By Judy Reed
The attorney for the city of Cedar Springs has recommended that the question of whether newly-elected city trustee Pamela Conley can serve on both city council and the local school board should be turned over to the Kent County prosecutors office to investigate.
Last Thursday, November 12, the Cedar Springs City Council met for their regular monthly board meeting. They swore in incumbent Charlie Watson, and then before swearing in Conley, Jeffrey Sluggett, of Law Weathers, gave his opinion to council on why he felt that Conley sitting on the two public boards constituted a breach of public duty, under the Michigan Incompatible Offices Act. He said that a long list of attorney general opinions have ruled that a trustee may not sit on both boards when entities have contracts with each other.
“There is a long list of agreements or contracts that the city and school have with each other,” noted Sluggett. He listed some examples such as the football field at Morley Park (Skinner Field), the collection of school taxes, the crossing guard, parks and rec programs, and the fact that the city administers school elections.
“The council member can be sworn in, but it is our opinion it would create a breach,” said Sluggett. “The option we recommend is to turn it over to the prosecuting attorney and let them conduct an investigation. It’s up to the school board whether she vacates the school board seat.”
Conley was then sworn in to city council.
According to Cedar Springs City Manager Christine Burns, Sluggett’s recommendation of turning it over to the prosecutor was a surprise to her. “That was the first I’d heard of it,” she said. Burns told the Post that they are now working with Sluggett on how to proceed.
Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Ron McDermed said that they have contacted the school’s attorney for an opinion on the matter, and asked to have it before Monday’s school board meeting.