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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Friday, December 16, 2011

City Commissions flaunts Michigan Open Meetings Act.

If the meeting of December 6th City Commission  is news to you, your are not alone. It was another of City Commission's scheduled at the last moment and  under publicized meetings. The last City Commission  meeting we recall first appearing in the rear view mirror was late August. That is two meetings in the last ten or a 20% failure to communicate rate  and hardly in keeping with the principals mandated by the State of Michigan's Open Meeting Act, whose intent is to strengthen the right of all Michigan citizens to know what goes on in government by requiring public bodies to conduct nearly all business at open meetings.
Notification of Meetings:
The law states that within 10 days of the first meeting of a public body in each calendar or fiscal year, the body must publicly post a list stating the dates, times and places of all its regular meetings at its principal office.
If a public body does not have a principal office, the notice would be posted in the office of the county clerk for a local public body or the office of the Secretary of State for a state public body.
If there is a change in schedule, within three days of the meeting in which the change is made, the public body must post a notice stating the new dates, times and places of regular meetings.
Special and Irregular Meetings:
For special and irregular meetings, public bodies must post a notice indicating the date, time and place at least 18 hours before the meetings.
NOTE: A regular meeting of a public body, which is recessed for more than 36 hours, can only be reconvened if a notice is posted 18 hours in advance.
Emergency Meetings:
Public bodies may hold emergency sessions without a written notice or time constraints if the public health, safety or welfare is severely threatened and if two-thirds of the body’s members vote to hold the emergency meeting.
Individual Notification of Meetings by Mail:
Any citizen can request that public bodies put them on a mailing list so that they are notified in advance of all meetings.
Section 6 of the new law states that: “Upon the written request of an individual, organization, firm or corporation, and upon the requesting party’s payment of a yearly fee of not more than the reasonable estimated cost for printing and postage of such notices, a public body shall send to the requesting party by first-class mail, a copy of any notice required to be posted . . .”.
In addition, upon written request, public bodies are required to send free notices of meetings to newspapers, radio and television stations at the same time that they are required to post those notices.

Today by E-mail (so a copy exists) this publication is  requesting in writing said notification of all future meetings. We will accept such notice by E-mail to save time and money.

The City Commission meeting of December 6th did have hand written notices tacked to two bulletin boards on City Hall property. One inside. One outside. We do not believe that this qualifies as sufficient notice. Especially in keeping with  Americans with Disabilities legislation.

The occasional oversight or circumstances beyond control might be forgiven  were it not it not followed by  minutes of public meetings that  are not made available for typically a month and in some cases a ninety days The Michigan Opening  Meetings Act  states:
Minutes of a Meeting:
Minutes must be kept for all meetings and are required to contain:
(1) a statement of the time, date and place of the meeting;
(2) the members present as well as absent;
(3) a record of any decisions made at the meeting and a record of all roll call votes; and
(4) an explanation for 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 8 business days after a meeting. Approved minutes must be available within 5 business days after the meeting at which they were approved.
Corrections in the minutes must be made no later than the next meeting after the meeting to which the minutes refer.Corrected minutes must be available no later than the next meeting after the correction and must show both the original entry and the correction.

The current practice of the City Commission and other City Boards and Commissions  (Planning and Zoning) is to provide the the minutes of the last meeting when they are approved at the next meeting. Usually they are included  in the agenda packet for the next meeting which is published a day or so before the actual meeting. In the case of a meeting cancelled for lack of agenda items the minutes of the previous meeting have been withheld  for sixty, or ninety days.

 The Baldwin Public Library publishes minutes stamped "not approved" minutes almost immediately after their meetings. That way readers  get an idea of what was discussed or decided  at a meeting( subject to possible modification). With the system our city commission uses residents know nothing for thirty days . The Michigan Public Meetings act says that information must be made available  for review and copying in eight days. Today is the 19th and we will be requesting that proposed minutes of the December 6th City Commission meeting be made available for review and copying at City Hall. This Wednesday the 21st we will also make a request that the proposed minutes of that meeting be made available for review and copy at City Hall. Legible hand written notes or drafts that correspond with previously published agenda items will suffice.

This publication regrets any inconveniences this these actions may require. The City of Bloomfield Hills Blog believes that it is (by default) the voice of the people of the City of Bloomfield Hills. Can you think of another one?  We attend meetings and seek them out. While we admit to a small percentage of misses in terms of circumstances beyond our control, when a meeting occurs without our being aware of it, we (rightly or possibly wrongly) surmise a certain amount of stealth. We also respect the members of our City Commission and believe it to be one of the better commissions in our city history, but our city charter and the laws of the State of Michigan take precedent.

On July 11th,2011  in response to a big stack of hand bills  put on a table by the doors leading to the main meeting room at City Hall we published

They concern the rights of the resident to speak at commission meetings. These right with very few exceptions are determined by the governing body. It is important that residents know the rules and we noticed at the last meeting that stack had been replenished.

It is also important that residents know and demand the rights they are entitled to by law.They are...

  1. The right to attend meetings.
  2.  The right to observe government making decisions at a  public meeting 
  3. The right to be notified of these meetings in advance,
  4.  The right to receive  notification of what transpired (the proposed minutes) in days rather than months.

Until a better system is devised you may consider this publication the people's stack.

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