BY MICHAEL WALTON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A former Grand Traverse County commissioner filed a lawsuit against Traverse City Area Public Schools, accusing the district of violating open meetings rules in a discussion about a failed bond millage.
Jason Gillman accused the TCAPS Board of Education of "misleading the public" as to the time and place of a meeting to discuss a $100 million bond millage that was to pay for renovations at schools and a new performing arts center at Central High School. Voters shot down the proposal in November.
Gillman wanted to attend a TCAPS board retreat in December so he could videotape a discussion about why the millage failed.
A calender on the district's website said all board meetings are held at the TCAPS administration building and the retreat was scheduled for Dec. 14.
But Gillman learned on Dec. 8 that the board retreat was scheduled to take place that day at Sabin Elementary School, according to the complaint.
The suit alleges TCAPS did not give at least 18 hours notice of the changed time and date for the meeting as required by the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
The suit also states TCAPS removed the board retreat from its online calendar following the event, then two days later re-posted details of the event with the correct information.
"They are trying to change history to favor their particular perspective," Gillman said. "All I want is for them to be an open board where they are responsible to the community and accountable to the taxpayers."
Gillman's suit asks for an injunction ordering the board of education to comply with the Open Meetings Act. It also seeks the invalidation of any board decisions that resulted from the Dec. 8 retreat.
The retreat included a closed session performance review of Superintendent Stephen Cousins. The board later extended Cousins' contract through 2015.
Cousins said the district will respond to Gillman through the courts within 21 days. He declined further comment.
TCAPS Board of Education President Kelly Hall said the district notified the public about the time and location of the retreat on multiple occasions, including at a televised board meeting in November.
"At most, there was a clerical error on the part of the person responsible for the calendar on the district's website," Hall said. "It did not amount to a violation of the Open Meetings Act."
The Michigan Secretary of State's Office is reviewing a separate complaint by Gillman which alleges TCAPS violated state election laws last year when the district used public money to promote the bond question.