Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 20, 2014

NMC board to address OMA allegations

TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College trustees on Monday will discuss allegations they violated state open meetings laws.

But they might do so behind closed doors.

Allegations stem from a review of NMC trustees’ emails obtained by the Record-Eagle through multiple Freedom of Information Act requests. The emails show at least six of NMC’s seven elected trustees and other college officials deliberated whether to televise their monthly board meetings through non-public communications between Jan. 20 and Jan. 27.

Record-Eagle executives alleged those non-public deliberations amounted to “repeated violations of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act” in March 26 letters to NMC board Chairman Doug Bishop and NMC President Tim Nelson.

The Record-Eagle’s letters asked NMC officials to publicly acknowledge they violated Michigan’s OMA and to update board policy and training to protect against future OMA violations.

“This is about the public’s right to know not only the decisions their elected officials make, but also the deliberation and process behind those decisions,” Record-Eagle Publisher Neal Ronquist said on April 18. “Since NMC’s Board of Trustees did not publicly deliberate on the matter of recording meetings, the actions of NMC’s leaders did not allow the taxpaying citizens they purport to represent the opportunity to weigh in on the matter of recording NMC meetings.

“NMC’s leaders clearly violated OMA and in doing so the public’s trust. One is left to wonder what other matters have been discussed in such behind closed doors, round-robin email manner,” Ronquist said.

Nelson replied to the Record-Eagle’s correspondence in writing on April 2, and stated college officials forwarded the newspaper’s letter to NMC’s legal counsel. He sent an email to NMC employees last week that stated board members planned to address the Record-Eagle’s allegations and an attorney’s report and investigation progress at Monday’s meeting.

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