DAVISON TWP. — Neighbors not mowing their grass? Or do they have blight on their property? Thinking about calling the township offices to complain?
Well, now there’s a new policy in effect requiring all complaints to be made in writing and signed by the complainant.
The Davison Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved a policy Aug. 9 creating a complaint policy and approving a form a resident must complete and sign before any action will be taken on a complaint.
Supervisor Jim Slezak said anyone who is calling in a complaint or coming into the township offices to let staff know about a neighbor’s grass high or a truck parked on lawn and so forth will be required to fill out a complaint form.
“The reason being multiple people are calling on people and when we go out to investigate, there’s nothing there,” said Slezak.
Matt Place, building official for Davison Township, said the township has seen an increase in what he calls “ghost complaints.” These are situations where someone will call the township offices to complain about something they claim to have seen in their neighborhood, and when some goes to investigate, it turns out to be nothing.
He said the township staff also takes a lot of abuse from residents, many of whom demand to know who called in to report on them.
“They demand to know who complained, and usually it is done anonymously,” said Place. “This way they can file a Freedom of Information Act request if they want to know who turned them in. We’re trying to eliminate the abuse the staff takes here at the township and get rid of ghost complaints that take up our time.”
Trustee Lori Tallman, who is an attorney, said she has been involved in process before and can see both sides of the issue, but she said the township has always maintained the anonymity of complainants and questioned how the information on the complaint form would be handled.
Place said the information would only be given out to someone who files a proper FOIA request with the township, but that the name of the person who made the complaint would be available to anyone who properly acquires a copy of the form.
Former Treasurer Pat Miller, who was in the audience at the meeting, said he thinks requiring people to fill out and sign a form will make it so the public is reluctant to file complaints because of potential retaliation.
“If anything, you should redact the name out so you can protect them,” he said.
Slezak said other communities around the township are using a similar policy and form and it has been working well in those municipalities.
Township Attorney David Lattie said under the Freedom of Information Act names on the form will not fall under any type of protection, so they cannot be redacted if an individual decides to file a request for the information.
Tallman asked what the board members are supposed to do if constituents decide to complain directly to them instead of filing a proper complaint.
Place responded saying board members should direct the resident to township offices, or eventually the township website once the form is up there and tell them they have to file a proper complaint.