Michigan officials still scrambling over court ruling on financial review teams

Team in Detroit, Highland Park accused of violating Open Meetings Act

DETROIT - Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette ruled from his bench Wednesday morning that Jack Martin who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to run Highland Park Schools is out. 

That was in response to a request for clarification by an assistant attorney general in open court.

Why is he out?

Because a financial review team recommended the appointment. And the review team met in private, a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

The judge previously ruled review teams must meet in public because the new law passed last year gives them wide ranging powers.  And any action the team has taken is now null and void, per the judge's ruling.

Gov. Rick Snyder's administration has said the review teams aren't subject to the Open Meetings Act.

READ: Statement from Michigan Department of Treasury

Highland Park Schools emergency manager Jack Martin said as far as he knows, he's still on the job.

"I assume the AG is handling it and working with the court and I'm just doing my job here," Martin said.

He's been working in the district for three weeks and said he's not worried about losing any work.

"I don't think there are any material decisions that would be impacted at this point," he said.

This could also affect the review team that was appointed to look at the finances in the City of Detroit.  It has made no recommendation about a takeover or the alternative consent agreement.  But what happens to the work in progress?

This lawsuit covers the new takeover law that passed last year and was designed to open up the process in Highland Park Schools and the City of Detroit.

It will also affect any future takeovers in Michigan.

But is not expected to affect previous takeovers including Pontiac and Flint that were done under the old law.

Robert Davis brought the lawsuit and says this is a victory for people to see what's happening inside their local units of government.

"Anything they've done they have to re-do now in the open for the public to see," Davis said. "His [Collette's] decision should send shock waves through the state of Michigan and a message to Gov. Snyder and to the legislature that they need to get the process correct."

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is taking a neutral position issuing this statement: 

"We will abide by whatever process guidelines are mandated by the judge's ruling and cooperate accordingly," he said. "We have been open and transparent about the City of Detroit's financial condition and will continue to do so."

State officials in Lansing at the Attorney General's office and Treasury will only tell Local 4 that the judge's ruling is under review and they are looking at their options.

That could include an appeal.

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