Rotta serves councilors, mayor for law suit

November 26, 2013

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LUDINGTON — Tom Rotta is another step closer to having his day in court with select Ludington City Council members and Mayor John Henderson. During the Nov. 12 regular meeting of the city council, Rotta stated he was filing a law suit in 79th District Court alleging that the council and mayor proceeded with business during a special meeting of the council, though the meeting was allegedly not posted properly at the Municipal Complex at 400 S. Harrison St.

The meeting in question is the May 20, 2013 meeting, which was moved from its regular time of 6:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. so third graders from Foster Elementary could attend and observe.

Rotta is accusing six members of the city council, along with the mayor, of not posting the meeting in the lobby of the municipal complex, notifying the public that the meeting time had been changed. He further is stating that during the May 20 meeting, during public statement, he informed the council that the meeting wasn’t properly posted. In response, Mayor Henderson told Rotta, “so noted.” The council then proceeded with business.

Named in the lawsuit are Mayor John Henderson along with city councilors Wally Taranko, Les Johnson, Wanda Marrison, Nick Tykoski, Gary Castonia and Kaye Holman. Councilor Dick Rathsack was not named because he was not in attendance of that day’s meeting. Also not named were City Manager John Shay or City Clerk Deborah Luskin, the two city employees who are responsible for such notifications.

MCP has been told that the notification had been seen by witnesses but then was removed by someone prior to the meeting.

A few weeks prior to that incident, Rotta had accused Ludington Area Schools of not posting for a special meeting — an interview with a superintendent candidate. During that time, witnesses again said that the notice had been made but disappeared.

Rotta filed the lawsuit in 79th District Court, an unusual action since open meetings act violations are typically tried in circuit court. His first attempt at filing was denied by Mason County Magistrate Patricia Baker. However, on Wednesday, Judge Peter Wadel allowed the case to be filed.

Rotta, in his complaint, justifies the district court filing because it is a civil case against seven individuals. He is seeking damages up to $500 per defendant and is not seeking invalidation of policy or injunctive damages.

The district court attempted to serve the defendants but the papers were sent certified mail to the city hall address. Each one was refused and returned.

During public comment Monday, Rotta said he had a processor with him to serve the papers.

City Attorney Richard Wilson told the council that they no one is under any legal obligation to accept certified mail.
Immediately following the meeting a woman, who refused to be identified, served each of the people named in the suite.

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