrats who have never been introduced to the truth, or fools and activist zealots. What to do?

It will be years before we can get rid of these people, but there are some things that we can do in the interim:

First, familiarize yourself with all of those on the town board, the BZA (except John Kocher), and the various other committees and boards. Make sure you never vote for any of them in future elections.

Second, stop feeding the beast. If you are contributing to the Long Beach Community Alliance, STOP IT! They are part of the problem! They are Pat Cannon’s pet and are run by flinty-eyed power seekers and peopled by zealots and activists in the influential positions. None make good public servants.

Third, call or write Bill Defuniak and tell him you appreciate him standing up for the rest of us.

Fourth, send in a comment or an article of your own and keep visiting our blog.

Peace out folks!

 

Note To Readers: After this was posted I was advised that the tax was approved by the State. Any bets on how long it will take Town Government to raise the rate?

Notice To Readers

*Home owners in Long Beach take notice

The Town on its Website published projected capital expenses as high as $2,162,000.00. $1,400,000.00 of this figure, which is 65% of the capital expenditures projected, is targeted for equipment and facilities to be used by a privately run corporation.

The Long Beach Volunteer Fire Department (“LBVFD”) Corporation is not part of the Town of Long Beach but a contracted Fire Service that through a no-bid, open-ended contract uses Taxpayer funded equipment to provide fire protection to Long Beach. The Town, using its general fund, pays for this service. In addition the Town pays all vehicle and liability insurance, an incentive that includes retirement benefits, volunteer fire fighters association dues, disability and medical coverage for the volunteers, death and burial expenses. Moreover, the Town provides the LBVFD with a fire station and a business insurance policy to cover personal property free of charge. Note that this is business insurance because the LBVFD is a 501C-3 Corporation, a tax exempt, privately run business. The contract also allows the LBVFD to solicit other municipalities including but not limited to Duneland Beach, set a rate per home, and use taxpayer funded equipment and facilities to service these accounts.

Now Dave Albers, the provisional Fire Chief, wants his neighbor Peter Byvoets to buy a new truck and to remodel the fire station using 65% of the new capital expenditures the Board is seeking. Residents should remember that this is the same Fire Chief who publicly announced numerous times that he couldn’t properly fight fires in Long Beach because of logistics.

On September 7th at 10:00 a.m.,  a hearing to reimpose this tax is being held at the Long Beach Community Center. If you cannot attend and oppose this tax write or E-mail the Town Clerk (2400 Oriole Trail, Long Beach or tolbt@comcast.net) and he will forward your letters and objections to LaPorte County Officials. (Your objection should contain your reasons why you believe a tax to buy a new fire station and fire engine are inappropriate.)

This tax is not a flat tax but one that discriminates and is determined by the value of your property as set by the LaPorte County Auditor. In layman’s terms the highest taxed property will pay the lion’s share which is another good reason to oppose it!

(Submitted by Robert Boyce)

It’s A Family Affair

Some of you may know Kathy Brown. She has been Long Beach resident and homeowner for many years. Her late husband was a beloved teacher and coach, and her now grown children were popular and well-known in our community. Kathy is also involved in community affairs, and of late has been working against our Town Board’s plan to continue a tax which should have expired this year. So, Kathy Brown was helping to organize the collecting of signatures for a petition to remonstrate against the tax. This remonstrance is of concern to the Town Board, and reportedly especially to Town Board President Peter Byvoets.

One day Kathy received a call from the Deputy Town Clerk Deanna Carlson. It seems that a neighbor of Kathy’s had made a Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.A.) Request for the floor plan, septic records and related information concerning her home. Deanna said that she could not find all the records and was calling to see if they could be located. Kathy told Deanna that she did not have to be told who was making the request. She already knew.

The records were located and the first time Kathy saw her neighbor she asked him why he wanted them. He said that he did not have to tell her why he wanted the records concerning her home. They were public records and he did not have to explain to her why he wanted them. Nor did he explain why he simply did not ask her to begin with.

Kathy Brown’s neighbors are, in fact, Jeff and Kendra Bartlett. Kendra is the daughter and Jeff is the son-in-law of Town Board President Peter Byvoets, and both Jeff and Kendra are active in local government. Among other things, Kendra has been the Head of the Park Board and Jeff is a volunteer fireman. They are both active with the Long Beach Alliance and both were instrumental in Peter Byvoets election campaign. Jeff has also been known to do odd-jobs and to carry political water for his father-in-law. For example, during the Fall election campaign Peter Byvoets took to the floor of the council to complain on behalf of his son-in-law that Jeff Bartlett was not getting certain requested documents quickly enough. (Bartlett was always requesting documents, some of which he would seemingly have had no use for himself) Byvoets then related how he had to become personally involved to secure their release, implicitly witrh the advice of the Town Attorney. At the next Town Board Meeting when asked if he was seeking legal advice from the Town Attorney in order to obtain the documents for Bartlett, Byvoets did not know what the questioner was talking about.

But back to confrontation between Jeff Bartlett and Kathy Brown. When Bartlett demanded to know how Kathy had discovered that he was trying to obtain information about her home, Kathy told him about the telephone call from the deputy Town Clerk. Bartlett said, “Thank you for the information, because she broke the law by calling you and violated my rights. I’m going to het her fired!” Apparently Bartlett believes that the plans to Kathy Brown’s house and other information are not confidential but his request for it is, and that the Deputy Clerk (the same woman that his father-in-law had threatened with arrest for trying to attend the “secret” executive meeting of the town board in June (see: “Secrets Hurt” ) deserved to be fired for trying to locate the information he had requested.

Bartlett’s response concerned Kathy. Perhaps she was thinking of the $2,000.00 the Town was charged for research by the Town Attorney, research designed to support the proposition that the Deputy Clerk could not attend an executive meeting of the Town Board because she was not a resident, and which included a photograph of the clerk’s private home, research which nevertheless failed to establish its purpose. Or maybe she was simply concerned that Bartlett apparently believed that he could indeed use his connections to get Deanna fired. Either way she called Deanna to warn her and to assure her that she had done nothing wrong and in fact had done everything right.

The author remembers and longs for another Long Beach. A Long Beach when after an election the candidates all went on with their lives, and there wasn’t the kind of strife or hypocritical secrecy that the members of the Long Beach Party have brought us. Everyone got along, raised their children and went on with their lives, but that was before the current town government…and the zealots from the Long Beach Community Alliance….

Zoning Ordinances 101: What is the “35% Lot Coverage Ordinance” and How Does it Affect Property Values?

Since 1941, when the first Long Beach Building Zoning Ordinances were adopted, there has always been a quantity defined as allowable lot coverage. This limits the percentage of the lot that can be covered by a structure. From conception to 1941, allowed lot coverage stood at 35%. When homeowners began installing swimming pools on their properties, the percentage changed to 25%, with pools and accessory buildings only allowed to be 10%. In 1969, the 35% rule was reinstated, but only buildings and pools were included in the calculation of coverage by a structure.   In that same year, the term “structure” was first defined as “any single self-contained unit”. In 1970, the term did not appear in definitions but is mentioned in “Lot Coverage” as follows:

Property Development Standards section (14.3 E),” maximum lot coverage by buildings and structures shall not exceed thirty-five (35%) percent of the total lot area”.

In 2002, the definitions were revised to include almost everything as a “structure”. This Ordinance, however, singles out driveways and sidewalks stating they are to be included. Why was a separate phrase used expressly including driveways and sidewalks if they were already considered a structure in the previous Ordinance? Since there was no record of this change being discussed or approved prior to the adoption of the Ordinances of 2002, it was assumed that the term “included” was an error and the original term “excluded” was what was intended to remain in effect. For the next 10 years, therefore, permits and inspections were routinely based on the understanding and historical practice of driveways and sidewalks being excluded in the 35% calculation. This means that all homes built during this period did not count driveways or sidewalks toward the 35% permitted for structures.

The situation was not recognized again until 2012, when a review of the existing ordinances revealed this situation. Some construed this as a typographical error when New Ordinances (2002) were finalized and adopted and was meant to state “excluded”. This Ordinance, as thus construed, remained in effect until 2016, when the current Board changed several things. The definition of “structure” was again expanded to include anything man-made (including flower beds, berms of dirt, retaining walls, swing sets, etc) and the 35% lot coverage restriction is now based on this all-inclusive definition, which now includes driveways and sidewalks.

Consequently, almost every property lot upon which a home is built in Long Beach, is now “Legally Nonconforming” according to the definition in the 2016 Ordinance. This would include some members of the Town Board. No new building permits which would increase the percentage of square foot lot coverage above the all inclusive 35% can be issued without petitioning the Board of Zoning Appeals for a variance, and the Zoning Board of Appeals is controlled by the Long Beach Alliance.

For anyone wanting to build, rebuild, improve/remodel/add on, etc., to abide by the side and front setbacks, three automobile parking spaces, height restrictions, area for septic system and the all inclusive 35% rule, will make it a near impossibility to conform and a petition requesting a hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals (“BZA”) at approximately $1,000.00 per hearing will have to be filed.   Of course, if you are affiliated with the Long Beach Alliance your variance might be a little easier and cheaper to obtain. Witness the four hearings that were scheduled for the benefit of the Alliance in June, for each of which the fee was waived, a situation virtually unheard of.

Every homeowner in the Long Beach community will be affected by the changes made by the current administration and the Long Beach Community Alliance, in their effort to control everything that is built and to assure that it meets their extreme environmentalist specifications. If they don’t approve, you don’t build or repair, and the result will be the subsequent lowering of your property values. Welcome to activist government in Long Beach!

(My thanks to Dr. Robert Angelo for assistance with the historical and technical aspects of this article – M.L.McFadden)

Secrets Hurt

 

The June 13th meeting of the Long Beach Town Council was a contentious one, with charges and countercharges about the lack of transparency by local government being flung back and forth. At the conclusion of the meeting, Councilwoman Jane Starr Neulieb made the following comment:

“I want to make sure that everyone understands that open access to your government is very important to us, and if you look at the (town) website there is proof before your very eyes…every meeting minutes….We have gone to great lengths to assure that we have an open and transparent government here….” (Long Beach Town Council Meeting, 06/13/16 Min. 2:27:03-2:28:30)

So she says, but others say that the only time Mrs. Neulieb, Mr. Byvoets and the others care about governmental candor is when it suits their interests. Who is right? Let’s examine the facts.

May 16, 2016, Meeting of the Advisory Plan Commission (APC). (Present: Patrick Cannon, Chairman, Peter Byvoets, Mike Gorman, Maureen Healy, Richard Jercich, Robert LeMay.) At the beginning of the meeting Patrick Cannon saw to it that a rule was adopted which restricted the court reporter to recording video only the meeting itself. She was prohibited from recording video of anything occurring in the public meeting place before or after the meeting. There was no discussion and no dissent by the six members present. At the end of the meeting, well after the rule had already been adopted, Cannon attempted to explain that his real reason for the rule was concern that citizens present would have their rights violated by being eavesdropped upon. The veracity of this assertion can be ascertained by any concerned resident simply by watching the lengthy portion of the pre-meeting buzz which occurred that very day. One would have to shout to be recorded, and if one did that they would have waived any expectation of privacy. Does a board or commission even have the power to restrict the constitutional rights of citizens at times when the meeting itself is not in progress? It is submitted that the tardily stated “concern” expressed by Mr. Cannon was not the real reason for the proposal and adoption of this unconstitutional rule. The real reason was the discovery and relation to you, the public, of Mr. Cannon’s previous attempt to (See “Secret Meetings Are Not Transparent”) conceal the workings of your local government from you, the citizens of Long Beach. It is worth repeating at this point that Mr. Cannon has been an officer and very influential in the Long Beach Community Alliance, was a leader of the Long Beach Party which won the November Election, and is a former lawyer. He can hardly claim not to know the constitutional implications of his actions, nor to be ignorant of the policy of the State of Indiana promoting openness in government. Neither can be advanced by holding secret meetings or muzzling people trying to tell the public what their government is doing.

Possibly even more revealing and worse for the future of liberty and property rights in our town, is the way that this issue was handled by Town Board President Peter Byvoets at the same meeting at which Mrs. Neulieb was trying to convince us about how open and honest the board was being with us.

When asked by a resident whether the APC (of which he is a member) voted on the matter related above, Mr. Byvoets denied it and in fact said that “There was no such vote”). As has already been seen the Commission voted a formal rule to hamper the court reporter’s freedom, a meeting at which he was and admitted to be present. So why lie? Isn’t he afraid of being caught? Well, he didn’t actually lie, you see. He was asked about an ordinance and not a rule. So he no doubt felt he was free to deny it…, and I feel free to report it. This is something you as citizens should know. In addition to being a zealot associated with the Long Beach Alliance, Mr. Byvoets has apparently taken the same ethics course of which a certain former President was a star pupil (“It depends upon what the meaning of ‘is’ is.) If you do not ask him precisely the right question, he feels justified in deceiving you. He may well know the information you are trying to obtain, but unless you are precise, you will not get it. He will tell the literal truth, but not the whole truth. Do you want another example? Here is another from the same meeting. A statement was made that Mr. Byvoets was going to have the deputy town clerk arrested (she was following her boss’s order to attend the “executive session” scheduled for May 19th at the previous Town Meeting). Mr. Byvoets denied it. It then became apparent that although he did not literally threaten to arrest her, he did threaten to call the police (something which he does frequently). He was asked if he was calling them to give the deputy clerk a “good citizens award”, and he said she “was never going to be arrested”. Then why was he calling the police, and if this was so, why didn’t he reveal what really happened the first time he was asked? The reason, just like it is with his deception about the Cannon suppression of the 1st Amendment rights of the court reporter, is that he wished to leave an impression with the listener that was not true. This is our Town Board President, folks. Perhaps this is one reason some people have begun referring to him as “Sneaky Pete Byvoets”.

As stated previously, it is the official policy of the State of Indiana that local government be open and transparent with its citizens. Secrets can hurt. An example of this is what just happened to Aaron Tomsheck. Aaron Tomsheck was appointed Building Commissioner by the previous administration. He replaced the previous building commissioner, who was terminated after being accused of “pushing” Peter Byvoets (Byvoets again!). Aaron did well in his first several months as interim building commissioner, so much so that his position was made permanent and full time before the expiration of the previous administration’s term. He received sterling employee evaluations. The trouble started for him as soon as the new administration began in January. His job description was changed. An alliance member was detailed to follow him around and hector him, making novel and irritating requests for time consuming and irrelevant information and forms, Councilwoman Neulieb parked herself in his office and refused to leave. (This must have been in pursuance of her stated goal of providing “open access” to our government) A number of other things were done to “encourage” Aaron to quit and it was common knowlege that the new Town Board wanted another Alliance member, a local contractor, as building commissioner.

Tomsheck kept trying to do his job. Upon checking with the State of Indiana he was advised that the ordinance establishing the building commission was invalid because it had not been approved by the State, which he had been informed was a requirement. Aaron advised the Building Commission of this in their regularly scheduled meeting on May 13, 2016. At the next regularly scheduled meeting on June 10, 2016. Peter Byvoets was also present at both meetings. (Naturally!) At this meeting Aaron presented to the Commission a letter he had received from John A. Hawkins, Chairman of the State’s Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission. Mr. Hawkins essentially corroborated what Aaron had already related, the upshot being that many of our building ordinances, including that establishing the commission, were or might be invalid.

Instead of rewarding Aaron Tomsheck for his diligence, our Town Board scheduled a “special” meeting for June 17th at 3:00 p.m. The meeting was scheduled with minimum notice to the public and at a time when there were many competing events scheduled that would help hold public participation down. At this meeting, Aaron Tomsheck was summarily fired. No reason was given, no discussion was had, and in fact it was forbidden by Peter Byvoets. So was public comment. Aaron was replaced by the alliance member and local contractor they wanted all along so that he could be in charge of building permits. The video of this “meeting” has been posted on (www.accesslaportecounty.org , Long Beach Town Council Special Meeting, June 17, 2016.) It is only about 5 minutes long and you are invited to view it and satisfy yourselves upon what kind of people we elected to run our town.

One final note. The Title of this article is “Secrets Hurt”. It may already seem obvious what secrets and falsehoods are being perpetrated on we, the residents of Long Beach, but there is one more thing to consider. Aaron Tomsheck was fired with no reason given and no discussion. He said himself that he had never been given a reason for his sudden dismissal. Byvoets handed him a letter which of course had to be prepared in advance of the meeting. How then was our “open” Town Board able to arrive at such a quick decision? If you are a responsible public official wouldn’t you want to be sure that you were doing the right thing? Wouldn’t you want to ask the people moving for the dismissal (LeMay and Neulieb) why this man should be fired? Wouldn’t you want to discuss the qualifications of his successor with Jane Neulieb, who proposed him? How do these people communicate with one another, by osmosis? Where do they get together to discuss things, some alliance member’s home? You know it had to be in secret before the meeting. Why do you draft letters unless you already know the results? Was it at their secret “executive session” where they threatened the deputy clerk with the police? Is this how Mrs. Neulieb contends that she and the others have “gone to great lengths to assure that we have an open and transparent government here”?

Byvoets, Neulieb and the others also continue to refuse to provide us with information about why our attorney fees are exploding. All they permit us are truncated, heavily redacted billing statements and insufficient explanations about why this is so.

Peter Byvoets was asked about whether they were having secret meetings with the town attorney at a town board meeting and denied ever being at a secret meeting…oh wait, he denied ever being at a “serial” meeting and you know how he is…. Maybe we will have to ask him again. There is no doubt that secrets do indeed hurt, especially if you are Aaron Tomsheck….ed

Out Of Control Long Beach Government

May 17, 2016

Out of control Long Beach town government

The last four months have given anyone who has sat through city council meetings a small example of what to expect in the future. Unless stopped these politically unsophisticated petty elitist bureaucrats will pass through council any proposal that forwards their own agendas.

One obvious indisputable example is their quest to gain control of the town government. They would like nothing more than to be able to conceal questionable practices regardless of future consequences. The following examples of this are only the tip of the iceberg:

1) Using taxpayer money to pay legal expenses for a personal lawsuit by Pete (Byvoets) and Jane (Neulieb). Full amount according to town attorney not completely recovered.

2) Censorship of Lukman (Harris, Welsh & Lukman) bills by town attorney to prevent residents from reviewing what town legal fees are for.

3) Ridiculous waste of tax dollars (over $200,000.00) on a postage stamp sized park, a pet project overseen by Pete Byvoets’ daughter (Kendra Bartlett) without any survey to determine value to the community.

4) Ramrodding through by Pat Cannon of a comprehensive planning contract without review. This will be used to get recommendations that if implemented will effect the town for years to come.

5) Appointing by town president positions in the building commission, bza, comprehensive planning and immediate zoning of known alliance members. This rigging of the long beach committees by the council can ultimately cost the taxpayers untold legal fees and put unwarranted restrictions on residents.

6) Rampant nepotism with family members, board members and spouses appointed to town positions. Alliance corporate officers in key positions with power to make critical decisions. Comprehensive planning – Kathleen Geraghty and Pat Cannon, Bza – John Wall & Mike Gorman, Apc – Mike Gorman & Pat Cannon, all former or active alliance corporate officers. Byvoets’ daughter Kendra to Park Board. John Wall’s daughter secretary of bza. Joe Jogmen & Lenore Jogmen, Larry Wall, John Wall & John (Wall’s) daughter. The LBVFD (Long Beach Volunteer Fire Department) although not affiliated with the town is the worst. Some long time town employees don’t make as much as these new comers.

7) Finally, the demands of the Chief of a volunteer fire department which owns no equipment but has secured a no bid contract to use taxpayer dollars to protect Long Beach. This Fire Chief has repeatedly stated at town meetings that he can’t properly fight fires because of the structure heights and houses built on dunes. Changing codes now will not change the simple fact the while a code change will affect a small number of new homes it will not effect the town as a whole. Incredible as this may sound his demand for upwards of 2 million dollars to provide him with a new fire station and a new truck won’t change a thing but the town council is considering funding this fiasco.

Steps that should be taken:

Contact state representatives;

Alert the state ethics board;

Alert the prosecuting authorities;

Inform residents through the media and mailings.

All should be made aware of a mismanagement of tax dollars without accountability that border on criminal. When it comes to residents not being able to secure information on how the town money is used something must be done and done soon before it’s too late.

 

Robert Boyce,

Long Beach

Lack of Transparency Becomes Transparent

The May 9th meeting of the Town Council was unremarkable except for the very end of the meeting. Bill DeFuniak, the Town Clerk, raised the same issue he had spoken about at previous meetings, that of paying invoices for attorney fees to Harris, Welsh & Lukman, the town attorney where the invoices contained no detail about what services were rendered to justify the charges. When Board President Peter Byvoets asked if he couldn’t pay it anyway and solicited a vote to approve payment. Mr. DeFuniak stated that he had become concerned and called the State Board of Accounts for advice. He spoke to Susan Gordon, the second in command at the Board, who told him, “If I paid a bill with no detail I was breaking the Law.” (It is apparent why Mr. DeFuniak felt it was important to retain his own lawyer to review actions requested by this board). Mr. DeFuniak then told the others he would not pay the bill even if they approved it, unless it complied with the law.

Interestingly enough, informed sources tell us that Harris, Welsh & Lukman do not provide bills like this to other municipal clients.

Some additional context will be helpful here. During the Fall election campaign, the party opposing the current party in power requested through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) the detailed charges of the town attorney for several months. The purpose of this request, it can now be said, was to determine whether Board Member Peter Byvoets (now Board President) had been conversing with the town attorney about new ordinances which he was not revealing publicly, sharing with sub-committee members, nor sharing with other town board members. In other words, whether he was secretly preparing a raft of new ordinances that he could spring on the public with little notice or opportunity to discuss them. (Note that such ordinances were in fact presented very soon after the new board was sworn in, too soon not to have been developed during the preceeding administration.)

At the time of the FOIA request Mr. Byvoets, through the town attorney, asserted attorney-client privilege and denied the request. Due to lack of time before the election, the refusal was not followed up in court. After the new board took over, I raised this issue again and expressed my skepticism over the applicability of the privilege to public charges. This time I said that if they did not turn over the billing statements upon a proper request, we would compel their production in court. Following that, the town attorney began to submit invoices with no detail. It was these vague invoices that Bill DeFuniak objected to paying.

Wait, there’s more. When the Clerk told Mr. Byvoets that he would not pay the bill unless it was properly submitted, Mr. Byvoets said that they would vote on it and have a meeting on the issue “in executive session” (i.e. in secret).

A member of the audience then raised a point of order questioning the propriety of conducting such a meeting in secret, but Mr. Byvoets said that it was permissible, and Julie Paulson, the attorney from the Harris firm, said there were a list of exceptions to the rule, and without identifying one, said that executive session was permissible. When one of the board members started to ask a question, Paulson said she would talk to her “after the meeting”.

So, our Town Board is having a secret meeting to talk about their ability to keep their discussions about ordinances and other town business secret from us!

As in the previous article, “Secret Meetings Are Not Transparent“, this kind of thing has been a pattern of conduct with this group. There, despite the noticing of a meeting at the Town Center, sub-committee meeting Chairman Patrick Cannon adjourned a meeting with McKenna & Associates to a fellow Alliance member’s house to avoid public scrutiny.They do not really want want us to know what is really going on, and they do not really want to be transparent. They just want to appear as though they are being transparent.