Judge: Review Team Actions Void Under Open Meetings Act
LANSING (WWJ) – An Ingham County judge has ruled that the actions of the Highland Park Schools review team are void and the Detroit review team will have to begin meeting in public.
“As it stands right now, Judge Collette in Ingam County has ruled that all of the review teams that the governor sends in, either for school or for cities, to look at the books, all of those deliberations have to be done with sunshine shining in,” said WWJ Newsradio 950 Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick. “In other words, they are applicable to the open meetings law.”
“Now, when the governor and lawmakers passed this (emergency manager) law they did not have that in mind at all,” said Skubick. “In fact, the sponsors of the legislation say, you know what, these people need to go behind closed doors because that’s how they’ll get a solution worked out.”
As enacted, a new state law allows the governor to appoint a financial review team and, as the next step, 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.
In his verbal ruling, judge William Collette said what stood out to him was that the entire school board in Highland Park had met with the review team — a violation of the Open Meetings Act on their end. Collette said the school board cannont meet in confidential sessions.
Highland Park School Board member and and union activist Robert Davis, who brought a law suit under the Open Meetings Act, called judge Collet’s decision monumental.
Skubick said Judge Collette’s decision would likely be appealed.
With an emergency manager already in place in Highland Park Schools, it was not immediatly clear exactly what this latest ruling would mean for the district.
Meantime, in Detroit, city leaders are still working with unions in hopes an EM may still be avoided.