This is not an official blog of the City. It is the work of Mark Kapel who is solely responsible for content.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Planning Commission Feb 9 2016

Open Meeting Hand Book as Published by the State of Michigan Attorney General

Attorney General Bill Schuette

The Michigan Open Meeting Act (OMA) law  dates back to 1976 It's intentions were and are to make  local government  open and transparent  to you the tax paying Citizens of of the State of Michigan. Essentially  OMA says you have the right to attend almost all of Michigan Government meetings and that  all governing decisions requiring  and vote be done at public meetings.

Recently  the office of the state's Attorney General published on line an eminently readable guide book to the Open Meetings Act. This not  legal   mumbo  jumbo but a listing of what your rights as a Citizen are  and the Government's obligation to you. It pertains all governing bodies from local libraries, to  committees formed by a City Commission to, the Governor and State legislator.

You pay your taxes  to the State  and  the City so you should know what you your rights  are regards to what to do about what such governing bodies  may decide.

You don't have to care if you don't want to but ignorance to some who govern is licence and you don't want to go to sleep, only  to discover  that  have you inadvertently awaken, in second coming of the late great East Germany.

To read the above 21 page handbook  Click here.

The above presentation by  Sue Jeffers and the Michigan Municipal League is even more readable in that it uses big type and colors. It also highlights  areas of  responsibilities that were once considered grey areas. No pun intended. To read the 32 page presentation click here

  In the Current issue of  the Hills Highlights,  the official news letter of the City of  Bloomfield Hills, newly elected City Commissioner Susan McCarthy describes,  aYou won, now what training she received from the MML. Two bullet pointed topics she mentioned in her article  are a review of the  of the Michigan Open Meeting Act Oma  and the better known Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)  pronounced "Foyah".

How does the Government of the City of Bloomfield Hills do in maintaining the purpose and the precepts of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. ?

Not particularly well. 
Mention of  MOA  conjures up all sorts of lurid images of secret  meetings facilitated by  the electronic age devises used  to avoid public witness but that is not our point here.There are  no allegations about our government doing said nor have there ever been to the best of our knowledge.

What there has been however and, is currently, is a refusal to adhere to the most simple and easy to fulfill requirements of MOA that indicates a unhealthy disrespect for MOA.

Because MOA is meant to open government for its citizens, ignoring  the minor points of MOA indicates an unhealthy  disrespect for citizens as well. There are two areas where our City delivers less than what the Michigan Open Meeting Act requires.
1)MOA requires is that proposed (or draft) minutes of a meeting ) must be made available for public inspection within eight days after the applicable meeting. At the next meeting the governing body  has five days furnish  the public with approved minutes.

1) 0n the City's web site under Welcome to minutes on demand it states that meeting minutes will be posted once they are approved by the "Council Board". That means  a delay of a month   before residents  are able to learn what was their government discussed at the last meeting.  MOA does not require Citizens to attend meetings. It does require the Government to provide  it's citizens with  draft status of  the most recent meeting in 8 days. That includes  City Commission meeting, Planning commission meetings and Zoning Board meeting. To ignore that requirement is an violation of the Open meeting act.

2) The formation of sub committees and committees of one.
By Michigan law a committee of one is not a committee and therefor not subject to MOA. Nor are advisory Committees because they  advise rather than  decide.

  Claims of lack of a quorum and "therefore not a sub committee subject to MOA" is in some cases a subterfuge. The key is what is the intent. Is it  a lack of bodies or is it  intended to by-pass the Citizens it is supposed to include ?

In the Current issue of Hills Highlight. Commissioner McClure writes " The City Manager, Building officials, with some input from our consultants, and  a subcommittee, will be reviewing our building department organizational structure and some processes."  

Who is on the sub committee ? Do they they meet ?  Are  meetings  open to the public ? Are minutes kept of their meetings ? 

Per Moa Minutes must be kept for all meetings and are required to contain:
  • a statement of the time, date and place of the meeting;
  • the members present as well as absent;
  • a record of any decisions made at the meeting and a record of all roll call votes; and
  • an explanation of the purpose(s) if the meeting is a closed session.
Except for minutes taken during a closed session, all minutes are considered public records, open for public inspection, and must be available for review as well as copying at the address designated on the public notice for the meeting.
Proposed minutes must be available for public inspection within eight business days after a meeting. Approved minutes must be available within five business days after the meeting at which they were approved.

These are the  questions and principles behind  MOA an with the goal providing an open and transparent Government.