Friday, July 5th 2013

Holly council members unaware of public hearing

Written by Amy Mayhew
Monday, August 23 2010

Former Councilman Bill Kuyk

HOLLY, Michigan – Judge Julia C. Stern, an administrative law judge for the Michigan State Office of the Administrative Hearings and Rules listened to testimony last week in which the village of Holly faces three sets of unfair labor charges from village union workers who are members of Teamsters Local 214.

The two-day hearing occurred at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission in Detroit on Aug. 16 and 17. While Councilman Bill Kuyk attended both days of the hearing, other council members maintain that they were given minimal information about the proceedings or were unaware of them altogether.

For the last year and a half, the village of Holly has been embroiled in union contract negotiations, struggling every step of the way until ratifying a contract on Aug. 2. Even so, the union is continuing with the unfair labor practice charges stemming from numerous incidents including allegations of non-payment of overtime wages, non-promotion of union employees, wrongful termination, and a general anti-union sentiment among various village administrators.

Marsha Powers

Union Business Representative Les Barrett said it has been Village Manager Marsha Power’s lack of communication with council members that has largely contributed to the village's legal woes.

“A year and a half ago, I sent a letter to council with regard to Mrs. Powers not sharing information and reporting back to them completely and accurately,” Barrett said. “I later received a letter from the Village President, Pete Clemens indicating that the council receives its information from the village manager only, and that  they didn’t need to receive it from me, so that’s the last time I sent them any information.” 

On Monday, Powers confirmed that council members were unaware of last week’s legal proceedings.

“They didn’t know the exact date – they’re not invited to (the hearing) but they knew those unfair labor charges were out there,” Powers said. “But no, they weren’t told they were specifically coming up –it’s not typically something that council members would attend – you can call and ask any neighboring municipality, and they’ll tell you the same thing.”

Kuyk, who attended both sessions of the hearing, said he had received an “FYI” from a member of the community, informing him of the proceedings. After conducting a little research on the Internet as to where the hearing would be held, Kuyk said he called Powers.

“I had to ask her point-blank if there was a hearing,” Kuyk said. “She finally confessed that yes, there was.”

While Kuyk did not discuss the particulars of the testimony, he said the hearing had been “very informational, and insightful,” and that he was pleased he had the opportunity to attend.

Pete Clemens

Clemens, who didn’t attend the hearing, said that Powers had “briefed” him that there would be two days of testimony pertaining to ongoing issues with the union but declined further comment on the matter.

Longtime village councilman Don Winglemire said he was on vacation at the time, and knew nothing of last week’s proceedings. “If Mrs. Powers notified anybody, it may have been while I was gone,” he said. Winglemire said he was “vaguely aware” of the proceedings from a conversation he had with Powers several months prior regarding upcoming union arbitration.

Pauline Kenner

Councilwoman Pauline Kenner said she knew there was a public hearing on Monday, but didn’t know about Tuesday’s session, while fellow councilwoman Reisa Hamilton said she had been left completely in the dark.

“I had no idea,” Hamilton said. “I knew there were ongoing issues, but I had no idea the hearing was held last week.”

Reisa Hamilton

Hamilton said she was angry about the lack of communication on the part of Powers.  “You bet I’m mad,” Hamilton said. “One of the biggest problems we’ve had with Mrs. Powers is her lack of communication – generally she’ll say she’s informed council members, but she always lacks the particulars.”

Councilwoman Sandra Kleven said she too, had no idea that a hearing was being held. “I was told things were pending, but had no knowledge of the actual hearing until after the fact.”

Councilman Tom McKenney declined to comment until he has had a chance to review the facts. “I was telling Mr. Clemens that there is a lot of ground fog surrounding this issue, so I need to review everything before I make any comments."

As for legal costs, Powers said labor relations attorney Kenneth Zatkoff had been handling the issue on behalf of the village. “Since October 2008, the village has paid to his law firm, Dean and Fulkerson, $15,189.73,” Powers said. “This is paid for any labor-related issue for the village, and we have a line item for attorney fees in the general fund budget.”

Powers noted that the village has engaged a labor attorney for contract negotiations and other labor-related issues in the past. “When there is something that (Richard) Figura’s firm does not specialize in, it may be forwarded to another attorney if deemed in the best interest of the village,” Powers said.

Judge Stern is expected to make a ruling on Sept. 23 of whether to combine two of the three parts of the complaint due to similar testimonies involved, whether to hear all three sets separately, or whether to reject everything altogether.

Barrett said the hearing is open to the public.


#1 Fred Hopper 2010-08-23 20:51
All I can say is "Wow".
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#2 Dayne 2010-08-24 08:26
if this is gonna cost the village taxpayers more money,the union better think twice about the path they are on,because with a local online news source giving these issues daylight, the brunt of the taxpayer outrage will be directed at the union.
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#3 Steve 2010-08-24 09:15
The costs to the taxpayers is a result of poor contract negotiations and follow through. Don't you think the legal proceedings (and costs associated with council members driving to Detroit) and lack of disclosure to the taxpayers - much less - the rest of the council is a major concern?!?
Line item ATTORNEY FEES under the General Fund for fiscal year 2008 was $10,000 over the original budgeted amount. Couldn't find on-line data for any budget past that year.
So, if the "special" attorney for this union case of charging -- say $200/hour -- do we think they've only put in about 80 hours on the case since October of 2008?? Or, maybe Holly's just not quite current with the payables. Oh - what about the regular village attorney fees -- all the same line item, right?

While the "taxpayer outrage" is looking at union issues (this is sooo Michigan!) - check out the line item expenses to the Michigan Municipal workers pension and healthcare funds.
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#4 Janet Leslie 2010-08-24 09:21
I don't know about that, Dayne. It seems to me that the best way to prevent an overzealous union is by providing great management. A great manager supports employees, inspires their best performance, communicates effectively, and accomplishes the goals of his or her superiors. While it's possible that Ms. Powers performed her duties in just this way, I'm afraid evidence may suggest otherwise.
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#5 Fred Hopper 2010-08-24 10:08
JAnet, you are absolutely correct. Managers Lead. Managers make sure the Executives are apprised of all issues, so that decisions can be made to benefit the organization, whether a community or a corporation. Managers do not ignore issues and hope they go away. Or downplay potential problems. Seems to me we face very serious issues.

How many seperate lawsuits are pending against Holly Right Now?

Is there any common theme to these lawsuits?

If so, where does the problem lie?
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#6 Fred Hopper 2010-08-24 10:13
Steve, really, cost of council members driving to Detroit? This justifies missing a Hearing about a Lawsuit?

Lets see, being generous 150 miles round trip at 50 cents per mile (over the IRS Guidelines) is $75.00, car pool seven members, even with three cars that works out to $32.14 per member to attend the meeting. I think we can afford it.
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#7 Steve 2010-08-24 10:27
Not disputing that council members should be involved - and not suggesting that they don't go. They absolutely SHOULD go and be involved in any lawsuits that the manager deems they be notified about. Maybe that should be an agenda item on every council meeting -
How much time, how many meetings, who is a delegate, and - meanwhile, back at the ranch - what's happening in Holly that isn't getting addressed because we're tied up in court/attorney meetings?

Wait until the lawsuits for attempted back-billing on water/sewer start to pile up.
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#8 Jason M Hughes 2010-08-24 10:55
This kind of makes you wonder what else was missed that could have impacted a performance review...

Janet is absolutely right about management. By todays standards a manager should guide and develop employees as well as maintain an open avenue of communication. This does go both ways though. The council is in place to direct the Village Manager and should be applying the same principles. And it goes out one more step to the residents. If this isn't in place I don't see how government can work for the tax payers in an efficient or successful manner.
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#9 Ryan Bladzik 2010-08-24 11:25
Quoting Marsha Powers:
“They didn’t know the exact date – they’re not invited to (the hearing) but they knew those unfair labor charges were out there,” Powers said. “But no, they weren’t told they were specifically coming up –it’s not typically something that council members would attend – you can call and ask any neighboring municipality, and they’ll tell you the same thing.”

This is the most concerning aspect of this article to me. The Village Manager serves at the pleasure of the Village Council and works for the village residents, and yet the Council was only marginally notified of any specific details, much less the hearings at all.

Whether the council members want to attend the hearing is their own choice, but how can our elected officials adequately make decisions or evaluate the administration of the village if the Village Manager picks and chooses what they know of village business?

This is not a mundane issue--it's not dealing with office supply deliveries or DPW vacation schedules. This is a legal action against the Village administration that is incurring legal costs and could have numerous ramifications for the village.
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#10 Dayne 2010-08-24 13:22
our village council and management team have held the millage rate steady and have not resorted to the easy thing of crying they need more revenue. our council works for pratically free and that speaks for their heart is in their work not their pocketbook.if a union is gonna cost taxpayers big bucks in this little village, that is not gonna fly with the taxpayers. It seems all employees hired after (the date escapes me)are offered a defined contribution plan including our police and fire employees.
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#11 Jason M Hughes 2010-08-24 14:23
Dayne, I agree with some of what you are saying, but if the allegations against Marsha prove true then is it the union that is costing the taxpayers? Lets not jump to conclusions and start placing blame until we have facts and due process.
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#12 Janet Leslie 2010-08-24 14:40
I don't think anyone is complaining about the council, Dayne. It's the apparent fact that the manager has not been forthcoming with the council that is cause for concern here.
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#13 Ryan Bladzik 2010-08-24 15:25
I was curious so I did a quick scan of The Holly Express archives:

1) Millpond residents claim inadequate or questionable information on their FOIA request for pond treatments.

2) DDA board operates for months under assumption of a lacking budget, then is informed later that there is several hundred-thousand dollars available in their fund balance "that was always there".

3) A unilateral decision to shut down the village administration during Christmas week was overturned by the Council because they were not consulted or informed prior to the public announcement.

Add the issue of these hearings, and there are 4 issues in the past year alone where lack of or inffective communication has had an impact on community affairs. And that's only what's been covered in the press...
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#14 Fred Hopper 2010-08-24 15:54
Quoting Marsha Powers:

“They didn’t know the exact date – they’re not invited to (the hearing) but they knew those unfair labor charges were out there,” Powers said. “But no, they weren’t told they were specifically coming up –it’s not typically something that council members would attend – you can call and ask any neighboring municipality, and they’ll tell you the same thing.”

Particularly if the Manager alegedly created the issue in the first place....
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#15 neighbor 2010-08-24 16:01
Yes the manger should have been forthcoming with council I completely agree and it is distressing and putting the Village at risk that she did not. While I do not have all the facts of these claims from the Unions, I will say that that with Michigan's unemployment rate I am really sick and tired of hearing about how employers are not giving enough or taking to much away from the Union worker (and I am sure that is really Dayne's point). I do not live in a union household, my career was forced to take a change 2 years ago with an elimination of my position. It took a while but I found a new job, I did not complain about it, I understood it after all it does not take a rocket scientist to hear on the news that things are bad or even see cuts in your workplace taking place. My husband took paycuts over the past two years,in his field they work plenty of overtime they are hourly and they do not get paid overtime, and had his benefit costs raised-yes it stunk but it is part of life so we got over and moved on. My father retired from the Village of Milford DPW back in 1990 over 40 years of service, and his retirement package included the fact that he got to pay for his own insurance. Maybe instead of the unions asking for more, they should be fighting to control costs of healthcare, one of the biggest costs employers face.
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#16 timmmy 2010-08-24 19:25
thank you holly express for once again bringing us the facts that marsha powers did not want us to know, or felt we did not need to know.
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#17 John Smith 2010-08-24 21:41
What happened tonight at the meeting? Why was the Village Manager put on 7 days administrative leave? Sounds like someone doesn't know how to communicate.
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#18 Janet Leslie 2010-08-24 23:33
Neighbor, I have never been a union employee, I have never had a family member who was a union employee, and in general my feeling is that unions destroy an organization's ability to be competitive by asking for excessive wages and benefits.

But in this case, you must read the article again and realize that the dispute is not about union greed or the size of wages and benefits. It's about "unfair labor practice charges stemming from numerous incidents including allegations of non-payment of overtime wages, non-promotion of union employees, wrongful termination, and a general anti-union sentiment among various village administrators." On top of the alleged unfair labor practices, the Village Manager also allegedly kept council members (her superiors) in the dark about the proceedings related to those charges. This does not appear to be a case of a union strong-arming management. This appears to be a case of management run amok.
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#19 George Kullis 2010-08-25 05:18
As a new resident of Holly (Oct.2008)I have found Marsha Powers to be both helpful and informative in several meetings that I have had with her. So all the Marsha bashing comes as a surprise to me. I would think her Knowledge and experience in the village office is of some value to residence.
Being the new kid on the block a few question come to mind after reading this article. 1. Why would Council not want to be copied on communications from the union as Less Barret claims? 2. If Marsha informed Pete of the meeting is it Pete's responsability to inform the rest of the council? Why not e-mail all party's? 3.Is there a set policy for communication between Council and Administration, and if so, is it being followed?
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#20 timmmy 2010-08-25 06:37
overtime is covered by federal law (fair labor standards act) and owed after 40 hours whether a person is union or not (depending a person's job). it has little to do with unions, and everything to do with commonsense and the law. i have little use for unions, but there will be a need for them as long as you have managers like marsha powers.
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#21 Fred Hopper 2010-08-25 07:51
Janet, yes that is exactly what it appears to be. An employee that continually oversteps her authority, tries to hide it or downplay the impact, when caught tries to explain away the actions does not seem to me to be someone who has the Villages best interests at heart. I think that many issues will come to light over the next week.

I only wonder what we don't know yet, but will find out in the future.
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#22 Dayne 2010-08-25 10:12
it is my understanding that the village manager serves at the pleasure of the village council?if that it true then why woudn't the council be aware of the contract negotiations and problems arising from the negotiations and the village managers actions towards the dps. surely the council must have got wind of some employees complaint in regards to the village manager?
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#23 BrianS 2010-08-25 10:18
timmmy, you have no knowledge of history. Little to do with unions? You can thank unions for your 40 hour work week and overtime provisions. I love how people bash unions while enjoying the protections that they have fought for. (Not to say that some unions haven't gotten overbearing and corrupt. They have.)

Nonetheless, this does not sound like an issue with the union, but an issue with management. I don't know if Ms. Powers is guilty of arrogance, incompetence, or is just plain oblivious, but I do know I am glad I don't pay village taxes for this farce.
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#24 Elizabeth 2010-08-25 15:00
The union would have no issues to grieve if the village manager had not blatantly violated labor law and the contract with the union, thereby creating grievable issues and labor law violations that the village is now facing consequences for. I don't know if it's a matter of incompetence on the part of the council for ignoring all of the information offered to them, or if they are just stupid. Either way, the village is going to have to deal with the fallout of the village manager's actions whether they replace the village manager or not.
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#25 timmmy 2010-08-25 15:08
brians, it would appear it is you with little knowledge. first, i belonged to a union for over 39 years. second, i was referring to the overtime issue as having little to do with whether a person is union or not - just like you paraphrased in your second paragraph. third, i was not bashing the union. it was you who stated "(not to say that some unions haven't gotten overbearing and corrupt. they have.)". quite a compliment from someone who thinks so highly of unions.
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#26 Elizabeth 2010-08-25 15:12
Dayne, if the village council had not kept their heads buried in the sand, allowing a union buster to run the village office, as well as the council, they wouldn't have had these unfair labor practice charges against the village in the first place. The village manager REFUSED TO BARGAIN IN GOOD FAITH, stalling and attempting to issue employee rules that any bargaining unit in contract negotiations would have wanted to take time to review. The union represents its' members. The union is obligated to follow a process, or risk being sued for failure to represent. Any money spent by the village to defend these issues can be directly linked back to Marsha Powers incompetence and deliberate indifference to labor law and the union contract.
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#27 Elizabeth 2010-08-25 15:22
There is no check and balance system with the operations of the village manager. She has the perfect situation to deceive and manipulate to serve her own purpose, and the council has enabled her to do just that. The council has no excuse for any of this but their own deliberate indifference to the people and village that they serve. All injured parties should be compensated in full, and be given a public apology from the village council for the council's deliberate indifference to the attempts made by other parties to inform them of issues they either were not made aware of by the village manager, or lied to by the village manager. All this done under their noses. Shame on them.
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#28 Ryan Bladzik 2010-08-25 15:51
I think the issues of whether the Village Manager violated labor laws or failed to bargain in good faith is a matter for the administrative law judge to decide. Until those rulings are issued, it is literally a matter of "he said, she said."

What isn't in dispute, however, is that there have been at least 4 instances in the past year alone where the Village Council have not received pertinent information and full disclosure of Village business. That begs the question of how much else have they not been apprised of, and how trustworthy is the information they have received.

And to echo's a good thing that The Holly Express has filled the empty spot of the 4th Estate in the community, or these issues may never have seen the light of day.
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#29 Elizabeth 2010-08-25 16:31
Whether Marsha informed the council or not of the hearings is not the issue. The issue is that the hearings ever needed to take place! The issue is that Marsha Powers' actions violated labor law and the union contract, and the council let her do it right under their noses! Now they have to deal with it. That's what happens when you let a child say and do anything he or she wants. The council is responsible for supervising their appointed employees, and the village council failed miserably to do that. The taxpayers are now paying for the lack of council's oversight of the village manager and other NON-UNION employees. Are these people we want running our village? I think there should be an investigation by an outside and impartial entity into her tenure as village manager for a complete disclosure of her activities. It would seem to me that the council would want to get such an enormous liability as Marsha Powers removed from her position as soon as possible, or the council will continue to risk civil action being taken against them collectively and individually. What don't they get about this?
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#30 BrianS 2010-08-25 17:04
timmmmy, I thought you were implying that the existence of overtime provisions and 40 hour week were not the result of union activity. I obviously read that wrong. So I apologize for that.

I don't think highly (or lowly) of unions. I do think though that in industries where the employess are the primary producers of capital (manufacturing, for example), they are beneficial, so long as they don't get too greedy (which the UAW of the past was). And I absolutely support the ability of workers anywhere to organize for their collective benefit. Unions, like anything, are fine in moderation.
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#31 Elizabeth 2010-08-25 17:40
Unions don't make labor laws. Federal and state governments make labor laws. Unions protect their members against people like Marsha Powers and the village council when violations of labor laws take place.
The union is acting on behalf of its' members because the labor laws protecting good faith bargaining have been violated. It is protecting its' members because the village manager and the council violated a contract that was binding with the village and the union. The union is not the problem here. It is the village and the village manager. The union is doing what it is legally obligated to do for its' members when such violations take place.
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#32 Elizabeth 2010-08-25 18:57
George, Marsha doesn't want to email anything because that leaves a trail.Council doesn't want information to come to them from other sources because they are naive enough to think that Marsha is acting honestly and competently. Perfect storm for Marsha.
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#33 Elizabeth 2010-08-25 19:03
The council needs to look at everything Marsha Powers has done and fully investigate each issue, without her blowing a smokescreen and spinning the issues. The only way to make someone change their behavior is to change yours. The village council needs to begin by getting rid of Marsha Powers and the liability of keeping her on as an employee of the village.
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#34 Elizabeth 2010-08-25 19:52
Does anyone believe that an administrative law judge for the Michigan State Office of the Administrative Hearings and Rules would be wasting time hearing a frivolous complaint? I, for one, do not. I also believe it is unlikely that a union would waste its' resources filing unfounded grievances. It is likely that if a complaint was unwarranted it would have been eliminated at a lower level in the grievance process. These sets of unfair labor charges then must have some warrant or they would have been thrown out at an earlier step in the process and not even considered being heard at this level.
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#35 timmmy 2010-08-25 20:19
brians, apology accepted. our positions aren't that far apart. elizabeth, ah what a breath of fresh air. right on and well said. it's past time for marsha powers to go.
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#36 Elizabeth 2010-08-26 02:49
Among others...
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#37 Janet Leslie 2010-08-26 10:36
Elizabeth, it certainly appears you've waited a long time to get these issues off your chest. I'm glad you've had the opportunity to do so. You make some good points.

But, before you waste all your stones throwing them at the village council, please consider that the council has a very limited ability to intervene on behalf of employees, per the village charter. You mention that the council should want to avoid the liabilities caused by Ms. Powers' employment. I have no doubt they are concerned about that, but there are also risks in proceeding with removing her from her position in anything but the most proper manner. The council has put her on leave and will reconvene to discuss her performance next week. That's what they can do now. Wishing they could take drastic and immediate action without risking liability isn't going to make it so.

I agree with you that council made a mistake in hiring Marsha Powers as village manager. I hope it's a lesson learned. But though they may have learned a lesson about what it takes to be an effective manager, their only recourse in rectifying the situation is to follow proper protocol.
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#38 Elizabeth 2010-08-26 20:58
Janet,pardon me, but you couldn't be more wrong. I have had the opportunity all along to "get these issues off my chest" as you put it, but just haven't felt moved to before now. After all, it's almost time to vote for our new village council members. Also, I did not make the remark that the council made a mistake in hiring Marsha Powers. That's a gross understatement of what I think the mistakes are that have been made by this council.

That being said, it has been obvious for some time that "something is rotten in the State of Denmark". The recent slew of online information drawing attention to the council's and village management's insufficiencies has been most interesting. I hope people are paying attention!!!! These are our tax dollars at work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What is there to discuss? She had a job to do, and she was negligent in her duties. She is an at will employee, and the just cause exists to dismiss her with her failure to take action while knowing that there were water accounts with incorrect readings, costing the village revenue that went on for years. What are the risks? What are they afraid of? Being sued by the union? She's not a union member. Being sued for wrongful termination? They weren't worried about that before, obviously! Proper protocol is that when there is just cause, you get fired. Period. What are they trying to hide? What are they trying to clean up?

Did the village follow proper protocol set forth by labor law regarding contract negotiations?
Did the village follow proper protocol in the alleged wrongful termination of a village union employee?
Did the village follow proper protocol when overtime was not paid as per contractual agreement?
Did the village follow proper protocol when filling positions?
Did the village follow proper protocol when year after year they lost revenue because of their lack of oversight of the village manager?
Are they following proper protocol now by trying to collect back usage fees?
Was proper protocol followed when a document was created in response to a FOIA request about the Millpond?
Was proper protocol followed regarding open meetings?
Taxpayers, you should be asking these questions and demanding to know the answers!!!!!!!!!
All things considered, I have little faith that proper protocol will be followed by this council. They haven't had the collective motivation to manage the manager and now here we (the taxpayers) are wondering why is that? Power lies with the person who has the information, and their lack of management skills have allowed Marsha Powers to run them. They can plead ignorance and make excuses, try to pass the buck and talk spin, but it is a result of the council's negligence that this situation exists and that they now are trying to follow "proper protocol" to remedy.
I suppose it will be proper protocol that will bear the answers to these questions in due time. It will be proper protocol(voting)that will, I hope, give the Village of Holly a new chance to practice the use of proper protocol.
I just hope that the answers to these questions are as timely as the recent information that has been coming to light. The taxpayers deserve to know the truth. Lies only last so long.
Lastly, the council and village taxpayers are not going to be able to avoid liability for the issues currently being heard, but it is in the village's best interest to avoid future liability with her continued employment. They call that "good management".
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#39 Janet Leslie 2010-08-27 00:25
Elizabeth, you may be right that proper protocol was not followed in previous personnel issues. But those other issues to which you refer were administrative, and were the responsibility of the village manager, not the village council. Yes, the manager serves at the pleasure of the council. But that does not mean the council is at liberty to intervene in administrative issues. The "village" does not do this or that, people within the village do this or that, and they do have different responsibilities.

You may have taken Ms. Powers to task earlier, I may have taken her to task earlier, but the council is doing it now.

There are pitfalls to what is essentially a city manager form of government (even though the village is not a city), and one of them is that the chief administrator of the municipality is not directly responsible to the voters. The council is. And whether or not in this case the manager did her job according to proper protocol, it appears to me that the council is doing their job according to proper protocol.

Perhaps we should just wait and see what happens Tuesday.
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#40 Ryan Bladzik 2010-08-27 07:11
Two (or more) wrongs don't make a right.

As far as the labor violation allegations go, that is for the Administrative Law Judge to decide, not the court of public opinion. That issue will be decided based on the testimony and evidence provided in court. If anyone has an substantial proof or evidence for or against wrongdoing, I hope they'll contact the appropriate attorney and provide that or testify.

As far as the issue of alleged malfeasance of duties of the Village Manager, again, that is for the Village Council to decide, and they appear to doing so. If Village residents are not pleased with that outcome, then they can convene the court of public opinion on November 2.

I have spoken up before regarding the culture of leadership within the Village Administration, and to an extent on the Village Council. I've felt that culture is drenched in authoritarianism and cultivates apathy and disengagement. But to put in bulk orders for torches and pitchforks at McKay's is to violate the same principles of good governance the Village Manager is alleged to have violated. This whole episode is the opportunity to take steps in the right direction, in the right way.
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#41 Fred Hopper 2010-08-27 08:50
Lady's and Gentlemen, this is really an interesting view into our Village politics and I am closely watching the outcome here. I am not surprised that this is all coming out, what does surprise me is that it has taken so long. The Village Manager has a tremendous amount of control over what information the council receives to make the decisions that the village makes in order to function at all. If the Village Manager is not passing along the proper information, either through not understanding the issues, simple incompetence, or an attempt to hide culpability in some issue or another the Council can not have accurate understanding of the issues.

In one of the comments above, it was stated that the Village only gets their information from the Manager. I am not sure how that is possible, information is all around us, and I know the folks on the council. They would have to deliberately ignore the other sources of information, or make a decision to weigh the Managers information more than other sources. I do know that the Village retains an attorney to review decisions for legality, and it is simply not possible for the council to ignore this attorneys council.

In all that I am seeing here, this appears more and more as simple as an employee that has made mistakes and is trying to hide them from the boss. She got caught, and is now under review. During the review, more and more information and issues are coming to light. It is a tragedy that it has gotten so far, but appears to be in the early stages of a resolution.

Tuesday at 5:30 pm in the chamber offices will be a very interesting meeting. I wonder if it will be an executive session (which is the managers right to demand) or if it will be open to the public. If the manager has nothing to hide or fear, it will be open.
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#42 Jason M Hughes 2010-08-31 08:38
Just for some clarification for neighbor, the union employees were not asking for more. The union employees were prepared to make concessions to help the village balance the budget. Evidence of this can be seen here:

Now it seems one of the issues is that someone wasn't telling the truth regarding who was holding up the negotiations. Each side is blaming the other for setting meetings and then cancelling. Either way, it doesn't appear the union employees were asking for more and realize the state of the economy.
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#43 Sandy 2010-08-31 20:07
Mr Hughes were you involved in the bargaining or are you just quoting someone in the newspaper? As I stated in the past there are a lot of people that would love these jobs even without the union.
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#44 Jason M Hughes 2010-08-31 22:21
I fail to see where your line of questioning leads Sandy. I was not commenting on the cost of union versus non-union labor or whether cheaper labor can be obtained. I was commenting on the allegation that in this instance the union was asking for more.

I was not involved with the bargaining but a public statement in a council meeting made by the union steward listing concessions that they were willing to make does speak volumes whether the teamsters were demanding more or not as was implied above.

I am not pointing blame, just that in the grand scheme of things I don't think making a recorded public statement offering concessions and then making demands at the negotiation table is a commonly practiced or successful bargaining tactic.
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#45 Kevin Walters 2010-09-06 20:19
It is curious to me that the Council seems to be so interested in the labor issues now that they have reached the desk of an Admisistrative Law judge. Had they shown as much interest in these issues when they had the power to investigate them when they originally arose, then a lot of time and expense would have been saved. Even if they had investigated and then decided the issues should still proceed and we find ourselves at this same place, at least they would be aware of the arguments and would not be caught with no knowlege of what is going on. But the fact that they didn't bother to investigate in spite of learning that Ms. Powers was treating the union unfairly says a lot more about this Council than they want people to hear. I do believe that their collective outrage over not learning about the hearings is more a matter of posturing than anything else.
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#46 Janet Leslie 2010-09-06 22:37
I don't think this is quite fair. First of all, I'm not sure how much authority the council has to "investigate" labor issues. But this doesn't mean that the council has been blind to Marsha Powers' failings. We have this quote from Councilperson McKenney published on this site in March, "I do think that the implementation of the water meter change was an unbroken series of poor management executions. The protracted labor negotiations are very frustrating. And I wish Marsha would have clued the Council members in on her proposed Christmas week shutdown. Nobody likes being blind-sided." I don't think they are merely "posturing" now; I think they are dealing with a problem now that circumstances have convinced them that they can.

Perhaps we should just let them do that.
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#47 Jason M Hughes 2010-09-07 07:58
True Janet. My concern was captured in the same article that you mention where Marsha received exceptionally high review scores from other council members though.

When voters make their decision this November they will have to determine if Marsha's performance actually warranted the high score that she received. The downside is that we don't know what the numeric values of those scores equate to. For instance, if a 3 means that the employee meets expectations (as is by my employer) then we have to ask what reasoning was used when some council members were awarding Marsha 4's and 5's.
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#48 Janet Leslie 2010-09-07 09:58
Sounds like an excellent question.
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#49 Peter Clemens 2010-09-07 15:27
Mr. Walters knows full well that the Village Council is specifically prevented by the Village Charter from interfering with the day to day operations of the village. Mr. Walters also knows that no charges were ever formally filed with the Village Council, no charges means no investigation because the village charter specifically prevents the council from interfering with the day to day operations of the village. Second the notion that anyone was treating the union unfairly has never been established. Again since no charges were formally filed with the village council, no investigation could be launched. This matter is now before the MERC Judge, who has yet to render an opinion. And lastly Mr. Walters also knows that because these matters are still in litigation the Village Council is bound by the Attorney/Client Privilege not to speak to these matters except in the broadest and most general terms. Therefore the Village Council is prevented from giving a full and detailed disclosure of events until a judgment is rendered. That is not posturing Mr. Walters, that is obeying the restrictions placed on us under the law.
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#50 Elizabeth 2010-09-07 22:25
Mr. Clemens,

The following quote sums up this village council and it's (newly terminated) village manager:

[b]"Egocentrics are attracted to the inept. It gives them one more excuse for patting themselves on the back."
---Helen Hayes (1900–1993), U.S. actor.

Don't know who was more egocentric or inept in this village- the council or Powers. Seems it's pretty mutual.
Toss in some narcissism, personal agendas, good old boy attitude, and well, you get the picture.

In this case ineptitude worked both ways. Mr. Clemens you state "they didn't have power to interfere with anything that was going on from day to day", and so that allowed Marsha Powers to run amuck because the council didn't have to know anything that was going on from day to day (nor wanted to by refusing on record that they would not accept information from any other source). Not like that's an invitation to be corrupt or anything, but really folks...
What's the point of having a village council, and why call it a village manager? How about just calling the position "village manipulator"?
Why not get rid of the village council if they have no powers to manage the people they appoint? This is just stupid. At least get rid of this council! Look at the mess they have allowed to develop in so many areas of our community!! Turning a blind eye is not an excuse for the wrongs that this council has allowed to take place.

Mr. Clemens, your spin is laughable. We need people with common sense to take charge, and following proper protocol, the village needs to amend the charter to bring it out of the dark ages. I am aftaid sir that you lack any common sense, but that is my (voting) opinion. I know of many who are joining with me, and I am privileged to be in a job that allows me to do so.

It would behoove the next set of council members to clearly define what constitutes "day to day operations of the village", and to amend and modify "the Village is unable from interfering with the day to day operations" since their failure to even care to know of day to day operations, let alone "interfere" with them, has landed the village in several unfair labor practice lawsuits. IS THAT GOOD BUSINESS? IS THAT GOOD BUSINESS???? WELL????? COMMON SENSE PEOPLE!

Lies only last so long. Truth will be heard.

Go ahead and pat yourselves on the backs now that you have rid the village of a serious problem that should have been dealt with long before now. You won't be patting your backs much longer. GET OUT AND VOTE IN THE ELECTION PEOPLE!
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#51 Elizabeth 2010-09-07 22:38
It is on record that the protracted labor relations were due to the direct actions of Ms. Powers in her position as village manager. The union's attempt to present suggestions for budget savings at a council meeting (upon being asked to bring forward suggestions) is an example of the union's willingness to bargain. This is on record. Of course, council only was being informed of what Ms. Powers wanted them to know- factual or not. Lying is lying no matter what you call it. Hasn't anyone heard of bargaining in good faith? Apparently not anyone on this council. Let's hope the next council is more up to date on labor law, and keeps a better watch over it's managers. GET OUT AND VOTE PEOPLE!
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#52 Ryan Bladzik 2010-09-08 07:45
What's done is done. So, instead of wallowing in the past and letting it fester, let's learn and look forward.

Elizabeth, since it is likely that the current Council will be selecting and hiring the next Village Manager (or at least doing the lion's share of the duty), what kinds of characteristics, qualities, or qualifications would you recommend the Personnel Committee and Council focus on when selecting the next Village Manager? What are the top goals and objectives the new manager needs to accomplish?

Also, of the candidates running for the 4 council seats, and those for President, which ones do you recommend Village citizens vote for in November?
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#53 Janet Leslie 2010-09-08 09:14
I too am curious to know which of the candidates for Village President Ms. Elizabeth is supporting.
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#54 Sandy 2010-09-08 19:39
Boy, Elizabeth you certainly sound like a disgruntled employee. You seem to know all the ins and outs of the Village of Holly, like someone who has worked there. Maybe the employee that was fired for all the water billing mistakes?????
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#55 Kevin Walters 2010-09-08 20:27
Mr. Clemens,
Where in my previous blog did I suggest you "interfere" in Village business? I suggested that you should have done some investigation. Investigations don't have to "interfere" with anything. You just ask questions and apply some critical thinking to the answers you receive. In fact, it is the same process that you should be using when you review your Village Manager. Unless, of course, your mode of operation is to have the Village Manager tell you what a great job is being done and then you fill out your appraisal without checking on the facts. Actually, an investigation is just that -- checking on facts. It is entirely within the purview of your office to check facts. As a matter of fact, it is incumbent on you to do so. How can you make decisions without checking facts? Just checking facts could have avoided some of this bloody mess that you have gotten all of us into.
And since you raise the question of fairness (in that nobody has convinced you that anybody has been treated unfairly), I will use one example (out of many I could choose from) to illustrate both points. I use this example because it has already been mediated so we can assume that the outcome was as fair as an independent third party could make it.
Two gentlemen have been working at the Holly Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) for years. The language in the contract governing pay for on-call and weekend work has been in place for years. Marsha Powers becomes Village Manager and interprets the language differently from how her predecessors interpreted the language. Based on her interpretation, she begins to withhold wages from these gentlemen. The gentlemen file grievances but the process is incredibly slow so they suffer for many months with their pay being shorted. Eventually, the issue arrives before a mediator who reviews the whole case and tells Marsha Powers to pay the gentlemen 100% of the back-pay they are claiming. Instead, Marsha Powers deducts from their back-pay amounts equal to the concessions they have offered in the new contract which is yet not formally in place. (Ironically, Marsha Powers is the one who has been holding up the contract.) I know you are aware of this issue, yet you claim noone has convinced you that union members are being treated unfairly. I believe that speaks more to your sensibility of fairness vs. unfairness than anything else. I learned many months ago that your moral compass can't find "true North", so I'm not surprised that you struggle with the concept of fairness. Had almost anybody (excepting yourself, obviously) asked some questions regarding what these particular grievances were about, then it would have been discovered that Marsha Powers was deliberately shorting some employees' wages with no logical reason to do so. "Past practice" is a very powerful cocept when considering an issue that boils down to the interpretation of contract language. So a very simple investigation could have saved a lot of time and attorney fees. That was the point I was making. I have many more examples if you would like to hear them.
We'll let the readers and electorate weigh in on whether you are turning a blind eye to fairness issues or if your compass is truly broken.
As for my take on you: you lack the capacity to think critically, you shirk from your responsibility to provide oversight of the Village Manager, you are incapable of determining what is "fair" and what is not "fair" (I believe I could capture it with "you lack objectivity"), you do not deliver on your promises, and you prefer to hide from problems rather than deal with them. Aside from that, I think you make a fine candidate for Village Council President.
As for stating that no one has brought charges against Marsha Powers before now, I beg to differ. Perhaps the readers would like to see the string of e-mails that passed between you and I many months ago. I think I would like to add another characteristic to your list of leaderhsip qualities: you are unwilling to open yourself to communication from your constituents. And while I am on that topic, I believe I speak for many when I say people have grown very weary of taking their concerns to Council meetings only to be insulted and disrespected for their efforts. And you, as President of the Council, are the one to thank for that.
I await your rejoinder. I have lots more to share. With your help, I will strip away the facade so that everybody can see you as I do.
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#56 Elizabeth 2010-09-09 00:57
Ponder this:
The current village council, and current president, stand behind the position that it is "interference" to practice oversight of an (unethical, unqualified, and otherwise dishonest) person they themselves appointed to the position of village manager, and whom they have now at long last fired, is of grave concern that should not be ignored when making considerations regarding possible new electees, or keeping "business as usual" with the usual characters at the table. That this "business" called the Village of Holly hasn't gone belly up under such inept business practices is nothing short of amazing.

It's certainly going to have additional budget shortfalls after all of the employee restitutions and severance package(s) have been paid out. Remember, Marsha did not supervise in the village office alone, and no more oversight has been given the position held by Susan Nassar than that which was given to the village manager. Keep on going council, you've only removed part of the cancer. How much is her severance package going to cost the taxpayers? The chain is only as strong as its' weakest link. Let's start at the top of the chain and work down to make this a stronger village operation. One down with Powers, one to go with Nassar. Unless, of course you include the council as the uppermost links, then that number would go up.

Let's not forget about the period of time that Marsha Powers was performing both the positions of clerk/treasurer and village manager, until the hiring of Ms. Nassar. Marsha knew about the billing issues, HOW COULD SHE NOT?!, and even in both positions failed to act to address the problem or bring it to the attention of the council AT ANY TIME. From at least the time of April, 2008 until early 2009, she DID BOTH JOBS!!! Unsupervised and without oversight by anyone!!! UNSUPERVISED AND WITH NO OVERSIGHT BY ANYONE. ANSWERING TO NOONE. LIMITING DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION TO HER EMPLOYERS AND INVENTING PROPOGANDA TO MISREPRESENT THE FACTS. FEELING ENTITLED NOT TO INFORM THE COUNCIL OF ISSUES. Sounds like the actions of a classic narcissist. She really had it figured out by the time Nassar came into the picture.

Then early 2009 in comes Ms. Nassar, who was trained by Ms. Powers, supervised by Ms. Powers, and answered only to Ms. Powers. Remember, the council does not interfere with the day to day business operations of the village!
You cannot tell me that Nassar was not aware of the billing problems once in her position and familiar with the system. Yet, she was the direct supervisor of the employee who has been discharged for billing errors! What were her actions taken to rectify this situation? This is preposterous! What a perfect working relationship Powers and Nassar had since early 2009!!! Can anyone else smell the rats here? Don't stop now council!! Get rid of the remaining vermin!

Elected officials, including president, are elected by popular vote, to represent the best interests, and needs of the "shareholders of the Business of Holly", so to speak. They are put in trust to manage and oversee the village they represent. They should not be there for unilateral personal reasons, or a narcissitic urge to be called "president".

Ask yourselves, has this council done what it was elected to do? Has each member done what he or she was elected to do? Have the taxpayers been served well by their representatives? "Danger, Will Robinson, danger!"

The residents of Holly must re-evaluate, evaluate, and scrutinize the options. We are going to have to deal with them once the election is over. Do we want to continue with what's been causing such a blight on our community, or are there better alternatives? It is a personal choice how one votes. Make it a wise choice.
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#57 Elizabeth 2010-09-09 01:38
Sandy, the ins and outs of union contractual negotiation practices, grievance procedures, and the laws governing them are quite standard across the board in our great state. I have been a member of several unions over the course of my career. Are you familiar with the term "fundamentals"? And really Sandy, what employee is not disgruntled at one time or another over the course of time? As for the ins and outs of the Village of Holly, one only has to read the slurry of village specific information that bloggers such as yourself pour onto this site, such as your intimate conversations in the village office with "the girls" when everyone was so open to you expressing their sadness...or your intimate knowledge and use of jargon regarding duties specific to the reading of water meters? You paint a pretty clear picture of things all on your own. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Sounds like you are projecting.
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#58 Ryan Bladzik 2010-09-09 08:43
Quoting Elizabeth:
The residents of Holly must re-evaluate, evaluate, and scrutinize the options. We are going to have to deal with them once the election is over. Do we want to continue with what's been causing such a blight on our community, or are there better alternatives? It is a personal choice how one votes. Make it a wise choice.

Who do you recommend? According to the slate of candidates:

Larry Lilly and Jeff Miller are challenging incumbent Pete Clemens for Village President.

Fred Hopper is running against incumbent Pauline Kenner for the 2 year seat.

Incumbents Bill Kuyk and Reisa Hamilton are running for seats against Jason Hughes, David Campbell, Jackie Campbell, Tom Clark, Jack Hollands, and Dave Mazur. Incumbent Tom McKenney is not running, so at least one seat will not be held by an incumbent.

Which of these candidates are the best for Holly's future?
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#59 Janet Leslie 2010-09-09 09:06
Actually Elizabeth, the village council is not "put in trust to manage and oversee the village they represent." They are legislators, not managers. The village administration is hired by the council to perform the duties of management. It is obvious that you would prefer a strong mayor type of government, but that would only be possible if the village were a city.

Don't get me wrong-- I disapproved of the choice of Marsha Powers as village manager way back when she was made interim manager in 2007. I wrote a column for the Community Voice to that effect called, "It takes a village manager." Nevertheless, although the council chose unwisely when they chose Ms. Powers, it makes no sense to berate them for not doing things they are not permitted by charter to do. They did what they could. They asked her to improve her performance, and when she did not, they fired her.

Do I want to see some changes on council? Sure. But I wouldn't support any candidate who claims to be able to flout the charter and "manage" the village.
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#60 Katy Hughes 2010-09-09 14:06
I don't know who you are Elizabeth. And while I admire your passion in commenting recently on many of the articles posted on The Holly Express, I just keep thinking...who put a bee in your bonnet? :-?
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#61 Elizabeth 2010-09-15 23:46
Ryan, I cannot tell anyone who to vote for, nor would I want to. Each person sees the world from a different perspective in the community, each person must evaluate from that perspective, and make the best choices he or she deems fit accordingly. I have my opinions, just like the next person. My opinions are from my perspective, and are not the same as another's. I cannot say who is the best for Holly's future. I don't have a crystal ball. It is my opinion that one should learn from mistakes, whether the mistakes of others or themselves, and be wise enough not to repeat them. I would like people to think before they cast their vote. I am not campaigning for any one individual. I would like to believe that people are taking all things into consideration, doing research, taking notes, and staying true to their principles when making their choices of whom they want to legislate the Village of Holly.
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#62 Elizabeth 2010-09-16 00:09
The Village of Holly is a managerial disaster, and one must ask why is that? The manager, the council, the council, the do you separate one from the other when the manager was appointed by the village council, and the village council was responsible for the management of their employee? Don't confuse "management of their employee" with "management of the day to day operations of the village". They are two entirely different things. If the village council could appoint and then terminate the village manager, then there is no question in my mind that they, the village council, had an obligation, as her employer, to manage her actions, which they, in my humble opinion, failed to do.
So, it is my opinion, because this blog is an opinion forum after all, that the council should be voted out, and new people voted in to do the job the current group screwed up. When the team doesn't win, fire the coaching staff. It's time for a new playbook.
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#63 Elizabeth 2010-09-16 02:36
KT, I appreciate your comment.
I just keep did you know I wear a bonnet? :lol:
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