Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 4, 2013

TCAPS: 2nd open meetings violation?

TRAVERSE CITY — A former Grand Traverse County commissioner who sued Traverse City Area Public Schools for allegedly violating state open meeting laws has leveled additional claims of wrongdoing, and some district board members are fed up with him.

Jason Gillman recently added a charge to his ongoing lawsuit that accuses TCAPS of “misleading the public” as to the time and place of a meeting to discuss last fall’s failed $100-million bond proposal. The amended lawsuit states TCAPS Superintendent Stephen Cousins entered into exchange program “contracts” with two Chinese schools in November, even though the district’s Board of Education neither deliberated nor decided in a public meeting to authorize the agreements.

”There’s no question about it,” Gillman said. “This is something that falls under the Open Meetings Act. This is a big deal.”

Michigan’s Secretary of State validated another Gillman charge of district wrongdoing last month. The state found TCAPS violated election laws while promoting its 2012 bond proposal.

Some TCAPS board members criticized Gillman this week, and said he hampers efforts to improve the largest school district in the Grand Traverse region.

“He’s adding zero value to our kids’ education,” Board member Gary Appel said. “Zero value to our community.”

Board member Megan Crandall said Gillman is costing TCAPS money, whether through attorney fees or higher insurance premiums.

“Does he not want the district to move forward on anything?” Crandall said. “He’s costing the taxpayers, and I don’t know why that hasn’t been part of the conversation.”

Michigan’s Open Meetings Act requires public bodies to conduct nearly all business and decisions at public meetings.

OMA defines “decisions” as any “action, vote ... or measure on which a vote by members of a public body is required and by which a public body effectuates or formulates public policy.”

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