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City approves settlement of lawsuit


By Judy Reed


The Cedar Springs City Council approved a motion last Thursday to settle the civil lawsuit brought last fall over an alleged Open Meetings violation.

The lawsuit was brought by Council members Bob Truesdale, Dan Clark, and citizen Mark Laws. They allege the OMA violation occurred at the August 21 City Council meeting, when they went into closed session believing there was a written communication from the attorney to consider. Then Mayor Mark Fankhauser told the council during the workshop portion of the meeting that they needed to go into closed session because he had correspondence from the attorney, and it was added to the agenda that way. They went into closed session at the tail end of the meeting, and when they came out, they voted 4-3 to renew the contract of City Manager Thad Taylor.

The lawsuit alleged that there was no attorney correspondence considered.

Those who voted against the contract—Dan Clark, Jerry Hall, and Bob Truesdale—noted that they had not seen it before, and did not have time to digest it. And, in fact, said they did not know they were going to be voting on it that night.

According to several council members, it was based on reviews done a year earlier.

The Council later came back in a special meeting and rescinded the motion to go into closed session, but did not release any attorney correspondence. They also reaffirmed the City Manager contract.

According to City Manager Thad Taylor, terms of the settlement include:

The City will record all future open and closed meetings of the Council, and retain the recordings as required by law.

They will also pay for and hold training sessions for Council members on the Open Meetings Act and parliamentary procedure.

They are not admitting to a violation of the OMA, but they will acknowledge that there was a good faith dispute.

They will also pay the plaintiffs $3,500 towards legal expenses.

The Council approved the purchase of the video camera to record the meetings, for $298, which includes storage of the of recordings offsite in the cloud. Taylor said the intent is to make the open session recordings accessible to the public through their website. The camera will be permanently affixed to the wall, and they hope to have it installed by the next meeting.

Truesdale, who funded the lawsuit, will only see a portion of what he spent returned. “I don’t feel good about the money, but I do feel good about being in the place to promote right. Overall, I feel good to have been able to make a statement. I am not willing to sit idly by and watch that happen,” he said.

Prior to the lawsuit, the Post had expressed concern at a City Council meeting about the way the contract was decided, and cited a legal expert regarding the proper procedure, but received no official explanation or response from the Council on their actions.


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