Sometimes governing bodies risk public money in the hope of benefitting the public. And sometimes city governments use their power to take actions where their authority is questionable. Last Thursday I sat on the council trying to persuade my fellow council members to delay using public time and resources for what I considered a questionable purpose; an investigation into last July’s alleged Open Meetings Act violations. Admittedly, the intent of the council was not thoughtless foolishness nor has the amount spent so far been large. But, depending on the course of the investigation and decisions of the state prosecutor, spent public funds could grow significantly. Secondly, and of even greater concern, these uses of public resources may infringe on voting process integrity. Three members of council were willing to at least put off the investigation to allow time to better understand the City’s position.
We are currently gambling at the one-dollar table, where public resources are concerned. The voting process issues cannot be valued. They are connected to the recall petition. Many readers are aware of the current recall petition seeking to replace two of our current council members. The council is using public money to conduct an investigation to demonstrate innocence. This use of public money may be illegal. Rather than show restraint until we can be legally clear, the council is pushing ahead risking our integrity, the very item they say they are trying to protect.
Here are the three numbers on which the council can still gamble:
1. Delay investigation (low risk)
2. Continue investigation (high risk)
3. Cancel investigation (no risk)
My number is (3). I do not feel the investigation will lead to public confidence or satisfy all of the council members. However, if the council chooses (2), then I believe they must show responsibility by insuring the investigation is in no way violating the voting process. Would this additional time and information gathering cost more money? No, if the council will consult the attorney generals office for their opinion, yes if we go through our city attorney. Costs will also increase if the state prosecutor decides to proceed with the recall-connected investigation, number (2.)
I encourage council members and citizens to consider the most responsible course, not what might make us feel justified or avenged.
Please contact council member Dan Clark at 616-263-7172 if you want to receive more information about this issue:
a) Open Meetings Act quotes
b) Attorney General Kelley’s opinions on public money spent on recall-related activities
These comments and opinions do not represent the City of Cedar Springs nor the majority of council.
Dan Clark, Cedar Springs