Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

April 23, 2014

NMC president involved in non-public talks

(Continued)

“Everyone that I’ve touched based with thus far (all except Susan) will support a motion to videotape and create an on-line archive,” Myers wrote NMC Board Chair Doug Bishop on Jan. 26. “Ken (Weaver, NMC trustee) and you specifically hoped to have a unanimous vote on the matter.”

Record-Eagle executives alleged trustees’ non-public communications violated Michigan’s Open Meetings Act in March 26 letters to college officials.

Neither Nelson nor Myers could be reached for comment. Bishop at a public meeting on Monday said no violation of the law occurred and no trustee “ever had any intent to violate the law ... .”

The OMA requires public bodies to conduct nearly all business at public meetings. It forbids a quorum of board members -- or the smallest number necessary to make a decision -- from deliberating outside of public meetings.

NMC attorney Charles Judson said during Monday’s meeting that the OMA allows a board member to conduct an “informal canvass” of how other board members plan to vote on an issue. NMC officials invoked the same informal canvassing argument in response to a February FOIA request from the Record-Eagle.

Robin Luce-Herrmann, a state media law expert and attorney with the Michigan Press Association, said trustees’ private communications went beyond informal canvassing because they included “substantive” discussion about whether to audio or video record meetings, and whether to live broadcast or archive recordings.

“These are the types of discussions that are intended to be captured during deliberations at an open meeting,” she said.

Nelson, in an April 15 email to NMC employees, wrote communication between public board members outside of public meetings is common “as long as it is not a quorum nor is it intended to deliberate or make decisions on behalf of the body.”

Emails from Jan. 23 -- the same day Myers left the voicemail for Nelson -- show Bishop wrote Gore Follette and Sheldon to deliberate about video recordings, including a need for unanimity on the subject.

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