Saturday, February 27, 2016

Landowner Gower's law firm advises gag order on CJERP members, and states that Gower and CJERP both believe the 2014 amendment was passed properly

James Fareri of the law firm of Newman, Williams, Mishkin, Corveleyn, Wolfe & Fareri is the CJERP Regional Planning Committee solicitor, and also was at the time that the 2014 water extraction amendment was passed.  Mr. Fareri's partner Marc Wolfe represents landowner Ricky Gower.

At the CJERP monthly meeting on February 25, 2016 Mr. Fareri made an announcement that due to a pending legal matter, he has advised CJERP members to not discuss the events surrounding CJERP's involvement in passage of the amendment.  This advice comes more than a month after Mr. Wolfe entered his appearance for Ricky Gower in the court action.

CJERP member and Eldred Township resident Bob Boileau asked if this represents a conflict of interest.  Mr Fareri's response was fascinating - he stated that since CJERP and landowner Gower both maintain that the 2014 amendment was passed properly, there is no conflict of interest.

Don Moore then rose to speak at courtesy of the floor, and pointed out that Eldred Township has admitted through its solicitor that mistakes were made, so Eldred Township's position is adverse to landowner Gower.  Mr. Fareri stated again that CJERP and Mr. Gower are "on the same side of the issue" and that both "believe the amendment was passed properly."

Mr. Moore requested that if he was unable to have a discussion with CJERP members, that he be permitted to read a statement into the record.  He proceeded to read a list of more than ten errors that were made in passage of the amendment, by CJER Planning Consultant Carson Helfrich, CJER Solicitor Fareri, CJER, and the Monroe County Planning Commission.  However, CJERP Chairman Gould did not waver from the advice of Mr. Fareri, and there was no response from a CJERP member.  Mr. Gould was the Chairman of CJER in 2014 when CJER totally failed in its responsibility to vet this amendment.

It is hard to believe that someone other than the Eldred Township CJERP representatives didn't realize that Mr. Fareri's assertion that the amendment was passed properly was just shredded.
Update 3/17 -  An itemized list of errors correlated to a pictorial representation of how an amendment should be passed is shown here.  Note that errors were made at every single step of the process.  Solicitor Fareri's position that the amendment was passed properly on behalf of CJERP is absurd, but his law firm has a duty to hold this position on behalf of its other client - the land owner.

Mr. Gould seemed very pleased to not have to discuss responsibility, didn't thank Mr. Moore, and shouted "NEXT SPEAKER".  Mr. Moore expected gruff and rude treatment, because others have been treated similarly by the leadership at CJERP meetings.  However, the wax museum, deaf and dumb treatment was not expected. There was no mention by CJERP of the questions about the amendment that Mr. Moore submitted to CJERP per CJERP Planner Matt Neeb's request on December 17 and December 31, 2015, to which CJERP has never responded.  Another Eldred Township resident submitted written questions to CJERP in November 2015, and they haven't been answered either.  Perhaps Chairman Gould, CJER and "professionals" have some culpability in this matter:

Chairman Gould states at the March 2014 CJER meeting that consistent definitions and land use and consistency with the Comprehensive Plan were goals of CJER.  One month later at CJER's May meeting the water extraction amendment was adopted that violated these consistency and land use goals of the Comprehensive Plan.  Chairman Gould asked Eldred residents at CJER's September 2015 meeting "why are you here?" and told them to "go back to Eldred Township and ask what happened in 2014 there." Today he has adopted the position that no member of CJERP shall discuss what happened in 2014.  Mr. Gould, doesn't this go far beyond a local matter?

Here are a few obvious questions:
  • How did Solicitor Fareri formulate his opinion that CJERP is on the same side of the issue as landowner Gower?  CJERP has not discussed this in a meeting, heard a motion or held a vote.   Is this being handled the same way as matters in 2014, where unathorized executive decisions were made by multiple parties without public discussion, deliberation, and then a vote? 
  • What is CJERP's position on whether it agrees with landowner Gower, or with Eldred Township?  It is CJERP that determines its position, not its Solicitor.
  • If Mr. Fareri is correct that CJERP did everything appropriately, why is was a gag order requested by him?
  • Mr. Fareri advised the gag order on CJERP after his partner commenced representation of landowner Gower on January 4, 2016.  Is his gag order based on protecting CJERP members and consultants, someone else, a combination of the two?
  • Why wouldn't CJERP agree to take the position of CJERP member township Eldred, in the face of the overwhelming evidence the procedure used violated the statutory procedure?
  • What liability would CJERP members or consultants be exposed to if they simply told the truth about what happened in 2014?  Failing to properly advertise or ensure an amendment was authorized are not criminal offenses, and wouldn't result in a fine.
  • Wouldn't a better justification to not talk about what public officials and consultants did in 2014 be that it is believed someone was corrupt, not that everything was done properly?
  • What function does the CJERP Planning Committee actually perform, other than add a layer of volunteers and consultants who have no land use planning background between the Monroe County Planning Commission and local planners in Eldred Township?  Is more better?

Feb 26 letter to CJERP, recommending that CJERP appoint a new law firm and planning consultant, and adopt a position aligned with member township Eldred that the water extraction amendment not passed per statute

Following this meeting, Mr.Moore sent a letter to CJERP memorializing the events of the meeting, and made three recommendations:
  • Appoint a new law firm to perform the duties of Solicitor, and terminate the contract with Solicitor Fareri's law firm
  • Adopt Eldred Township's position that the 2014 amendment was passed improperly
  • Appoint a new Planning Consultant, and terminate the contract with Carson Helfrich

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