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Livingston Integrity leader alleges doxing, vandalism, and FBI investigation in the wake of Hartland millage vote

HCS BoE 5/8/2023

While the Hartland community voted overwhelmingly in favor of the recent non-homestead millage renewal, the weeks leading up to the vote were characterized by a significant amount of backlash, resulting in a reported FBI investigation.

The passage of the initiative restores a tax levy on non-homestead properties. Commercial, industrial, rental, and vacation properties are impacted by this renewal, while residential and agricultural properties are not. The millage is a critical source of funding for the district, supplying funds for curriculum and supplies, and in some instances supplementing educator pay.

Despite the quantitative benefits of the millage, political polarization led to contention over the initiative. GOP leaders Dan Wholihan and Jennifer Smith both spoke in opposition to the millage, encouraging residents to vote against it.

Julie Ohashi created the Livingston Integrity group to be “a landing place for people on all ends of the political spectrum.” Moreover, it’s designed to promote important bond initiatives and elect leaders who are dedicated to transparency and honesty. The group was originally formed in response to the Clean Slate campaign that elected several far-right trustees to the Hartland board of education last year.

Ohashi explained that the get out the vote campaign came with a personal cost. In the days after launching the Vote Yes campaign, Ohashi says her personal information was maliciously shared in an anti-millage Facebook group. The doxing extended to several members of the group: harassing phone calls were made to individuals and their employers, personal information was circulated, and both individuals and businesses were attacked on social media. The initial post has since been removed by the group administrator.

The day after the doxing, Ohashi says she found a large swastika spray painted on a tree just off of her property line near Dunham Lake. She noted that the tree had visible ash and burn marks, and appeared as though “they tried to burn it, or burn the swastika into it, but gave up and spray painted it instead.” Presumably, the perpetrators were unable to burn the tree due to the damp weather.

“At first I wasn’t sure if we were being targeted,” Ohashi told GIGO News. “But with the timing and the doxing, it didn’t seem coincidental.”

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office responded to the incident, as Ohashi’s residence is on the border of Livingston and Oakland Counties. She says the police dismissed the incident as a simple act of hooliganism, attributing the vandalism to local children or teens. While Ohashi explained the doxing incident, she says these circumstances were not taken into account by the responding officers and that the attempted arson was also left out of the police report. Ohashi elaborated that while she was understandably shaken by the events, she was almost certain that she made note of this in the discussion with the police. 

Ohashi also pointed out that her family has been on this property for decades, and the regional police and local associates were able to confirm that this is the first time an act of vandalism has happened in the area. 

“Since the police wouldn’t take record of the online doxing, I reached out to the FBI,” Ohashi elaborated. “My husband is one of the few racial minorities in our neighborhood, and it is now being investigated as a federal hate crime.”

The investigation is in its early phases, so extensive details are not yet available. However, Special Agent Mara R. Schneider, the Public Affairs Officer for the FBI Detroit Field Office, sent the following response to GIGO News:

“The FBI’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny if we are conducting an investigation,” said Schneider. “As a general matter, however, allegations of criminal conduct are reviewed by the FBI for their merit, with consideration of any applicable federal laws. Such a review does not necessarily result in the opening of an investigation but, when warranted, we take any actions appropriate to the matter, such as seeking further information or referring the matter to a partner agency.”

HCS BoE- 5/8/2023

In addressing the incident before the Hartland Board of Education Monday night, Ohashi said that her purpose in conveying her experience was not to gain sympathy, but rather “to state that these acts of violence, scare strategies, and attempts to intimidate won’t stop those of us involved with Livingston Integrity and what we stand for.” On the contrary, she continued, it served as a motivator.

“It clarifies exactly what’s at stake for our community, and most importantly, for our children and their future.” 

The opposition to the millage was very much rooted in the efforts of both the Livingston County Republican Party and the county chapter of Moms for Liberty. The three GOP-endorsed board members– Michelle Blondeel, Glenn Gogoleski, and Greg Keller –  refused to make their stances on the millage known to the public. Comments in previous calls to the public indicated that many parents and community members reached out to the Board prior to the election, and the vast majority opted for transparency. Board members Chris Costa, Kristin Coleman, Cindy Shaw, and Meghan Glabach all expressed vehement support for the millage, while Blondeel, Keller, and Gogoleski declined to express their thoughts on the matter. A speaker at April’s board meeting indicated that Gogoleski’s views on the millage could be seen on his Facebook page but upon further examination, his account makes no reference to the millage. Any posts surrounding the topic were presumably deleted. 

At the April 10th Board of Education meeting, Gogoleski pointed out that he “had been very careful not to say anything pro or con against the millage,” explaining that according to bylaws, it was not his place to do so. Gogoleski later claimed that many were simply assuming that he opposed the millage. However, this assumption was not necessarily a baseless one: Gogoleski’s refusal to share his perspective, when paired with the Clean Slate’s ties to the local Republican Party, lent itself to the idea that Gogoleski opposed the millage.Gogoleski- Ballot

Gogoleski – or rather his wife –  eventually advertised his yes vote in an election day photo. It should be noted that ‘ballot selfies’ are illegal under Michigan law.  A request for comment to Gogoleski about the picture was not returned.

It is unclear why Gogoleski would delete any social media posts that were aligned with the pro-millage perspective shown on his ballot. 

Julie Ohashi reaffirmed the Clean Slate’s apparent lack of transparency, noting that none of these board members responded to parent emails asking for their perspective on the millage. This highlights a distinct gap between the group’s professed values and their practices: Blondeel, Gogoleski, and Keller all campaigned as advocates for the district’s parents, and claimed a dedication to transparency.

“Moving forward,” Ohashi concluded, “it is incumbent on us as parents, educators, administrators, and community members to find common ground wherever possible and work together in good faith in a way that recognizes the dignity and rights of every student in the Hartland Consolidated School district.” Failure to do so would be a detriment to students’ ability to learn and thrive in the district. 

Three board members– Meghan Glabach, Michelle Blondeel, and Chris Costa– addressed Ohashi’s experience in their comments following the call to the public.  

“It’s really heartbreaking,” said Glabach. “That’s not the community I know, that’s not the community that my family has decided to plant roots in, and quite frankly, it’s disgusting.”

Board President Chris Costa seconded Glabach’s initial comments, describing the incident as “disgusting, disheartening, and disappointing, to say the least.”

Michelle Blondeel expressed interest in the outcome of the FBI investigation, citing an interest in finding out who was responsible. She then implied that the vandalism was a result of “outsiders coming and putting their two cents into our community when they don’t even live here.”

Given the facts outlined by Julie Ohashi, Blondeel’s theory is without evidence, though the FBI investigation is underway and has yet to yield conclusive information.

The Board will meet next on June 12th.

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