Although there is talk and an agreement was signed that City Manager Anderson would be leaving on November 16, at last nights city council meeting he made it clear he has no plans to go.
Nobody in the audience could miss that Anderson made clear that he plans to stick around for beach activities plans he’s cooking up for next summer. Anderson is not a popular guy with the general public but Mayor Lou O’Donnell along with Councilmen Bobby Spirito and Mark Kroll hang on his every word. It is likely that the reason Mayor Lou refuses to acknowledge Anderson’s resignation is that he doesn’t want to see him go. If reelected on November 8, along with Councilmen Bobby and Mark K. they will have a majority to keep Anderson on indefinitely. And since there was no talk about replacing him at last night’s meeting, we can assume keeping him is high priority for the influential in the community who depend on him for “Forward New Buffalo.” The slick campaign slogan for voting their way.
Mayor Lou did not mention the policy violation committed by Anderson when he had the audio security surveillance equipment removed from city hall. Didn’t Richard Nixon do the same when he realized the equipment in his office was working against him? Instead of being outraged by another breach of transparency by a hired administrator, Mayor Lou spoke of the need for secrecy surrounding Videogate, allowing it to sit in the hands of the $10,000 attorney hired by Anderson instead of those of the council members. While they scramble to clear Anderson and his sidekick Street Superintendent Tony Ashbough, they trash the public’s right to know.
While they all bemoan the increasing number of Freedom of Information Act requests and chastise those seeking them, Mayor Lou forgets he promised a new reign of transparency. As he creates a greater cloud of secrecy that only peaks curiosity, the public is left with the recourse of a legal process that forces the council to respect the public’s right to know.
When Councilwoman Messinger stated that she had viewed some of the video at the attorney’s office and it was obviously edited, audience member Jim Howe yelled LIAR! Besides being disrespectful, what does Jim know that we don’t? As you might recall, during Watergate, 18 minutes was edited out of the oval office tape, perhaps Messinger’s revelation about the editing of Tony’s tape hit a nerve.
The slick and expensive brochure for Lou O’Donnell’s reelection includes Bobby Spirito and Mark Knoll, running as a slate called “Forward New Buffalo” – why not? They never vote independently and are the obvious choice of City Manager Anderson and those who control him. Mayor Lou’s campaign literature boldly tells us not only who to vote for but how to vote on the bond referendum, It’s a package deal, vote for them then give them 4 million dollars of our debt to spend as they wish. If you read the language of the bond, its ambiguity leaves it open to interpretation as to just whose pockets it will line.
While they committed forty thousand dollars to the Downtown Development Authority without comment, Mayor Lou feigned ignorance that a request for funding by the Planning Commission to clean up the long neglected ordinances never made it to the agenda by Anderson. If Anderson sticks around for the duration of Victor Cieradele’s Fountain Square development, Cieradele will get what he wants while obsolete ordinances might help pave the way.
The expensive slick campaign literature being circulated by Mayor Lou and his team appears to have the backing of those who need them to continue Anderson’s plans behind closed doors. While there is no written budget or tracking of actual expenses for the downtown development project, the slick team of Mayor O’Donnell intends to continue their fee-falling style of spending tax money without accountability or transparency. The lack of these are benefits to those who really control the city, not so much for us who end up paying the bills.
Mayor Lou’s slick, expensive campaign literature states he will work diligently with the Planning Commission to complete the Master Plan. It was almost two years ago Lou promised the Master Plan would be completed in a year. Do we believe him now because he is publicizing it in an impressive brochure that also attributes Councilman Bobby Spirito’s accomplishments to his lengthy dedication to the New Buffalo Yacht Club? Saying it, no matter how dressed up, doesn’t make it true.
One last thing, Councilwoman Donna Messinger’s tenure on the council wasn’t mentioned by Mayor Lou although it was her last regular meeting. Mayor Lou worked with her for almost two years but didn’t bother thanking her for her service. Perhaps that is because he doesn’t want to be hypercritical, saying nothing because he is just relieved and thankful to see her go.
In normal times, a video recording made at the front desk of city hall can be requested through the Freedom of Information Act. I know this because I requested one once and was given a copy within a day. But these are not normal times with City Manager Anderson making all city decisions.
What is the secret in the video covered up by City Manager Rob Anderson and Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh, with the help of Mayor Lou along with Councilmen Spirito and Kroll?
If everyone knew what the council members knew about Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh prior to Videogate we would have demanded that $10,000 not be wasted on the cover-up to keep Tony’s secret video from the public.
This is what was known about Tony Ashbaugh and his relationship with Rob Anderson prior to the video censorship.
A member of Tony Ashbaugh’s street crew sideswiped a resident’s house with a city owned snow plow after she made a complaint about Tony. Ashbaugh and Anderson stated they couldn’t identify who did the damage.
Ashbaough stored his personal property in a city owned building rent free. Anderson stated he would begin an investigation, nothing happened.
A city contractor was told to stop posting critical comments about the city on his personal Face Book page or his city contract would be ended.
Ashbaugh made racial slurs about an African American city employee on the censured video.
Ashbaugh discussed with the former city treasurer the possibility of misappropriating of city funds on the censured video
Ashbuagh laughed at whether Councilwoman Messinger would be afraid at the idea of another employee shooting her at a council meeting on the censured video.
Ashbaugh started an ethic complaint against Police Chief Ptichford, charging him with wiretapping although the chief has the duty to electronically monitor city hall. Hardly material for Mayor Lou to begin a $10,000 investigation.
Ashbaugh accused the chief of allowing the city contracted wrecker service company to store some city owned truck lifts although the storage dates back to an agreement made by former City Manager Geisler. Again, why spend $10,000 for an investigation just to answer simple questions?
What the councilman are currently saying since the video
There is no mention of Councilwoman Messinger on the video recording City Manager Anderson provided to the lawyer. Although the councilmen are saying this publicly, the public will never be allowed to see the full video recording to validate this rhetoric.
After the censured video was discovered, City Manager Anderson violated city policy by removing audio security surveillance equipment from city hall. This is since Mayor Lou along with Councilmen Spirito and Kroll gave City Manager Anderson a $25,000 bonus to continue his position for 25 days. Evidently, Mr. Anderson doesn’t want anyone to hear decisions or promises he makes on behalf of our city in his last days of power.
This cover-up could cost the mayor and councilmen their positions on the council, the behavior recorded on the video could cost City Manager Anderson and Street Superintendent Tony Ashbaugh their public lives while the whole affair will absolutely cost the residents at least $10,000. The video recording is public property but we will never see it thanks to Mayor Lou O’Donnell, Councilman Bobby Spirito, and Councilman Mark Kroll.
After Donna Messinger fled the special New Buffalo council meeting on Thursday because of talk by employee Tony Ashbaugh about another employee shooting her, Mayor Lou O’Donnell said there was an internal investigation being completed. The internal investigation of Videogate consists of City Manager Rob Anderson, a good friend of Street Supervisor Tony Ahsbaugh, paying $10,000 of our tax revenue to an attorney with the intent to clear Tony while indicting the police chief. And although Donna asked the men on the council if they would stand by Tony or the Chief and her, it didn’t appear they moved an inch away from City Manager Rob Anderson or Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh. As it is, there was supposed to be an investigation on who allowed Tony to store his private property at a public building for free. Anderson promised an investigation into that but so far, nothing.
I’d be willing to bet a dollar that within a week, the Chief will be found guilty, Tony will be cleared, the attorney will be $10,000 richer, the tax payers will be $10,000 poorer, and the video will never be seen again – so goes Videogate and the corruption in New Buffalo. As it is, without authorization by the council, City Manager Anderson had the audio surveillance removed from the front office of city hall. Will he be reprimanded for interfering with security, absolutely not, he just got a $25,000 bonus to stay 25 days, we can hardly expect Mayor Lou, Councilman Bobby, or Councilman Mark K. to give a write-up to a man who tells them what to do. (None of them seem to understand that the city manager works for them – in 18 months, they never gave him an evaluation, just a big bonus).
Speaking about the appointment of Mark Robertson to the council, Mayor Lou O’Donnell felt Mark added diversity to the council because he was native-born to the community. Really? Didn’t Mayor Lou mean that he added diversity because he wasn’t a drinking buddy of former Mayor Pete Weber or a member of Lou’s Yacht Club (as are council members Bobby Spirito and Mark Kroll)?
Mark Robertson’s diversity isn’t due to being born here, it’s due to the integrity that he brings to the council, something that would otherwise be lacking once Donna Messinger leaves after the election. This integrity comes from an understanding of the responsibility for thoughtful decision-making based on laws, policies and common sense instead of directives issued by a city manager whose only interest in the city is self-interest. We can only hope that after the election in November, other people will add the same diversity that Donna and Mark Robertson have, and that is called integrity.
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At the 4:30 pm October 13 special council meeting, Councilwoman Donna Messinger read the statement below then immediately left the meeting.
When employee Tony Ashbaugh, laughingly states that the police chief’s assistant could come to a city council meeting and shoot me, I cannot continue.
Although Tony Ashbaugh, talks about me getting shot at a meeting, our beloved Police Chief Larry Pitchford is being persecuted. City Manager Rob Anderson wrote up the police chief for bringing to his attention a possible misappropriation of funds by Ashbaugh but did nothing about it.
Instead of investigating Tony Ashbaugh, Rob Anderson instead goes after our police chief.
We hold children responsible for their words. If a student in our school speaks about shooting another child, that student would be expelled. Here in New Buffalo, we do not hold accountable the person who speaks about a city employee shooting an elected official. We charge the police chief instead.
This city manager allows an employee who thinks it funny to speculate about a council member being shot at a meeting to continue yet somehow takes action against the police chief who has served and protected our residents, putting his life on the line for 40 years.
Tony Ashbaugh laughs about a city employee coming to a city council meeting and shooting me. Rob Anderson then attacks the police chief.
I want you to know that not only I, but also state investigative authorities, take such statements seriously.
It has not been easy to stand up for residents of the city with this city manager and an employee’s disgusting talk at city hall.
Because of talk about shooting me on a video tape, and until I can hear exactly what was said, I cannot continue.”
New Buffalo City Council Member