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City Commission: Discussion of city manager candidates, resolution on ACD.net scandal are top agenda items

Mount Pleasant City Commission has not released the names of its city manager applicants or its finalists, however, the group will discuss the candidates in a closed session during its regular June 9 meeting.

According to its agenda, commissioners will return to open session following the discussion to consider and announce the “number of candidates for city manager interviews.”

It is unclear whether commissioners will release the names of the candidates publicly.

Central Michigan Life made a formal request for the names of the applicants through the Freedom of Information Act, a state law that allows citizens access to public records. The request was denied.  According to the Michigan Press Association’s legal counsel, the city is improperly applying exemptions in FOIA and the Open Meetings Act regarding the disclosure of the names and applications of the candidates.

The city’s argument is that by disclosing the documents, it constitutes as an unwarranted invasion of the applicants’ privacy rights.

CM Life delivered an appeal letter to Howard and Ridley, stating that the exemptions they are citing relate to the Open Meetings Act, and that the applications and resumes of applicants for a city manager’s position are not exempt.

CM Life also requested all of the applications offered to Baenziger in relation to the job search, as well as any documents or emails regarding the finalists and application materials created after a May 12 closed session. During this closed session, commissioners met to discuss the names of the candidates.

Ridley and Howard sent two letters to CM Life on Friday. The first, send by Howard, stated the city would deny the newspaper’s request for all of the candidates’ applications, including the five finalists. Howard cited MCL 15.243(1)(a), and wrote that “even if the requested applications were considered public records, they would still be exempt for disclosure under the exemption for information of a personal nature where the public disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy.”

Howard added that any emails or internal documents containing the finalists names could not be shared because “no such records exist.”

The second letter, sent by Ridley, notified the newspaper that her and the city’s final decision was to deny CM Life‘s appeal. Ridley cited Subsection 13(1) of FOIA, MCL 15.243(1)(d), in relation to the Open Meeting Act’s Section 8(f) clause.

Ridley said the exemption cited protects the documents because the “the information specifically described and exempted by statute (MCL 15.243(1)(d)) and the exemption for information of a personal nature where the public disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy (MCL 15.243(1)(a)).”

The letter issued by Ridley contained a footnote to the portion citing MCL 15.243(1)(a).

“Notably, the Michigan Attorney General has opined that applications for city manager positions are exempt form disclosure as records of a personal nature, (1979 OAG 5500)” Ridley wrote.

City to take stance on ACD.net comments, add 300-foot fire ordinance as permanent law

Commissioners will also discuss a resolution in support of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in relation to a racially charged voicemail message left on a tribal engineers phone by a top ACD.net executive, company CFO Kirk Shewchuck.

The tribe was offered an apology from ACD.net officials, however, the tribe did not accept the apology. If adopted, commissioners will be “joining the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in denouncing the offensive remarks in the voicemail and the disregard for the value of diversity.”

Also on the agenda is a resolution to make the city’s emergency 300-foot fire ordinance a permanent law at the request of Glenn Feldhauser, the director of public safety for Mount Pleasant.

Other business on the commission’s agenda include a public hearing for a tax abatement application, the consideration of a resolution on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot Proposal 1, and the approval of the city’s payrolls and warrants.

Follow CM Life on Twitter and visit cm-life.com for full coverage of the June 9 city commission meeting.

3 Comments

  1. Chuck (Not That One) says:

    So Bill Schuette wants secrecy, eh? Better remember this before you endorse him (like much of the media will) for re-election!

  2. Chuck (Not That One) says:

    And they’ll “return to open session following the discussion to consider and announce the “number of candidates for city manager interviews.”

    That number: One.

    They will announce who they chose behind closed doors! A decision will come BEFORE the public portion, people!

  3. Ridley’s statement is inaccurate and misleading.
    -
    OAG Opinion No. 5500 July 23, 1979 – “In summary, it is my opinion that a city council may refuse to disclose to the public the applications of candidates for public employment, … ”
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    Applications for city manager positions are not exempt from disclosure.
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    City officials are choosing to deny the public the opportunity of knowing whether the city council had chosen the best candidate for city manager based on an obsolete Attorney General Opinion.
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    Michigan Supreme Court July 27, 2000 Herald Co v City of Bay City:
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    —We granted leave in this case to address the application of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA) in the context of the municipal hiring process. We conclude that Bay City violated the FOIA when it refused to disclose public records concerning final candidates for the position of Bay City Fire Chief, because the requested records were not within any exemption under the FOIA
    -
    —The FOIA provides, in § 13, several exemptions which, if applicable, permit a public body to deny a request for disclosure of public records. On its express terms, the FOIA is a prodisclosure statute, and the exemptions stated in § 13 are narrowly construed.
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    At least in this instance city officials are attempting to legitimize their actions, unlike:
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    City officials’ FELONY Misconduct documented on the web, search: Perpetual Confusion Mt. Pleasant, Autonomous Bureaucracy or Regulations Optional; intentional breach of positive statutory duty, oath of office and ethics policy: More Invasive, Higher Cost.

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