At the now-infamous TCAPS board meeting on October 11, board member Erica Moon Mohr began to shed light on back door discussions that seem to have something to do with ousting newly-installed district superintendent Ann Cardon.
As she spoke, board president Sue Kelly and district attorney Jeffrey Butler told Mohr to stop talking. They accused her of violating the Michigan Open Meetings Act. In their statements, they were downright threatening to Mohr. Here are a few snippets:
Kelly: You are talking about closed session. That is illegal, and you are to cease right now.
(Audience member: Let her talk!)
Kelly: Law enforcement is in the building.
Butler: Stand down…You need to stand down.
Butler: Trustee Mohr. You cannot disclose information from closed session. You are doing it openly. It is a violation of the law for you to continue do that…The statement that you just made was a direct comment on a content of a closed meeting. I heard it. Discontinue disclosing the information. I’m urging you to do that under penalty of the law.
Well…Cooley Law School must be so proud.
Butler tried very hard to bait Mohr by repeatedly asking Mohr what letter she was talking about. That sounded like an attempt to bait Mohr to talk about the letter. Mohr didn’t bite.
So Butler and Kelly are threatening Mohr with accusations of Open Meetings Act violations.
Someone asked on this cite the valid follow-up question: How is the Open Meetings Act enforced in Michigan? Do public officials ever go to jail for violating the Michigan Open Meetings Act?
The short answer is: The Open Meetings Act is enforced through civil actions. No, public officials do not ever go to jail for violating the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
The Michigan Open Meetings Act can be enforced by criminal or civil action. Yes, intentionally violating the Open Meetings Act is a misdemeanor. However, county prosecutors don’t run around putting local officials in jail when violations occur. I couldn’t find a single example of that ever happening.
Civil enforcement actions are more common, but even they are rare. Mostly they’re civil actions for injunctive relief to clarify whether a violation is occurring. They’re often initiated by a member of the public who doesn’t like what the board as a whole is doing. Here’s another example.
I couldn’t find a single example of a board president calling local law enforcement to have a fellow board member hauled off to the county jail for what was said at a meeting. There were allegations of Open Meetings Act violations in Peninsula Township only a few years ago, but the 13th Circuit Court quickly shut it down.
So, how is the Michigan Open Meetings Act enforced in Michigan? Answer: It’s not really. To the extent that it is enforced, it’s enforced civilly, and by citizens – not by an agenda-laden attorney for the very public body acting at the behest of a board president who is trying to hide student count fraud and who knows what else. So no, we don’t need to be taking up a commissary fund for Erica Moon Mohr. If the local prosecutor and courts were to play along with Butler and Kelly, it would be unprecedented.
Jeffrey Butler and Sue Kelly were making empty threats to service their own agenda. And nearly a week on now, we still don’t even know what that agenda is.