Court ruling is a victory for Highland Park activist, other Public Act 4 opponents

Feb 6, 2012

An Ingham County Court Judge has ruled that the state review team looking at Detroit’s finances must meet in public.

The ruling is a victory for opponents of Public Act 4, the state law that strengthens the powers of emergency managers in fiscally-distressed cities.

The review team, led by State Treasurer Andy Dillon, is going through the review process that could lead to Governor Snyder appoint an emergency manager in Detroit.

It’s also a victory for Robert Davis, the Highland Park school board member and union activist who filed the lawsuit just last week.

Davis argued that the state review process preceding the appointment of an emergency manager violated the Open Meetings Act, because the review team meets behind closed doors.

Ingham County Judge William Collette acted quickly, and ruled in Davis’s favor. Davis insists the law is clear that such meetings must the open to the public, and says he “applauds and commends” the decision.

“It was truly a victory for democracy, and for the people of the state of Michigan,” Davis said. “Because the doors of the government should always be open.”

The State Department of Treasury issued a statement on the ruling Monday evening:

"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.

Today’s injunction does not stop the review team process, it simply means that review team meetings must be open, unless or until the court rules otherwise.

We are reviewing the injunction and will consult with the Attorney General to determine the appropriate course of action."

Judge Collette is scheduled to rule next week on the extent to which the Detroit review team has violated the Open Meetings Act—a ruling that could jeopardize whatever work they’ve done up to this point.

Collette will also rule on a similar suit Davis filed that involves the Highland Park Public Schools. Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager for the district late last month.