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Tag Archive | "special meeting"

Councilors file lawsuit over closed session


 

City calls special meeting for Thursday Oct. 30

Two Cedar Springs City Council members and a city resident are suing the Cedar Springs City Council over what they believe to be an Open Meetings Act violation. And now the City of Cedar Springs has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday evening, October 30, at 7 p.m. at City Hall to consider whether to rescind the motion that started the whole thing.

City Council members Bob Truesdale and Dan Clark, and resident Mark Laws, filed the suit October 7. 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. 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 alleges 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.

The Council had also not done a formal evaluation on the City Manager. Truesdale said it was based on an evaluation that he had put together as Mayor after Taylor had been here only a short time. Two of the present Council members were not on the Council at the time so had no input.

Council member Clark said a lawsuit wouldn’t be his first choice. “I have tried to reach out to the Council and to Thad  (Taylor) about the way we handle things related to the OMA,” he explained. “We have not aligned ourselves at all with the attorney general handbook on the OMA. Although I’ve encouraged the Council to align ourselves with it, they didn’t take any action. A major part of my job is to represent the citizens. So when a major part of the Council does something I feel is wrong, after talking with them, what are we left with to do? It’s an attention-getter.”

He said that the procedure used was irresponsible, careless, and unprofessional. “I feel like we can do better than that,” he remarked.

Truesdale feels the same way. “We saw it was something that needed to be addressed to prohibit illegal closed session of Council,” he explained. “I feel that we are the laughingstock of the surrounding communities, and we can do better. We should be a model.”

The City has scheduled a special meeting of the Cedar Springs City Council on Thursday October 30, to “consider a motion to rescind the motion to adjourn to executive/closed session as described in the minutes of the August 21, 2014 meeting (Item No. 11) and to affirm, approve, reenact and ratify the Employment agreement between Thad Taylor and the City of Cedar Springs dated September 10, 2014.” The Post called and left messages for Acting City Manager/Clerk Linda Christensen both Tuesday and Wednesday for clarification, but did not get a return call before press time. The special meeting will include a public hearing, Council deliberations, and a decision.

Mayor ProTem Patty Troost told the Post that while she didn’t think they did anything illegal, the meeting would allow them to discuss and discover whether they had done something wrong.

Truesdale feels the meeting was called to circumvent the pending lawsuit. He doesn’t want to see the City Manager’s contract reaffirmed. He says that one reason is because of the amount of money they would be giving Taylor if he were terminated: six months severance totaling over $35,000. “It just doesn’t sound like good business practice to me,” he said.

The contract does not allow severance, however, if he is terminated for reasons such as fraud, impropriety, dishonesty, neglect of duty, and violations of the law, and several other reasons.

Truesdale said he hopes people will turn out to voice their opinion. “Unless you attend this meeting and provide your support for wanting city leaders of higher integrity, these shenanigans will continue to happen,” he said.

 

 

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Mayor calls special meeting


 

Cedar Springs Mayor Mark Fankauser has called a special meeting to hear complaints against a public officer.

The decision was made on Friday, November 22, sometime after 5 p.m. to hold the meeting on Monday, November 25. A notice was posted, on the bulletin board inside of City Hall, but there was a question as to whether people could actually see the notice through the doors, and so the meeting for November 25 was cancelled. Under the Michigan open meetings act, a public notice must be given within 18 hours of the special meeting, and it must be accessible.

The meeting has since been rescheduled for Monday, December 2 at 7 p.m.

The Post was unable to contact Mayor Fankhauser or Mayor Pro-Tem Patricia Troost about the reason for the meeting or the scope of the complaints. However, it is believed to be about Councilmember and former mayor Bob Truesdale. Truesdale said that Fankhauser called him Friday, and set up a meeting to discuss some issues with him, but arrived with Mayor Pro-Tem Patty Troost, so Truesdale refused to meet with him. “I only agreed to meet with him one on one,” said Truesdale.

The complaints may be in regard to a personal letter that Truesdale wrote to Troost, in which he expressed his disappointment in some of her recent actions during a city council meeting, which he interpreted as being too friendly with certain members of the city staff. “There is too much friendly banter—too much ‘palsy walsy’ going on. We have serious issues at hand. I felt she would be one of four of us to stand up for change,” he explained.

Troost also voted for Fankhauser to be Mayor, which was disappointing to Truesdale. While he knew he might not be mayor this year and that was ok, he said he was disappointed in the way the vote for Mayor was handled. He took issue with the fact that Fankhauser was nominated with no discussion—as if it had already been discussed and decided on among several of the members. “I felt they kept me in the dark about that,” he said.

Truesdale said that if he had it to do over again, he would have handled things differently. “I would not have written the letter,” he said. “I would’ve contacted her personally. I am sorry I didn’t do that. I overreacted, but have concerns about city business that need to be addressed.”

Truesdale says he has been frustrated over the treatment of elderly members of the community by certain city staff, which is one of the areas he wants changed. He said many of the people who come to him with complaints are afraid to take them to City Hall for fear of retaliation. “I may have been overly aggressive but people need an advocate. My heart goes out to those who have been verbally abused by city employees. I’ll stop pushing when that goes away.”

In the meantime, Truesdale said he will reach out to both Troost and Fankhauser, and try to talk to them one on one before Monday’s meeting.

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