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Sand Lake faces OMA lawsuit brought by ex-president and trustee

Michigan State Police says OMA allegations unfounded
By Judy Reed

A civil suit has been filed in Kent County’s 17th Circuit Court accusing the Village of Sand Lake and its council members of violating the Open Meetings Act and Whistleblower Protection Act.
The Michigan State Police, however, said the allegations about violating the OMA are unfounded.
The suit was filed in February by Rachel Gokey and Tracy Quinlan. Gokey is a current council member and was recently terminated from her dual position as the Village clerk/treasurer. Quinlan was the former Village president, zoning administrator, and code enforcer. She lost the presidential position in the November election to Nile Hayden, and then was recently terminated by the council from her other employment with the Village.
The Sand Lake Village Council approved contracts with the two in September of 2020. However, other than Gokey and Councilor Marcia Helton, the Village Council is a totally different council than those that approved the contracts. When the election was over, there were five new people elected to the Village council.
The crux of the lawsuit is that members of the new council—President Nile Hayden (now resigned due to health reasons), now President Mollie Doerr, President pro tem Kevin Wright, and trustees Stacy Rudicil, Marcia Helton and Kim McNees—met in private several times to discuss Village business—such as the firing of Gokey and Quinlan—which is a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
Gokey and Quinlan state in the suit that they “became aware of multiple apparent gatherings” and then asked the Michigan State Police to investigate the matter. The suit alleges that when a MSP trooper went to Hayden’s house to interview him about the matter, Hayden forgot to deactivate the automatic speakerphone he has installed for health reasons that is triggered by the doorbell, and the entire conversation was overheard by Gokey on an automatic phone call she received from him. During that conversation, Hayden allegedly “implicitly or explicitly admitted the truth of the assertions that he had met with Council Members in violation of the OMA.” He also wanted to know the identity of the person that told him.
The Post checked with the Michigan State Police to see if this was true, and if so, if any state or county charges will be sought. “I contacted Tpr. Fisher and he did investigate a complaint of a possible violation of the open meetings act,” said Spl/Lt. Michelle Robinson. “The investigation was closed as unfounded.”
The plaintiffs are also saying their contracts were breached, and that they reported violations of the OMA in good faith and then were terminated, at least in part, because of it. They are asking to be reinstated, and be awarded economic and compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, etc.
Under their attorney’s advice, the Village of Sand Lake is not commenting on the allegations at this time.

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