First City Manager Dave Richards and City Clerk Lori Vander Clay took it upon themselves to violate a City Council directive to video stream all public meetings due to their apparent concern that $4,000 a year of your tax dollars was too high a price for government transparency. This is after, thanks to the taxpayers, the entire city staff received an end of the year bonus and Richards was provided 12 extra sick days even though he hadn’t even completed a year of service to the city. While using our money to eliminate our access to government transparency, they also violated the City Charter requirement to post Council proceedings within 15 days of the meeting.
The two of them also use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in an another attempt to obstruct government access while wasting taxpayers money. Without a policy or directive from the City Council , Richards and Vander Clay decided on their own to publish on the City’s website the names of citizens requesting public information while at the same time eliminating public meetings from the website.
The following is an example of how they waste their time and tax dollars in an attempt to hinder access to public information. Here’s the background. On a sunny day in April 2017, Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh plowed a city truck into a vehicle in downtown New Buffalo. Although he admitted to Sheriff Deputy Richard Edgerle that he wasn’t paying attention while driving, ran a stop sign and caused over $6,000 of damage to the city vehicle, Ashbaugh wasn’t issued a ticket nor was he required to take a drug test. Ashbaugh did not get a reprimand and it was kept top secret by Richards and Vander Clay. This is what led to an enquiry as to whether the city manager followed city policy and required a drug test since the sheriff deputy let Ashbaugh skate. Sheriff Report
February 2, 2018, I completed a FOIA request ‘Please forward me a copy of proof that Tony Ashbaugh was screened for a controlled substance and/or alcohol on April 19, 2017 after having an accident with a city owned vehicle.’
February 8, 2018, City Clerk Vander Clay responded that the City had followed policy. FOIA Response 1
February 8, 2018, I completed another FOIA request stating that I had requested proof that Ashbaugh completed a drug test and again requesting the proof.
February 13, 2018, Vander Clay provided me with a copy of Ashaugh’s visit for medical attention due to the accident and worker’s compensation. FOIA Response 2
February 14, 2018, I appealed to Richards that I received the incorrect documentation from Vander Clay.
February 21, 2018, in a certified letter, Richards stated that my request was completed through the FOIA response from Vander Clay. FOIA Appeal Response
February 26, 2018, through a FOIA request I wrote the following to Vander Clay ‘Please forward me the results of Tony Ashbaugh’s drug test dated April 19, 2017. Include the invoice or bill for the procedure’
March 2, 2018, one month from my original request, Vander Clay finally provided me proof that Ashbaugh completed a city policy mandated drug test. FOIA Response 3
These dirty tricks at city hall by City Manager Richards and City Clerk Vander Clay to deny our access to public information increases cost to taxpayers and are allowed, maybe even encouraged, by the City Council.