web analytics

Categorized | News

State dismisses campaign finance suit against city

 

By Judy Reed

 

The Michigan Bureau of Elections decided last week that the City of Cedar Springs did not violate section 57 of the Campaign Finance Act when it used city funds to investigate whether a violation of the Open Meetings act had occurred.

The complaint, which was filed by Cedar Springs resident Mark Laws, was dismissed.

“I think this validates that the city was trying to do the right thing,” said City Manager Thad Taylor.

The saga began a year ago last July, when the Council voted to take then Mayor Bob Truesdale into closed session to hear complaints against him. According to Truesdale, he did not ask for the closed session, but was instead told by two of the council members that they were going to do this in closed session. Truesdale said he voted with the council to go into closed session, figuring he had nothing to hide, and was not aware of his rights to end it at any time.

Mark Laws then filed recall petitions against two of the council members—Patricia Troost and Ashley Bremmer—and the alleged Open Meetings violation is one of the reasons listed. (Those two council members were the only two he could recall at that time due to laws regarding where they were in their terms.)

The City Council then voted to conduct an investigation into whether a violation of the the Open Meetings Act had occurred, and directed City Manager Thad Taylor to proceed. When Taylor went to the Michigan State Police, he was told that the City needed to collect as much information as possible, submit it to the Kent County prosecutor, and then the State Police would investigate.

Taylor then began to have staff collect the information necessary. It was then that Laws filed a complaint with the State Bureau of Elections, asserting that any money spent by the City in connection with the investigation, was an effort by the City to show that the recall was baseless and to encourage voters to vote against the recall.

The City then stopped their investigation into the alleged Open Meetings Violation, since there was now a complaint on whether they had violated the Campaign Finance Act.

Attorney Michael Hodge filed an answer to the CFA complaint on behalf of the city and five of the council members, and asserted that the minutes of the City Council meetings (March 13 and April 3, 2014) reveal that the Cedar Springs City Council and their City Manager were concerned with the public allegation that they had broken a state law which imposed potential criminal penalties.

The decision letter sent to complainant Mark Laws by the state noted that “They [City] also had real and credible concerns that the public should know if they complied with the Open Meetings Act or not. Because the City Officers had legitimate legal concerns regarding the alleged Open Meetings Act violation, the Department finds that the evidence does not tend to show that the City Officers made an expenditure in regard to the recall election and your complaint is dismissed.”

Taylor was pleased with the decision. “It shows they recognized the city’s concern to the legality of its actions,” he said. “As Council discussed, they felt it was their responsibility to find out if they acted properly.”

Laws said he wasn’t surprised by the decision. “It’s unfortunate, but it is the way the process works,” he remarked. He explained that he didn’t know much about the Open Meetings Act, when the alleged violation happened, and missed his opportunity to file a lawsuit compelling compliance. Under the OMA, any action must be taken within either 30 or 60 days after the minutes become publically available, depending on what was being considered when the violation occurred.

“The violation of the Campaign Finance Act was the only thing I could do,” he explained. “I just thought someone else should have been doing the investigation.”

Taylor said that they are moving forward on the investigation on whether they violated the Open Meetings Act. He said that the State Police contacted him last week, after Mark Laws contacted them to prod the investigation along. “Our intent was not to seek them out until this was resolved. We were abiding by our decision, but that was taken out of our hands when Mr. Laws contacted them,” he explained. He said that the State Police investigator should be here this week.

 

 

This post was written by:

- who has written 14435 posts on Cedar Springs Post Newspaper.


Contact the author

Leave a Reply

*

code

advert
Kent Theatre
Advertising Rates Brochure
Cedar Car Co
Ensley Team Five Star Realty

Get the Cedar Springs Post in your mailbox for only $35.00 a year!