Scottville public safety meeting canceled; commissioner’s attendance would have violated state law.

July 15, 2015

IMG_5663By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — A city commissioner’s intention of attending the public safety committee meeting, scheduled for this afternoon, has caused the meeting to be canceled in order to avoid a violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Though he is not on the committee, Commissioner Ed Hahn indicted via email to City Manager Amy Williams that he was planning on attending the meeting. This would have meant more than three commissioners were gathering and would have been a violation of the OMA because the meeting was posted as a committee meeting not a commission meeting.

The meeting notice and agenda has been posted since last week. The one item on the agenda was to be discussion about the police department. Three city commissioners make up each of the city’s committees, appointed by the mayor. The public safety committee consists of Mayor Richard Maki and commissioners David Johnson and Ann Genson.

Because the city commission consists of seven commissioners, a quorum of the commission would take four people. When four or more commissioners gather during a formal meeting and discuss city business, it constitutes a meeting of the commission. If that meeting is not posted as such, it is a violation of the OMA and subject to penalties.

Commissioner Hahn has been vocal about his intention to try to eliminate the police department. During the July 6 meeting of the commission, he and Commissioner Don Pasco, introduced a motion to disband the police department. The motion was voted down in a 5-2 vote but the mayor asked that the public safety committee discuss the topic at its next meeting.

“Commissioner Hahn sent me an email indicating that he would be at today’s meeting, even though I informed him that attendance by any more commissioners would be a violation of state law,” Williams said.

If he were to have attended today’s meeting, Hahn could have faced a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment of up to one year. He could have faced addition fines of up to $500 in damages to the group or persons bringing action against him (MCP would have filed a suit).

The Michigan OMA, 15.272 Section 12 (1) reads: A public official who intentionally violates this act is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000.00. A second offense would mean a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 1 year in jail.

The city also could have faced penalties. OMA 15.271 Section 11 reads: If a public body is not complying with this act, the attorney general, prosecuting attorney of the county in which the public body serves, or a person may commence a civil action to compel compliance or to enjoin further noncompliance with this act. (2) An action for injunctive relief against a local public body shall be commenced in the circuit court, and venue is proper in any county in which the public body serves. An action for an injunction against a state public body shall be commenced in the circuit court and venue is proper in any county in which the public body has its principal office, or in Ingham county. If a person commences an action for injunctive relief, that person shall not be required to post security as a condition for obtaining a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order.

Williams said she is not sure when the topic will be discussed again since it was already brought up and defeated. “That will be up to the mayor to decide,” she said.