Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 8, 2014

Email policy goes to NMC committee

TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College trustees will take their first look at a policy that outlines how board members can communicate over college email addresses during a Monday committee meeting.

The policy follows NMC officials’ denial in April of Record-Eagle allegations that trustees violated Michigan’s Open Meetings Act when they deliberated over email and other non-public communications whether to televise board meetings.

NMC board members assigned the college’s attorney to write several policies related to the allegations, including a policy that establishes guidelines for trustees’ email communications.

The draft policy headed to the committee Monday states there are circumstances in which it is appropriate for board trustees and committee members to send each other emails.

“However it is important for the Trustees to avoid engaging in deliberation of NMC business through email.” the policy states. “Emails sent between and among Board or committee members should not serve as a method of discussing, deliberating, or analyzing NMC issues.”

The OMA forbids a quorum of public board members -- or the number required to make a decision -- from deliberating or reaching decisions on public policy issues outside of open meetings.

The draft policy states board members who do discuss an NMC issue by email “should engage only less than a quorum of the Board or committee... .”

It also states board or committee members who discuss an NMC issue with less than a quorum may not continue the discussion with additional members if the further communication would involved a quorum “except at a properly noticed meeting pursuant to the Open Meetings Act.”

NMC President Tim Nelson called Monday’s committee meeting a “first step” in trustees’ consideration of the new policies.

”They’ll talk about it, and if they want more information they’ll ask for it,” Nelson said.

Neslon said he expects committee members will make a report about the policies during the college board’s next regular meeting, scheduled for June 23.

The policy committee consists of trustees Cheryl Gore Follette, Susan Sheldon and Kennard Weaver.

Sheldon and Weaver could not be reached for comment Friday.

Follette declined to comment on the draft policy before the committee meeting.

The policy committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. in room 110 of Founders Hall, located on the college’s Main Campus.

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