Judge rules in Detroit financial review case
Meetings by state-appointed team must comply with Open Meetings Act
An Ingham County judge has ruled that the state-appointed team reviewing the City of Detroit's finances should be subject to Michigan's Open Meetings Act.
Circuit Court Judge William Collette said Monday he was issuing a preliminary injunction saying any future meetings of the group must comply with the act.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Robert Davis, a Highland Park school board member and union activist. He says the Detroit review team violated the Open Meetings Act by meeting in "secret."
"It’s a monumental decision. I applaud and commend Judge Collette for his willingness to uphold the provisions of the Open Meetings Act and open up the doors of the government, which is the intended purpose of the Open Meetings Act," Davis said.
Gov. Rick Snyder's administration has said the review teams aren't subject to the Open Meetings Act.
"The Treasury is disappointed with today’s decision, given the possible chilling effect it could have on a review team and the review process. As noted, previously, the department’s position, for more than 20 years, has been that a review team is not a public body and is therefore not subject to the Open Meetings Act," said Michigan State Treasurer Andy Dillon.
In response to the judge's ruling, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's office released this statement: "We have always been open and transparent about the finances of the city of Detroit. From out perspective, we do not anticipate any changes as to our participation in the financial review process."
Detroit City Council Member Saunteel Jenkins said she thinks good could come of the judge's ruling.
"Sure, there were some questions that would have been tough questions to answer publicly, but it will just generate more conversation," she said.
Fellow Council Member Gary Grown said the ruling doesn't change his concerns about the budget, he just wants the team to get on with what he thinks is the inevitable.
"I think they’ve got the information they need to make a decision. I think that they will recommend a consent agreement. I don’t think they’ll recommend an emergency manager. Now, let’s just get on with it.”
The Detroit review team is expected to report to Snyder by month's end.