Reporting Tim Skubick
LANSING (WWJ) - An Ingham County judge has ordered a hearing next week into whether the state’s financial review team is violating the Open Meetings Act.
The judge is considering an emergency motion filed by union activist Robert Davis who maintains the review team’s private meetings are violating the law and should be open to the public and the media. The State disputes the claim, maintaining a review team, like the one meeting now in Detroit, is not a public body and therefore not required to meet in public.
“This is a pretty important decision if you like sunshine on public processes,” said WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Skubick. “In practical politics, people who want to work on stuff behind closed doors, they can still find a way to get around it.”
Members of Detroit City Council, last month, told WWJ Newsradio 950 that they were asked to meet in small groups with a state-appointed financial review team, in order to avoid violating the Open Meetings Act. Members also said they had been asked not to discuss the contents of those meetings with the media.
Some council members refused to attend.
As enacted, a new state law allows the governor appoint such a team to conduct a review. And then, if the team deems it necessary, take over a local government by appointing an emergency manager to assume the authority and responsibility of locally elected officials. It includes the power to terminate collective bargaining agreements and even dissolve a unit of government. Some have called the new law unconstitutional.
In a live interview on Thursday, Davis said he’s in this fight for the long haul.
“We’re prepared to have this battle go all the way up to the state Supreme Court, because it’s very important to upholding the democracy within our local units of government.
“It’s important to uphold the constitutional rights of all citizens across the state of Michigan and this law, the emergency manager law, is bad legislation that’s attempted to strip the rights and privileges of citizens,” Davis said.
Davis said the judge “suggested” that the review team halt their meetings until the hearing. The Attorney General’s office said the team had no meetings scheduled.
Meantime, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and other city leaders continue talks with unions in an attempt to balance the budget. (More on this here).
Stay with WWJ and CBSDetroit.com for the latest on this developing story.