The public comment portion of Grosse Pointe Shores' council meeting erupted into a loud shouting match Tuesday related to the questioning the city about significant overcharging for water usage.
Although Shores employees and council members had been briefed and were made aware of the issue, the topic had not been openly discussed until Tuesday. It came up during the Shores election forum last week, but no official information had surfaced until the meeting.
Shores resident John Booth questioned an auditor about the process Tuesday, and then shifted his focus to the water billing with the Yacht Club—a topic initially sluffed off by officials as not appropriate for discussion.
After repeated attempts to continue questioning it, Booth was ushered away from the podium by Mayor James Cooper who repeatedly banged his gavel and told Booth to stop interrupting. He eventually told Booth he had used his three minutes and asked him to sit down.
Two more residents got up and asked about the details. One wanted to know the amount allegedly overcharged. Another wanted to know the timeframe for the alleged overcharging.
Eventually, following repeated requests from residents and upheaval from those in attendance of the meeting, some information was released.
City Manager Brian Vick said Shores employees are helping Grosse Pointe Yacht Club officials review water bills that span about a decade. When pressed for a timeframe, Vick said he was hesitant to try to recall off the top of his head but eventually said roughly dating back to 2001.
Vick also said the bills in question are from before he was hired on with the municipality.
In response to questions from resident Jim Jacobs, Shores attorney Mark McInerny said the city and the yacht club have reached a standstill agreement regarding any litigation.
After residents began pressing to know how long officials had been aware of the issue, McInerny said the standstill agreement had been reached about one year ago. He could not recall the exact date but said it had been about that long.
Officials declined to say the amount in question.
At one point, Vick said the only value he was comfortable releasing to the public was that the amount in question is less than half of what was originally in question.
Officials told residents they did not believe the situation would escalate into a lawsuit. McInerny said the legal time limits to file a lawsuit for much of the billing in question had already expired.
If the yacht club felt it had enough to sue, Vick said, they likely would have already.
Tom Trainor, the general manager of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, said he was not aware of what transpired at Tuesday's meeting.
"We really are not in a position to make any comment about that right now," Trainor said.
Vick described the situation with the yacht club as being no different than when any resident calls to inquire about a bill. Employees review the bill and if a resident notices what they consider to be an out of ordinary bill, the city will then investigate. Vick repeatedly explained it would not be appropriate to discuss the specifics of the yacht club's questions without their permission as their bills would be their business, which would not be handled any differently if it were an individual resident.
Patch Associate Regional Editor John Hetzler also contributed to this story.