Traverse City Record-Eagle

Latest News - Mobile

April 20, 2014

Local officials: Email no way to conduct public business

TRAVERSE CITY — Local government officials expressed surprise and concern over a newspaper report that Northwestern Michigan College trustees may have violated state law when they used email and other non-public means to deliberate and decide a proposal to videotape their meetings.

Some local officials said NMC’s elected leaders clearly violated state law, and others in various governments throughout Grand Traverse County said their boards operate in stark contrast to the way NMC officials conducted business in a serious of emails obtained by the Record-Eagle under the state Freedom of Information Act.

NMC officials’ emails were detailed in an April 17 report in the Record-Eagle.

Area officials agreed on one thing: Deliberating and debating policy questions by email isn’t the proper way to conduct public business.

At least six of seven NMC trustees exchanged emails and other non-public contacts between Jan. 20 and Jan. 27 this year as they grappled with whether to record or televise their monthly board meetings. The electronic debate eventually prompted some trustees to change their positions prior to the board’s vote at a public meeting without engaging in a substantive public discussion. A state media attorney who reviewed the emails said the communications indicated trustees conducted public business outside of public meetings.

Michigan’s Open Meetings Act requires public officials to conduct business in public meetings in all but very few cases.

Barbara Budros, a Traverse City commissioner and attorney, called NMC trustees’ exchange of emails “a clear violation” of Michigan’s OMA.

“They were clearly deciding they were going to change their (position), and that’s a big no-no,” Budros said. “They should know better, and if they don’t know better, they need some education.”

City Commissioner Ross Richardson said he attended an orientation on open meetings and public records shortly after his election to the city commission, and Grand Traverse County offered a seminar on the subjects once or twice a year when he was a county commissioner.

Text Only

Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Associated Press Video
Bill Murray Continues To Be Just Bill Murray By Eating Some Free Bill Murray Ice Cream Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect Hillary Clinton Blamed Bill's Affair With Monica Lewinsky On Abuse He Suffered As A Child 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl