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Open Meetings Act question/Michigan

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by newsguyone, Aug 16, 2006.

  1. MU_was_not_so_hard

    MU_was_not_so_hard Active Member

    Interesting. Most of the bars I hang out in close the blinds after hours. :D
    Seriously though, NGO, if the meetings are "set", wouldn't that by definition make them meetings? And I'm with Slappy. No. 1, start w/ the bar serving after hours. Secondly, request statements from any village/city/town/county/etc. credit cards that they may have access to. Find out if those non-business beers are being paid for by the tax-payers. Even if they aren't, watch 'em squirm.
    They have their loopholes; we have ours.
  2. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    if your newspaper had any money, this would be something fun to challenge in court. or if you have spare time as a long-term feature story it would be interesting to contact other state press associations to see if they also have this exemption for social outings. imho, it's impossible for most reasonable people to believe that official business never comes up at these gatherings.

    in any case, i think some people on this thread are missing the point. the goal of the open meeting law is to ensure that meetings are open (duh!). i couldn't find the text of the law online so i don't know what the penalty for violation is, but going forward i would think that the newspaper's goal in writing the story should be to force these meetings to be publicized as meetings -- not to stop them from meeting.
  3. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Here's the do's and don't under Michigan's Open Meetings Act.

  4. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    Penalties Under the Act:
    The first time a public official intentionally breaks the law, he or she can be punished by a maximum fine of $1,000. For a
    second offense within the same term of office, he or she can be fined up to $2,000, jailed for a maximum of one year or both.
    A public official who intentionally violates the act is also personally liable for actual and exemplary damages up to $500, plus
    court costs and attorney fees.
  5. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    fine. but dirk, you know the reason these acts exist are for the meetings to be open not because it's in society's interests to punish people who hold closed meetings. (it's a standard early-first-semester 1L public policy argument here.) it serves no one if the violators are punished and forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines, although i'm not saying they necessarily shouldn't be fined for one or two violations. it benefits everyone if the newspaper writes the story and all future gatherings, including social outings, are publicized.
  6. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    Leo, you're right that it is in the best interest of everyone for open meetings to be held. But based on newsguyone's posts, it sounds as if he is in a town that is run by the Good Ol Boys Club and that he is likely going to meet with resistance. The best way to end the closed meetings might not be public pressure, but the state Attorney General's office telling them to knock it off.
  7. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    i agree
  8. newsguyone

    newsguyone Member

    Thanks all,
    My plan at this point is to beat this horse dead until election time in November, and to make this an election issue (four of the seven seats are up).
    Anyone who wants to get elected will have to answer some form of the following question: Will you attend unposted meetings or "social gatherings" away from the village council table?

    The Yes or No answer will be in black and white. After three months of this issue shoved down their throat, my guess is that everyone will answer No.
    And if they show up to one of these meetings, well, we can call them liars in black and white.

    Like I said, it's a small town. A small, family owned newspaper. The publisher wants to do right by the OMA and protect the public's right to fair and open government.
    But we want to do it without jerking the chains of a lot of well connected people — including advertisers.

    Meanwhile, I've got a 20-page fall sports preview due in two days!
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