Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

April 20, 2014

Local officials: Email no way to conduct public business

(Continued)

NMC board Chair Doug Bishop last week told the Record-Eagle trustees receive handbooks on open meetings and public records rules, but they receive no specific training on how to abide by those state laws.

"It’s not complicated,” Bishop said.

Richardson said he’s never experienced anything similar to the NMC board’s email deliberations during his time as an elected official.

"The city bends over backwards in the other direction, and in my mind it’s better to overcompensate than not do enough,” Richardson said. “You just don’t start making those kinds of decisions out of public view.”

Mayor Michael Estes said he was surprised by NMC trustees’ actions and never understood their opposition to televising their meetings.

"I can’t think of any situation where the city was harmed by having its discussions in a public forum and televised,” Estes said. “It’s just the opposite. We’ve had discussions in public forums in which the public later brought us information we weren’t aware of.”

 

Public business can be ‘messy’

Herb Lemcool, chair of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners, said county board members do not communicate by email as a commission.

"Sometimes when you’re doing all your business in public it can become messy,” Lemcool said. “Sometimes the discussion becomes a news item, not the decision, but that’s the way we have to do business.”

County Commissioner Chris Maxbauer said it appeared NMC board members violated open meetings laws, based on the Record-Eagle’s account of the email communications.

"It should have been done in open meetings,” Maxbauer said. “What else is there to say?”

Maxbauer added the county requires all members of public boards to attend at least one training session on open meetings and public records laws.

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