Category Archives: Tony Ashbaugh

First segment of Tony Ashbaugh audio recording

This is the first five minutes of audio from the August 7, 2016 Tony Ashbaugh video recording.  After a year of defying the Freedom of Information Act, the city council was finally forced by a court order to release the recording.  The copies released by the city were of such poor quality, experts had to be called in to increase the volume and decrease excessive background noise.  The conversation on the recording between Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh and then contracted treasurer Debra Lambrix might be why Mayor Lou O’Donnell and the council members didn’t want it released.
In 2006, we were asked to support a 5 year restricted park millage to be used for the improvements of Oselka Park.  Those funds were mismanaged and misused, leaving the park to continued deterioration each year.
In 2011, Rusty Geisler requested a renewal of another 5 year restricted park millage stating ‘The proposed continuation of the five-year 0.5 parks millage will be used primarily to protect the Gallien River shore line which runs just west of the beach parking lot. This river bank is eroding at a very rapid rate and, if not addressed, will, in the near future result in very large maintenance costs to both the shoreline and beach parking lot. This erosion protection is a key element of the planned Riverfront Improvement Project.” letter about park millage to city council
And in 2016, Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh wondered how he could misuse the restricted park cover-upmillage funds to purchase equipment for street projects while there continues to be deterioration of Oselka Park, the Gallien River shore line plus the beach dune walk and concession stand.  Are the restricted park improvement millage funds supporting equipment for general city use instead of major park improvements?  And is this why thousands of dollars were spent on legal and court fees to keep this information from the public?
download It is disturbing to hear two city employees (City Street Superintendent, Tony Ashbaugh and then contracted Treasurer, Debra Lambrix) discussing misappropriation of funds. Ashbaugh was seeking an avenue to misappropriate funds from the restricted park millage and place it into a street fund. Instead of stopping the discussion, Lambrix warns Ashbaugh to be careful. Ashbaugh wondered who would give a shit if there was an 80% -20% split of funds to be used for equipment except for a ‘Nancy Smith’ type of person.. The conversation ends with an explicative.
But what might be even more disturbing is when former Police Chief Larry Pitchford became concerned about the recorded conversation and took it to then City Manager Rob Anderson and Mayor Lou O’Donnell, he was reprimanded and the recording sealed. The city council chose to cover up the possible misappropriation of funds and then to fire the police chief.

stuff they don't want you to know

Tony Ashbaugh Recording

City Manager to Chief Pitchford – you’re out of here

Word has it that City Manager Dave Richards called Chief Larry Pitchford into his office at 4:30 pm on Friday, September 8 and told him he wanted him to sign a pre-typed letter of resignation. When the Chief refused to sign it, Richards pulled out a one pager, signed it with Clerk Lori Vander Clay as witness putting Pitchford on administrative paid leave until the September 19 council meeting when final approval of the Chief’s removal will come before the city council.  Richards told Pitchford to leave the building.  When Pitchford asked what this was about, Richards told him that they were moving the police department into a new direction.

imagesExactly how many directions can a police department be moved into? Could it be that there will be no police chief with just an administrative supervisor?  Or could there be a younger chief who could be paid much less than Chief Pitchford?

Chief Pitchford has been employed in the city’s police department for 40 years rising within the ranks to become chief.  Richards didn’t provide coaching or reprimands so the dismissal appeared to be out of the blue. But less than a year ago, Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh started making trouble for the Chief when he filed an ethics complaint against him.  The ethics complaint appeared to center on two public surveillance videos from August, 2016 when Ashbaugh was caught on tape while working at city hall.  Although Pitchford followed correct protocol and turned the videos over to his supervisor, then City Manager Rob Anderson, Ashbaugh claimed that Ptichford had illegally wire tapped his private conversations, threatening to sue the city if the public videos were released to the public.

Through a $10,000 investigation paid to Attorney Sara Bell, Pitchford was cleared of all charges and Anderson was directed to rescind a written reprimand given to the Chief.  But Ashbaugh didn’t appear to forgive or forget, filing a suit in federal court against the Chief and three other individuals (including me) for illegally recording and distributing a private conversation.  An attorney hired by the city’s risk management company is representing Pitchford and two other defendants while I retained my own attorney.

The charges have been proven to be baseless since Berrien County Judge Wiley ruled that one of the videos was not protected from an exemption of the Freedom of Information Act and the city gave the other video up to the court agreeing it held no protection through the FOIA either.  The videos are rightfully back in the public domain.

Here’s the deal, who is driving the decision to put Pitchford out to pasture?  Could it be someone in city hall who continues to carry a grudge against him, who appears to have an inordinate amount of sway with City Manager Richards and whose other attempts to get rid of Pitchford failed?  Or could it be a simple case of age discrimination?

The Chief, after being with the city for 40 years, must be making a sizable income. This might just be another cost cutting measure to help fund the downtown project and the sidewalks nobody wants or needs.  We saw the police department take a budget cut, we no longer have life guards during the week, the water rescue boat appears to be permanently docked, and our already high water rates are being increased.   Instead of applying for grants for the downtown project or reapplying for a DNR grant for the dune walk, these non-budgeted expenditures get dumped into the general fund.  And of course the unwanted and unnecessary sidewalks are gobbling up another several hundred thousand dollars out of tax revenue.

images (1)Pitchford might be either the victim of a personal grudge by a person with more political power than him or a casualty of age discrimination – or maybe both.  But it is a sad way to end a 40 year career, told to leave and not come back.

 

Judge to Tony Ashbaugh – release the video

Tony Ashbaugh

Tony Ashbaugh

Justice prevailed today and Ray Kirkus proved you can fight city hall – and win.  Judge Wiley, at the Berrien County Court House, declared the video recording of Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh and then Treasurer Debbie Lambrix at city hall on Sunday, August 7, 2016 to be released to the public and a copy handed over to Mr. Kirkus a week from today.

The City Council is to blame for the drawn out court case that cost thousands of dollars in legal fees with the City’s risk management company picking up the City’s legal defense as well as half of Kirkus’ legal fees. Ashbaugh is responsible for the other half.  And although the City Council thinks that if the risk management company pays, there is no cost to the City, this is untrue.  The risk management company, through various lawsuits being handed off to it, is learning that the City Council members recklessly disregard laws.  And don’t be fooled by what the Council members and the New Buffalo Times state, the disregard of laws will impact insurance fees and bond interest rates.

The Council members, either through ignorance or out of a sense of loyalty to download (1)Tony Ashbaugh, chose to violate the Open Meeting Act when they denied Ray Kirkus his FOIA request.  Mayor O’Donnell’s comment about letting the court decide was an expensive stall tactic by the City that led to other FOIA requests being denied. Stall, bluff, just say no, trying to deny public access is the City Council’s modus operandi.

The attorney for the City’s risk management company argued that Ashbaugh had threatened a lawsuit a year ago if the City released the video, the judge was not impressed since a threat of a lawsuit is not a qualified exemption in the Freedom of Information Act.  The ironic thing about this is that I pulled the City into another lawsuit started by Ashbaugh against me and three other citizens.  The judge in my case agreed to allowed me to name the City in a third party indemnification because I claimed the City is at fault.  Today, Judge Wily, through his ruling, found the City violated the Freedom of Information Act making it possible that if Ashbaugh wins in his lawsuit against me, the City’s risk management provider could be responsible for $840,000 in damages.

government-censorshipI have stated before that the cover up is worse than the crime and in this case, the five elected council members covered up for a City employee instead of following the law.  Had they followed the law a year ago and handled Ashbaugh correctly, they wouldn’t be in a situation now that could spark new lawsuits once the video is made public. Instead of managing risk, they recklessly gave Ashbaugh a promotion and large salary increase.

The real heroes in this are citizens like Kirkus, who continue to expect the City Councilimages members to  behave appropriately and ethically.   Although those who demand accountability in public officials are called trouble makers, we have every right to expect elected officials and City employees to be truthful, accountable, and to follow laws. Tomorrow night, there is a good chance that the Planning Commission will do some mighty fine backpedaling when they cover up for a multitude of violations at the Merchant Street Cottages development that Tony Ashbaugh originally co-owned.

Stay tuned for a ‘release party’ in approximately one week when we can all preview the “Tony Ashbaugh video” provided by the City Council.  And as soon as it is made into a YouTube, you can visit it here.   By the way, if any of you have an inflatable outdoor video screen, let me know.

Have you noticed any congestion at the drug store drive up window?

DSCN0230Do you remember when Mayor Lou O’Donnell, along with Council member Bobby Spirito, insisted it was money well spent when they authorized the city to enter into a lawsuit against both their own Planning Commission and The New Buffalo Drug Store, to stop a prescription drive up window at the pharmacy?  Working from bad advise from wild card City Manager Rob Anderson (who they gifted with $25,000 when he left), this and other lawsuits wasted hundreds of thousands of tax dollars. The Planning Commission leadership was even subjected to an accusation of malfeasance by O’Donnell and Spirito (Donna Messinger objected) in a costly ‘Tribunal’ where O’Donnell and Spirito acted as judge and jury, When it was pointed out that Council members were trying to limit the Constitutional guaranteed freedom of speech by the Planning Commission members, they withdrew their ‘tribunal’ but never apologized, either to the Commissioners or the tax payers, for their costly and illegal actions.

Although Council members are elected to defend our legal rights,  had the council members bothered to read Michigan law or City zoning ordinances, they would have known that the Planning Commission had complete control over special use zoning ordinances.  Dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into legal fees could have been avoided had the Council members listened to reason. But the Council members are more interested in limiting the rights of outspoken residents than accepting responsibility for the waste they create by violating laws and policies.

Another example of the Council members vindictiveness was evident when they allowed Anderson to enter into a lawsuit with an outspoken resident who lived on a nonconforming lot. Instead of admitting the resident was protected by Michigan law, they spent thousands of tax dollars in a suit the city was doomed to lose. Donna Messinger was the only Council member who read the section of Michigan law that protected the resident while the rest of the Council members appeared to be more interested in intimidating the resident’s freedom of speech.

Currently, due to the council’s dependency on recommendations by Anderson, instead of their own review of Michigan law, the City is embroiled in two more lawsuits that will eventually end with residents winning and the Council losing.  These suits involve the rights of outspoken residents and a city employee the Council is trying to protect. Because these cases were turned over to the City’s risk management insurance company for litigation, the Council members appear disinterested, not bothering to discuss them either in open or closed Council meetings.  Although they might think they have no financial obligation in these suits, this lack of oversight is being monitored by the risk management company as they acquire more knowledge about a City that ignores laws and policies.  This lack of concern by the Council members might have a big impact on the insurance premiums and the reputation of the City, leaving municipality bonds a risky deal for lenders.

Unfortunately, the Council members are continuing on with another no win decision made by former City Manager Rob Anderson to pursue the Safe Route to School (SRTS) grant that requires 5 foot wide sidewalks on both side of selected quiet side streets on the south side of the City.  The Council members were led to believe this was free Federal money and in their haste to secure it, didn’t consider the absurdity of the plan and the misnomer that it was free money.  Since the grant does not allow engineering costs, thousands of dollars from the City’s general fund has already been spent with at least another $100,000 of local dollars yet to be allocated.

Take a look at some of the absurdity of the grant that has been reported to the Federal Highway Authority. Had the Council members listened to reason, they could have saved the tax payers over a hundred thousands dollars for sidewalks not wanted or needed.

From a MDOT publication for the Safe Routes to School Program.
Program Purposes: 
 To develop projects and encourage activities that will improve student health and safety while reducing traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.

DSCN0214DSCN0217

This sidewalk next to US 12 was submitted by City Manager Rob Anderson to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for the Safe Routes To Schools (SRTS) grant request for ‘connectivity’ of the proposed sidewalk on S Norton Street. If no safety certification was issued by a public safety department, such as, the City of New Buffalo Police Department, Berrien County Sheriff Department, or Michigan State Police Department, then it shows a collusion by the state with the city since the MDOT specifically states as a goal for the sidewalks is to improve student health and safety.  The use of the US 12 sidewalk will actually reduce the safety of children, not improve it by giving the children and their parents false  belief that it is safe to use the sidewalk because it is part of the SRTS program.  IF the State refuses to have a public safety department approval of that sidewalk in connection to a safe route to school program, the first casualty of a child using that sidewalk will be on the hands of the MDOT and the City Council.

Michigan Zoning Enabling Act
125.3208 Nonconforming uses or structures.
Sec. 208.
(4) The elimination of the nonconforming uses and structures in a zoning district is declared to be for a public purpose and for a public use. The legislative body may institute proceedings for condemnation of nonconforming uses and structures under 1911 PA 149, MCL 213.21 to 213.25.

DSCN0212DSCN0211

Although several of the properties on S Norton Street are nonconforming and protected through the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, Code Enforcer Ed Carpenter was not consulted prior to Rob Anderson’s decision to include Norton into the grant while eliminating Bronson Street.  This move was accepted by MDOT even though there was no determination if the switch conformed to grant requirements.

These properties are easily identified as nonconforming since City ordinance states the City’s easement to be 30 feet from the center of the street.  Last year a lawsuit was settled against the City that allowed that driveways could not be required on nonconforming properties.  This makes it legal for property owners to park their cars on the City’s easement.  Where would these property owners park their cars if the sidewalks need to either be placed next to the street or the City condemns the private property for public use?

When will the City Council start to make decisions based on facts and common sense instead of their continual disregard of Michigan laws, local ordinances, and City policies?

 

Invasive Species Monitoring Training

Invasive Species Monitoring Training

Tuesday, June 27, 2017
6 pm – 7:30 pm
New Buffalo Township Library

 

invasive

Learn how to monitor and report invasive species populations. There will be a presentation and training session on the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) and an overview of the New Buffalo Japanese Knotweed Taskforce. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of this free presentation and learn how you can take an active part in invasive species control efforts.

Tony Ashbaugh, front and center in baseless city lawsuits

The City of New Buffalo, a former council member and two current employees are being represented in two separate lawsuits by law firms hired by the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA). The MMRMA is the City’s risk management company.

One law firm was engaged to defend a suit brought against the City by Ray Kirkus after he was denied a copy of an August 7, 2016 public surveillance video through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In denying the request, the City has stated in its amended answer to the complaint that the video is not a public record and that the public surveillance video is exempt from disclosure under FOIA as “a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy.”

Tony Ashbaugh

Ashbaugh

At the same time and on behalf of the City, the MMRMA has retained another law firm to represent a former city council member (Donna Messinger) and two city employees (Larry Pitchford and Diana Selir)  in a baseless lawsuit brought against them by Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh.  Ashbaugh also sued me.

settlementIn this lawsuit, Messinger, Pitchford and Selir have stated in their answer to the complaint that  the video of Ashbaugh and Lambrix was a “public recording” in a “public building” and “served as the basis of discipline imposed on [Ashbaugh].”  Ashbaugh’s lawsuit alleges damages against EACH defendant in the amount of  $210,000.

Obviously the recorded conversation can’t be both private and public.  Yet, two (2) law firms engaged on behalf of the City are arguing opposing views on the same issue.  The City could have figured out that the video was public information based on Tony Ashbaugh’s own words in a document he wrote entitled ‘Request for Investigation.’  All five members of the city council and their contracted attorney, Sarah Bell, were provided a copy of Ashbaugh’s document yet they all seemingly chose to ignore the contents.

In the attached ‘Request for Investigation’ that was provided by the City through a FOIA request, Ashbaugh states, “My conversation was absolutely work related.”  Then he proceeded to describe the contents of the video and conversation he held with another City contracted employee, Debbie Lambrix   Ashbaugh Request for Investigation

In his complaint against Messinger, Pitchford, Selir and me,  Ashbaugh states “The oral communication included remarks by plaintiff Tony Ashbaugh that he thought that defendant Larry Pitchford, police chief of the City of New Buffalo, had mis-used and was continuing to mis-use city property by letting a local business man use the property without compensation to the city.”

Since the conversation in the video was claimed to be work related and made public by Ashbaugh, it appears the City’s  decision not to release the video to Kirkus pursuant to his request under FOIA was based entirely on the threat of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution against the City or City Council.  In his ‘Request for Investigation,’ Ashbaugh stated “My lawyer says that electronic eavesdropping on a face to face conversation is illegal under 18 USC Sec 2511(1) and could lead to lawsuits or prosecution.”  Although the FOIA has no exemption from providing public information based on threats of litigation or criminal action, it is more than likely that the City kowtowed to Ashbaugh’s threats rather than  release the public video as required by law.

Ashbaugh himself admitted in the document he provided to the City Council and then-City Manager, Rob Anderson, that surveillance cameras can be used to “monitor whether employees are responsibly discharging their duties.” He went on to state the conversation was “absolutely work related.”  Rob Anderson later issued Ashbaugh a written reprimand based on statements he made recorded on the video. Tony Ashbaugh’s memorandum of counseling.

Even Messinger, Pitchford and Selir  state in their answer to Ashbaugh’s complaint that “[t]o the extent an answer is required, it is denied as untrue that the conversation was “private,” as Plaintiff (Ashbaugh) has admitted in writing that the “conversation was absolutely work related.” Plaintiff disclosed the alleged contents of the conversation in his September 29, 2016 “request for Investigation” to then-City Manager Robert Anderson. Further, it was common and public knowledge that the City of New Buffalo City Hall was monitored 24/7 by a video & audio surveillance system, which was installed in 2013 pursuant to City Council approval.  Further, the conversation occurred in a public building, the City of New Buffalo City Hall, which was marked at the time with multiple signs that state: “NOTICE: This building is under video & audio surveillance in public areas.”” Additionally, the public recording served as the basis of discipline imposed on Plaintiff, (Ashbaugh) in the form of a memorandum of counseling for inappropriate behavior.”

How did the City, Messinger, Pitchford and Selir end up taking opposing points of view in two different court cases that both center on the public surveillance video of Sunday, August 7, 2016?

FOIA

The answer lies with the city council’s lack of knowledge or understanding of the legal requirements of the FOIA that led to MMRMA spending thousands of dollars defending them in the two lawsuits.  It also led to the uncomfortable employment conditions at city hall when co-workers must closely work with an individual who is suing them.  This whole unfortunate situation magnifies the necessity of the council members to educate themselves on their legal duties as related to the public’s access to government information.  Public records belong to the public, not any one individual and the public has a right to see them.

Unfortunately, the foolishness of Mayor Lou O’Donnell and Councilfrivoulous members Liz Ennis, Mark Kroll, Mark Robertson, and Bobby Spirito will most likely reign again as they believe the MMRMA is providing ‘free money’ in defense of the lawsuits. Little do they realize that through these unnecessary lawsuits, the City’s reputation will be damaged, its credit rating may be negatively impacted which might cause an increase in bond interest rates and may further negatively impact the rate of the risk management insurance premiums.

The losers in this quagmire? The residents of the city.

Protecting discrimination at city hall..

7219-govrnment-350x216-2On July 1, 2016, I requested and obtained within a few days a copy of an audio/visual recording from the main office of city hall that contained a conversation between the city manager and city treasurer. The video was made public because of the requirement of the Freedom of Information Act.

An audio/video recording made on August 7, 2016, approximately a month later in the same location was not released to me through a Freedom of Information request due to a threat of a lawsuit against the city by a city employee who was on the public video. Tobin v Michigan Civil Service Comm’n, 416 Mich 661; 331 NW2d 184 (1982) states “The FOIA does not compel a public body to conceal information at the insistence of one who opposes its release”

My request for the release of the August 7, 2016 video that included the conversation of two employees who were using explicit discriminatory language will only be released with all audio redacted. The redaction by the city council of the discriminatory conversation is a misuse of the privacy clause of the Freedom of Information Act so it can protect illegal language used by its city staff. The council has no legal authority to do this.   The government-censorshipburden of proof lies with them to prove that the release of a public video invades a person’s intimate private life.  So far, there has been no such evidence given.

By releasing the video or a transcription of it, workplace-harasementdiscriminatory language used by city employees could no longer remain secret. By trying to cover for the employee who is at fault, the council members are denying his victims their right to know their accuser so they can take legal action or request the council to ensure Title VI compliance.

My premise for the release is that the privacy clause of the Freedom of Information Act does not apply because the conversation being blocked by the employee was not private in nature with no invasion into his private life. I suggested that the clerk redact any personal private information before releasing. The courts have narrowly defined personal information as being private if it has no significance to the public domain. This of course does not workplace-bullyinginclude conversations between employees, while working, who are speaking about city issues, the budget, other employees, the city’s leadership, or individuals in the community.  It certainly does not protect them when they are violating a law such as the Civil Rights Title VI Act or violating the city’s Title VI policy.

The Freedom of Information Act does not protect abusive images-2discriminatory speech within the walls of the publicly owned building even if there is reason to believe it is not being overheard. Employees should employ universal precautions, assuming any inappropriate language is not permissible in a work environment. There is no privacy exemption that allows for the redaction of inappropriate language from public documentation because an employee doesn’t wants to bother to filter his language while employed at city hall even when he violates another person’s civil rights.

imagesThe city council has an obligation to weigh the rights of the public against the claims of privacy by one employee, who while working in a public building saw no problem accusing one co-worker of cock-sucking while using a “cotton picking” racial slur about an African-American co-worker and then using misogynistic language when describing a potential violent act against a female council member. The mayor and council members have an obligation to uphold the Freedom of Information Act – not fall victim to the demands made by one employee who was recorded engaging in homophobic, racist, and misogynistic conversations.

Why the city council continues to use thousands of dollars in tax revenue to protect one employee’s discriminatory language and threats of violence on a female member of the city’s leadership is anyone’s guess. They are allowing a member of the administrative team to malign other employees while their solution isn’t to eradicate it but instead allow it to continue by disconnecting the audio recording in the public offices to keep it secret. Their decision to cover-up for the employee is as bad or worse than the actual offence and leads to institutionalized discrimination with the apparent approval of the elected leadership.  Our tax revenue at work – against us.

Racism in the City of New Buffalo

What is the Title VI Civil Rights Act?
jfktitlevi

 Who does racism hurt?
racism-hurts

What do you do when you see racism committed at City Hall?govenment-hiding-video  Verify and Report.
What if the racism is verified on a public
video but access is denied?

denying-foiaWhat if the City Clerk disregards the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act? (FOIA)

 What if the requirements of an appeal are disregarded by theworse-thing-about-censorship FOIA coordinator?  In New Buffalo, the mayor is designated FOIA coordinator but the job was dumped on the city manager.

privacy-exemptionsWhat if the city council uses tax revenues to hire an attorney to give them permission to misuse the privacy exemption in the Freedom of Information Act? What if this attorney is also hired by the city council to write a policy to eliminate audio recording of employee conversations in the public offices so racist remarks about African Americans can continue and will not be recorded?

What if the city council’s motivation to keep a public video out of the title-vihands of the public is racially motivated? The city’s leadership might believe that if they hide racism at city hall, they can continue to receive federal funding without having to terminate employees who violate the Title VI Civil Rights Act.

Where does racism stop? racism-stops-with-me

deny-racismDenial that racism exists by the mayor and city council members?

By blaming the public who demand accountability, the city hate-those-who-speak-truthleadership continues to allow racism at city hall. Instead of filling Freedom of Information Act requests, the city council uses tax revenues to fight the requests, instead of scheduling council meetings to encourage attendance, the council continues to hold special meetings with little notice. Questioning council’s transparency is seen as disloyalty to the city by the mayor and his followers.

Freedom of information requests aren’t about the public abusing the government’s right to privacy Abraham Lincoln said the government is of the people, for the people, and by the people so government information is our information. When the government either denies or places roadblocks on the public’s right to know, it is a violation of laws There is no privacy in city government records except for specific exemptions.  

are-you-racistA city employee’s racial remarks about African Americans on a publicly owned video does not meet the privacy exemption of the Freedom of Information Act.  The council members, as well as the attorney they hired, should know that protecting the public video disclosure of an employee’s Title VI violation constitutes a cover up of the law and will impact the city’s ability to compete for federal funding. 

 

 

 

 

The cover-up is always worse than the act…

download-1It was confirmed today that the State of Michigan, in an ongoing investigation of the current administration and council, is requesting copies of the videos where Tony Ashbaugh laughed about Councilwoman Messinger being shot at a city council meeting and where he used racial slurs against a co-worker. It also was reported that the issue of wiping clean the entire month of August off the city owned surveillance video server has been turned over to the Michigan State Police. It is a violation of the law to destroy public property especially when it is part of an ongoing investigation.

Since Anderson is responsible for the video server being wiped cleaned, it would be almost comical if it wasn’t  so serious that Mayor O’’Donnell isrip_the_truth__lgo allowing City Manager Rob Anderson to conduct an “internal” investigation on himself. It is reassuring the State is stepping in to monitor the situation.

City Manager Anderson has made it known that the current council men have no plans of replacing him if they remain in office. If this happens, it will be a rewarding day for the residents when the councilmen are forced to terminate both Anderson and Ashbaugh due to the video cover-up.

"If we're going to keep this quite, we'll need a public enquiry."

We will find out at the next council meeting that there was no merit in the ethics complaint that Mayor O’Donnell paid an attorney $10,000 to do an inquiry into.  This will confirm that the decision to start the inquiry was an attempt to keep the video out of the hands of the public before the election in an attempt to impact the election. The best way to keep public information confidential is to tie it to a legal inquiry.

The men at city hall have worked all the angles to keep public information out of our hands but in the long run it will backfire.  Because if these men are elected tomorrow, they will be facing lawsuits that should tie them up for well over a year.  But it shouldn’t come as any surprise to Anderson or Ashbaugh that if push comes to shove, the councilmen will sacrifice them to save themselves. Subordinates never do well in the cover up schemes as their superiors disavow any role.

Mayor and council members try to impact election?

downloadAccording to city employees, continuing the cover-up at city hall, City Manager Rob Anderson had an outside IT expert wipe clean the security visual and audio recordings for the entire month of August, 2016. Mayor Lou O’Donnell along with City Council members Bobby Spirito and Mark Kroll were notified but chose not to pursue the serious accusation while allowing Anderson complete access to other sensitive and vital city documentation. If the accusation is true and there  was destruction of public property by the city manager but not addressed by the council, it is implicit of a cover-up that could have an impact on Tuesday’s election and is most likely a violation of the law.  An immediate investigation could have either given the council evidence that Anderson should immediately be terminated or cleared him.  The council owed it to the residents to determine if there was a breach in security causes by Anderson.

tonyashbaughThis past Thursday, after a month of pressing Anderson, City Council member Donna Messinger was finally allowed to view two surveillance videos of Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh made in August.  After viewing them, Messinger was immediately slapped with a restraining order by Ashbaugh’s attorney that if she shared information contained on the videos, he would sue her.

Several weeks ago it was made public the videos revealed that Ashbaugh laughed about Messinger being shot at a council meeting, made racial slurs about a co-worker, suggested Lambrix manipulate the city budget, write in a salary increase for him, and used foul language to describe a variety of people. One has to wonder what else is on the videos that makes Ashbaugh so fearful that he has filed an ethics complaint against the police chief and threatened lawsuits against the city and Messinger while if true, City Manager Anderson wipes clean August’s surveillance videos.

At the October 18 council meeting, O’Donnell, Spirito, and Kroll hired a $10,000 attorney to ensure the videos was tied up in the ethic complaint made by Ashbaugh against the police chief.  Although we were told by O’Donnell the report would be completed within two weeks, it was just delivered to Messinger this past Friday, days before the election, with a warning that if she shared the information with her spouse or a blog, she could face legal penalties.

The recording of Ashbaugh was made through a city owned surveillance camera in the front office of city hall controlled through the police department. Ashbaugh contends the conversations were private and the recording illegally recorded by the police chief although all city employees are aware of the building’s continuous video recordings with the chief being charged with the monitoring of the equipment. There is no logic in his claims.

The plan by Anderson and Ashbaugh and collaborated by O’Donnell, the-cover-up-is-worse-than-the-crime-2Spirito, and Kroll to keep the public video out of the hands of the public until after the November 8 election smacks of a cover-up with the intent to impact the local election.  There is no doubt that the report by the $10,000 attorney will clear the police chief – how could a conversation recorded on a security surveillance video be considered an illegal recording of a private conversation?  It is the timing of the secret report being released that evidences a cover-up, days before the election and no time to be discussed at a public meeting prior to an election that impacts O’Donnell, Kroll, and Spirito.

The videos are public property so to keep them out of the hands of the public, the councilmen used legal maneuvering at the expense of the tax payers that might not be images-4illegal but it certainly is unethical. When Council member Messinger recently reminded City Attorney Matt Derby that a month ago he told City Manager Anderson to make her a copy of the videos, Derby’s response was that he didn’t recall the conversation and that now it is out of his hands because it is now in the hands of the $10,000 attorney.

Messinger is the only council member who is trying to put public information into the hands of the public but she is blocked every step of the way by city employees, city attorneys, and the men on the council. Hopefully Messinger files a lawsuit against these guys for censuring her constitutional right to free speech.

Vote O’Donnell, Spirito, and Kroll out of city hall on November 8. They images-5continue to prove they do not represent our best interest but while using our tax dollars, they protect their own special interest that includes keeping public information out of our hands and protects inappropriate behavior of city employees. One more thing, vote no on the city bond issue.  It isn’t what these guys say it is!

Take a walk on the sandy side of the dunes….

Saturday, October 22, 10am
Dune Nature Hike with Pat Fisher
pat
Join trekker, naturalist and historian Pat Fisher for a fall hike among the dunes on Saturday, October 22. The hike begins and ends at the New Buffalo beach. It starts at 10am and lasts about two hours, and will cover two miles at a leisurely pace. Kids are welcome if accompanied by an adult. Park at the beach parking lot and look for the group. Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the season. For more information, contact Courtney at the library, nbtlcreate@gmail.com.

Sounds like City Manager Rob Anderson is here to stay

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 i-am-not-leaving-for-a-few-yearsplans 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.

nix-on-tapesMayor 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 Informationdo you know what open government is 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.

dollars-should-not-voteThe 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 you-are-only-as-good-as-your-worddiligently 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.

What is the secret that you think could ruin your life?

whats-the-secret-that-could-ruin-your-life

Ashbaugh being honored on the DDA webpage

Ashbaugh being honored on the DDA webpage

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 if-everyone-knewAshbaugh 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.

government-censorshipAshbaugh 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
cover-upinvestigation began. 

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.

censuredAfter 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.

 

57 News – Videogate in New Buffalo

http://www.abc57.com/story/33388943/new-buffalo-city-council-appoints-new-member-amid-controversy

imagesAfter 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.

A Statement by Councilwoman Donna Messinger

Please share… We have to do this together!

At the 4:30 pm October 13 we-are-behind-youspecial council meeting, Councilwoman Donna Messinger read the statement below then immediately left the meeting.

download“It is difficult for me as an elected official, representing all of the residents of the city, to tell you I cannot continue.

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.

stay-storngInstead of holding Tony Ashbaugh accountable for his statements on the video tape, Police Chief Pitchford is charged.

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.

So, Mayor Lou, City Council members Bobby and Mark, what are youhelen-keller “going to do?  Side with talk of shooting a fellow official or support your dedicated police chief?

Because of talk about shooting me on a video tape, and until I can hear exactly what was said, I cannot continue.”

Donna Messinger
New Buffalo City Council Member