Saturday, April 18, 2009

Macomb Commissioners Look to Law Over Alleged Open Meetings Violation

A group of commissioners in Macomb County took a vote over the phone to buy some police cars, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.
That’s bad enough – but the item was voted on to purportedly support the U.S. auto industry. As if buying four cars at fleet rates would put a dent in 49% sales drop through March.
"Board Chairman Paul Gieleghem, D-Clinton Township, acknowledged Friday that a secretary tallied votes over the phone earlier this month for permission to buy four police cruisers. But he insisted a vote wasn't required. Gieleghem said the county didn't have time to wait for a public meeting because a deadline was rapidly approaching to buy 2009 Chevy Impalas, rather than the more expensive 2010 model."
We beg to differ with three-term commissioner Gieleghem, and the good money has it that Macomb residents would also disagree. If they voted, why would it not be done in public? Michigan statute is pretty clear on phone votes, by the way; “Under the Open Records Act, phone call conference meetings generally are not allowed.”
Under the law, any person can challenge the action taken in circuit court within 30 days of the alleged misdeed.
Let’s go beyond the idea that this purchase didn’t require a posted, open meeting. Are phone votes allowed at all? Some municipalities in the U.S. do make allowances. For example, in some Chicago suburbs, when a board member is traveling but still wants to participate.
This seems reasonable. But in the Macomb case, this is stupidity to behold. Gieleghem is a former state rep who should be ashamed. Not just for intentionally trying to circumvent the law, but also for buying Impalas.

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