Disability Network West Michigan to Consumers: Shut Up or We’ll Shut You Up

Sabo PR shared a post on Facebook: Warner, Norcross & Judd shared an article titled "Love Your Lawyer Day”. Sabo PR added the commentary “We can support this”. Image: three white people smile and shake hands.Disability Network West Michigan (Muskegon’s Center for Independent Living) has launched the following campaign to intimidate, threaten, and coerce their own consumers. Taxpayer dollars earmarked for Michigan’s Independent Living Program are being used to directly retaliate against members of the disability community for exercising their First Amendment rights.

This is the second attack on consumers in the months since Disability Network West Michigan engaged Sabo Public Relations firm.

Warner, Norcross & Judd
Attorneys at Law
Joe Sadler: 616-752-2271 / Fax: 616-222-2271 / jsadler@wnj.com

Cease and Desist - Page 1: Transcript available at peeractionalliance.comNovember 1, 2016

Ms. Darma Canter
Peer Action Alliance
Re: Defamatory and Libelous Comments

Dear Ms. Canter,

This firm has been retained by Disability Network of West Michigan (“DNWM”) to pursue legal action against you and your daughter. For more than two years, you have made a variety of false allegations against DNWM and harassed its employees, officers, and directors. This behavior must end, and if you will not end it willingly, we will get a judge to end it for us.

Cease and Desist - Page 2: Transcript available at peeractionalliance.comIn order to avoid a lawsuit, you must immediately stop disparaging and harassing DNWM and those connected to the organization. Examples of the behavior that must cease include:

  • Accusing DNWM of violating the law, specifically open meeting requirements under Michigan or federal law. DNWM has not violated any law and would be happy to prove this in court. Please note that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Office of Quality Assurance & Internal Control has found that your allegations are completely false, as the attached report shows. MDHHS’s report investigated your allegation that DNWM violated an open meetings obligation and consumer control requirements by hiring a disproportionate disability make-up of the Board of Directors and staff. After a thorough investigation, MDHHS concluded that your allegations are unsubstantiated. [Editor’s note: referenced MDHHS report not included].
  • Accusing DNWM of misleading regulators to hide violations of the law, or trying “to shield [itself] from oversight and responsibility,” through trickery and deceit.
  • Accusing DNWM employees of fraud, deceit or misconduct. For example, you accused the Executive Director of “identifying as disabled in order to keep her illegitimate paycheck.” This is false and we will happily prove its falsity in court.
  • Accusing DNWM of working to harm the very community it serves by “pursu[ing] the goals of a typical charity and working in direct contradiction to the interests of the disability community.”
  • Accusing DNWM of engaging in “discriminatory hiring and firing practices, including “convinc[ing] non-disabled people they are disabled” instead of complying with consumer control requirements, although MDHHS investigated this allegation and concluded that this was another one of your unsubstantiated claims.
  • Accusing DNWM and Disability Network/Michigan of being involved in a “national scandal” by abusing tax dollars and exploiting the disability community.
  • Sending unwanted emails and letters and making unwanted phone calls to DNWM employees that repeat these false allegations.
  • Disrupting DNWM meetings by screaming, interrupting and otherwise carrying on.
  • Posting and creating content about DNWM on any social media platform, including Facebook and the Peer Action Alliance website, at http://www.peeractionalliance.com.

To be clear, you must immediately stop all similar behaviors, whether on your own behalf, on behalf of other people, or on behalf of organizations […] like Peer Action Alliance.

The things that you have done over the past two years have damaged DNWM’s reputation and harmed its ability to serve its clients. DNWM can, and will recoup these damages from you in a lawsuit.

In order to avoid legal action, immediately remove from the internet all defamatory comments that you have posted and do not make any more false allegations or take any more harassing actions. If the false statements are not removed, or if any more objectionable conduct is observed, expect a summons in the mail.

Very truly yours,

Joe Sadler

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4 thoughts on “Disability Network West Michigan to Consumers: Shut Up or We’ll Shut You Up

  1. Who or what is Peer Action Alliance? We are a group of disabled individuals, we are a grassroots cross-disability alliance, many of our members are dependent on Social Security benefits for income, some of us use daily living supports provided through Medicaid or Medicare, some use subsidized, low income housing, some rely on food stamps for basic nutrition, many use public transportation, we all have more interaction with the healthcare system than we want; most of our members are vulnerable to termination or reduction of essential publicly funded services. Some peers have been threatened with the loss of services because of their association with PAA, some have forfeited housing or employment opportunities.
    Peer Action Alliance is not a business, we have no grants, contract or money, we have no directors or administrators. Some peers are less vulnerable to retribution because their income, and natural supports make them less dependent on public services. Those of us with the freedom to speak for ourselves and others will continue to do so.

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  2. November 13 SILC Request Media Campaign Info

    Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.

    1365 E. Mt. Morris Rd.

    Mt. Morris, MI 48458

    joeharcz@comcast.net

    810-516-5262

    Re: Finance Committee Report

    To:

    Rodney Craig, Mich. Statewide Independent Living Council, Executive Director

    Robin Bennett, Chair MI SILC

    (Via e-mail)

    Dear Mr. Craig and Chair Bennett,

    I point your attention to the following from the October 19, 2016 meeting of the finance committee:

    “4. Upcoming Major Spending

    · Back to back council meetings, new employee – Advocacy Coordinator insurance/HSA payments for staff due in January 2017, APRIL Conference expenses

    for Council members, SILC Congress hotel & airfare for Council members & PA’s, Disability Network West Michigan Media Campaign.”

    Now, during her highly controversial tirade against Eleanor Canter, Tamara Collier, Director of the Disability Network, West Michigan stated there is no
    funding from the SILC for her “media campaign” at Friday’s SILC meeting. Yet, the above reference is clearly denoted in the minutes of the finance committee.
    So, someone is clearly lying here, ironically as Ms. Collier calls Eleanor Canter a “liar” at a public meeting of a public body.

    Now, I’m requesting under FOIA any documents related to this matter including any receipts, transfers of funds, or agreements to do so from the SILC to
    Disability Network, West Michigan. And I’m requesting clarification from the SILC Chair and Mr. Craig about this item

    Moreover, it is clear since Michael Hamm is the Treasurer for the council and heads this committee and also serves on the board of Disability Network, West
    Michigan that there is at very least an appearance of conflicts of interests here.

    Now, as a person who is blind I’m requesting all information in accessible form, and in a timely manner pursuant to known obligations of the Americans with
    Disabilities Act of 1990, subpart e, communications and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. To wit; please send me any and all information
    requested as plain text or rich text formats to my e-mail address listed above.

    I thank you in advance for your prompt and accessible response.

    Sincerely,

    Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.

    Cc: Bob Williams, ACL/ILA

    Cc: several

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  3. November 16 2016 to SILC on OMA Standing Committees

    Paul Joseph Harczz, Jr.

    1365 E. Mt. Morris Rd.

    Mt. Morris, MI 48458

    joeharcz@comcast.net

    810-516-5262

    Re: MISILC and Open Meetings Act

    To:

    Rodney Craig, Executive Director, Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council

    Robin Bennett, Chair MISILC

    (Via e-mail)

    Dear Mr. Craig and Ms. Bennett,

    I am writing you today as the heads of a public entity in which the Michigan Open Meetings Act is applicable and, in fact following it is an obligation
    as well under the Rehabilitation Act. I have told you and prior Chair Ms. Gravetti that standing committees, must follow the Michigan Open Meetings Act
    and that the public must be given notice just as must be done at SILC quarterly Board meetings. Moreover, in many of these committees in the past you’ve
    made final determinations without putting them before the entire SILC. This cannot continue to stand for MISILC is a public entity and cannot continue
    to conduct business in secret without public involvement or even knowledge of actions with public funds.

    Please refer to an attorny general’s opinion and cited case law on the matter after my signature line. And remedy the situation by following the Open Meetings
    ACT!

    Sincerely,

    Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.

    Cc: ACL/ILA

    Cc: several

    Source:

    http://www.ag.state.mi.us/opinion/datafiles/1990s/op10070.htm

    STATE OF MICHIGAN

    FRANK J. KELLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL

    COUNTIES:

    OPEN MEETINGS ACT:

    PUBLIC BODY:

    Application of open meetings act to county board of commissioners standing committee

    A meeting of a standing committee of a county board of commissioners, composed of less than a quorum of the full board, is subject to the Open Meetings

    Act when the committee is effectively authorized to determine whether items of county business will or will not be referred for action by the full board.

    Opinion No. 7000

    December 1, 1998

    Mr. John L. Livesay

    Branch County Prosecuting Attorney

    Branch County Courthouse

    Coldwater, MI 49036

    You have asked whether a meeting of a standing committee of a county board of commissioners, composed of less than a quorum of the full board, is subject

    to the Open Meetings Act, 1976 PA 267, MCL 15.261 et seq; MSA 4.1800(11) et seq, when the committee is effectively authorized to determine whether items

    of county business will or will not be referred for action by the full board.

    Information supplied with your request indicates that a county board of commissioners, through adoption of a rule, established four standing committees,

    1

    each consisting of less than a quorum of the full board of commissioners. You describe the operation of these committees as follows:

    Block quote start

    If an issue is brought to a committee by a department head, elected official, or judge and the committee determines that supportive action should be taken,

    the committee will make a recommendation to the full board at the next board meeting. It is usually couched in terms similar to the following: “The committee

    recommends and I so move that . . .” Such recommendations are reflected in the committee minutes. If the committee does not approve of what action may

    be desired by the particular department (for example), that fact may be reflected in the committee minutes that a discussion was had, and the matter would

    go no further. There would be no unfavorable recommendation to the full board and no action taken by the full board. A review of commissioner committee

    minutes illustrates that routinely matters are discussed at committee meetings that end with the committee making a decision that no action will be taken.

    Though the fact that the matter was discussed may appear in the committee minutes, no discussion or action will be subsequently taken by the full board.

    The committee minutes will not reflect that an unfavorable recommendation was made to the full board. The matter will simply die in committee.

    It can probably fairly be said that the only time any matter goes to the full board for discussion and/or final decision is if the committee is “recommending”

    that some positive action be taken by the board. A negative action or decision to take no action would be made by the committee. . . . The full board would

    have no discussion on the matter and would take no vote and make no decision on the issue.

    Block quote end

    The Open Meetings Act (OMA) requires, subject to limited exceptions, that a meeting of a public body must be open to the public and is subject to specified

    notice and record-keeping requirements. Section 3(1); OAG, 1981-1982, No 6053, p 616 (April 13, 1982). Section 2(a) of the OMA defines the term “public

    body” as:

    Block quote start

    [A]ny state or local legislative or governing body, including a board, commission, committee, subcommittee, authority, or council, which is empowered by

    state constitution, statute, charter, ordinance, resolution or rule to exercise governmental or proprietary authority or perform a governmental or proprietary

    function, or a lessee thereof performing an essential public purpose and function pursuant to the lease agreement.

    Block quote end

    (Emphasis added.)

    OAG, 1977-1978, No 5183, p 21, 40 (March 8, 1977), reviewed this definition, together with the legislative history of the OMA, and concluded that the Act

    does not apply to committees and subcommittees composed of less than a quorum of the full public body if they “are merely advisory or only capable of making

    ‘recommendations concerning the exercise of governmental authority.'” Where a committee or subcommittee, however, is empowered to act on matters in such

    a fashion as to deprive the full body of the opportunity to vote on the matter, the committee’s decision “is an exercise of governmental authority which

    effectuates public policy,” and the committee proceedings are therefore subject to the OMA. OAG, 1977-1978, No 5222, p 216, 217-218 (September 1, 1977).

    This latter point is underscored by the recent decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals in Schmiedicke v Clare School Bd, 228 Mich App 259, 261; 577 NW2d

    706 (1998). In that case, a local school board established a Personnel and Policy Committee (PPC) and delegated to that committee “the task of reviewing

    whether the school district should retain its current method for evaluating school administrators and whether the length of administrator contracts should

    be changed.” The committee thereafter met in private and ultimately recommended no change in the school district’s existing policies. After receiving the

    committee’s report, the full school board took no action, effectively adopting the committee’s recommendation. The court concluded that, under these facts,

    the committee was subject to the OMA and had violated that Act by meeting in private. The court reached this conclusion despite the fact that the school

    board had apparently not intended to delegate actual decision-making authority to the committee:

    Block quote start

    Testimony at trial, although equivocal, indicated that defendant school board did not intend to delegate final decision-making authority to the PPC. However,

    there was testimony by a school board member that, because the PPC recommended no change with respect to either policy presented to it for review, defendant

    school board believed that it did not have to take any action on the PPC’s recommendation. In other words, by failing to vote, defendant school board “affirmed”

    the PPC’s recommendation to leave intact the current methods for evaluating administrators and the length of administrator’s contracts. Thus, at the April

    18, 1994, meeting, defendant school board renewed each administrator’s contract for two terms in accordance with its current policy.

    The primary purpose of the OMA is to ensure that public entities conduct all their decision-making activities in open meetings and not simply hold open

    meetings where they rubber-stamp decisions that were previously made behind closed doors. See Booth Newspapers, [Inc v Univ of Michigan Bd of Regents,

    444 Mich 211, 222;] 507 NW2d 422 [1933]; Wexford Co Prosecutor v Pranger, 83 Mich App 197, 204; 268 NW2d 344 (1978). Here, defendant school board’s referral

    to the PPC for a recommendation was a delegation of authority to perform a governmental function. The focus of the inquiry is the authority delegated to

    the PPC, not the authority it exercised. The PPC failed to openly deliberate on the governmental function that the defendant school board had delegated

    to it. Subsequently, the defendant school board adopted the PPC’s recommendation. The defendant school board’s adoption of the recommendation effectively

    foreclosed any involvement by members of the public and essentially meant that the decision made by the PPC at a closed meeting was a fait accompli. Booth

    Newspapers, supra at 229. Consequently, the PPC made closed-session deliberations and decisions in violation of the OMA.

    Block quote end

    228 Mich App 263-264.

    These authorities are directly applicable to your question. According to the facts provided with your inquiry, matters referred to the referenced standing

    committees reach the full board of commissioners only if the committee makes a positive recommendation to the board; if the committee makes an unfavorable

    recommendation, the matter never reaches the board. Thus, each of these standing committees effectively exercises the authority to preclude various matters

    from reaching the full board for deliberation and decision. Under these circumstances, the committees are not merely advisory but instead are exercising

    governmental authority which effectuates public policy and are, therefore, subject to the requirements of the OMA. OAG, 1977-1978, No 5222, supra, at 218.

    It is my opinion, therefore, that a meeting of a standing committee of a county board of commissioners, composed of less than a quorum of the full board,

    is subject to the Open Meetings Act when the committee is effectively authorized to determine whether items of county business will or will not be referred

    for action by the full board.

    FRANK J. KELLEY

    Attorney General

    1 The standing committees and their duties include the following: The Ways and Means Committee (prepares a county budget and protects the interests of county

    citizens in all matters pertaining to finance); Personnel Committee (authorized to “approve or disapprove all bills to be paid by the county”); Courts

    and Public Safety Committee (acts as a liaison between the executive, judicial and legislative offices in the county); and the House Committee (advises

    and assists various offices in the development of policy).

    http://opinion/datafiles/1990s/op10070.htm

    State of Michigan, Department of Attorney General

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  4. This documents that DNWM doesn’t follow applicable laws as they didn’t even respond to this lawful request for accessible info to this blind advocate:)
    November 18 2016 to Collier IRS 990 ADA 504

    Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.
    1365 E. Mt. Morris Rd.
    Mt. Morris, MI 48458
    joeharcz@comcast.net
    810-516-5262

    Re: Request IRS Forms 990 with ADA/504 accommodations
    To:
    Tamara Collier, Executive Director
    Joe Doyle, Chair, Board of Directors
    Disability Network West Michigan
    27 E. Clay Avenue
    Muskegon, MI 49442
    T (231) 722-0088

    (Via e-mail)

    Dear Ms. Collier and Mr. Doyle,

    I am writing you today to request the past three years of your entity’s IRS Forms 990 (all required sections). I’m sure that as Executive Director and Chair of the Board of such a prestigious non-profit you are intimate with the obligations of a 501 c 3 non-profit, or you should well be so.

    Moreover, your Center for Independent Living is a service provider and thus is obligated to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title III. Thus Disability Network, West Michigan is a Title III entity. In addition DNWM is a copious recipient of federal funds and thus is obligated to follow Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. (In fact DMWM) receives copious funds under Title VII of this very act, so you should well know of your civil rights obligations. Moreover, the first core mission of any CIL is to promote system and individual advocacy.

    This is all significant for I am a person who is blind and thus am requesting information in my most accessible format, in a timely manner, and without surcharge pursuant to known obligations (auxiliary aids and services provisions and reasonable accommodations provisions of both Title III of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended.

    I use an ancient screen reader (Jaws 6.2) and an XP PC in order to read and thus my most effective format is to get the requested IRS forms as either plain text or rich text formats, which is how I’m requesting them. They may be sent as either attachments or enclosures to my e-mail address listed above or may be sent properly formatted to my physical address on a “flash drive”.

    Failure to remit information in any form will result in complaints to the Internal Revenue Service, and the Michigan Attorney General’s office. This may result in voiding DNWM’s tax exempt status.

    Failure to meet my accommodations request will result in complaints to the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and/or the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disabilities Rights Section. Failure to meet accommodations requests may also result in a civil suit to enforce my rights in U.S. District Court.

    Note: a failure to respond to this lawful request is a violation of the ADA and 504 in and of itself.

    This said I thank you in advance for your prompt and compliant response. If you have any questions you may write them via e-mail, for again my computer talks.

    Sincerely,

    Paul “Joe” Harcz, Jr.

    Cc: ACL/ILA
    Cc: SH, KG, MDHHS/MRS (DSE)
    Cc:Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services
    Cc: SG, Disability Network Michigan
    Cc: Mich. SILC
    Cc: Peer Action Alliance

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