Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Cottrellville Township's Squashing Public Participation Ruled Illegal

For Immediate Release | Nov 04, 2013

The St. Clair County Circuit Court ruled today that the actions of Cottrellville Township and its supervisor, Kelly Ann Lisco, violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act numerous times and left open the question of whether she is personally liable for such actions.

At the nearly one hour hearing, the attorney for the township and attorney for the plaintiffs argued whether Lisco's actions of cutting short the presentations of Trustee Michael Zoran, and two local residents Kyle Sunday and Austin Adams during the public comments portion of the township's May 8, 2013 board meeting violates one of Michigan's sunshine laws.

After arguments, Judge Michael West ruled in favor of Zoran, Sunday and Adams, finding that Lisco, on behalf of the township, improperly ended their public addresses to the township board in violation of township policy and, by extension, the Open Meetings Act. The court also awarded Zoran, Sunday and Adams their attorney fees and costs in an amount to be determined.

"The Open Meetings Act is a law designed to give political access to local political leaders and decision-makers," states Philip L. Ellison of Outside Legal Counsel, attorney for Zoran, Sunday, and Adams. "Ending public comments early chills public participation with the very public officials who are elected to serve their communities."

At the May 2013 board meeting, Lisco interrupted and cut short public statements by Zoran, Sunday, and Adams after the topic turn to Lisco's then-pending criminal charges in the St. Clair County District Court. Lisco ended public comments of certain individuals citing Adams for failing to publicly provide his home address. Sunday's public comment was ended after speaking about Lisco's then upcoming court date and his support for Zoran. In addition, Lisco also prematurely ended Zoran's public comments about alleged problems with certain purchasing decisions and notices.

In addition to ruling in favor of Zoran, Sunday, and Adams, the Circuit Court also permitted the attorneys additional time to determine whether Lisco herself is personally liable under the Open Meetings Act as well as whether she is improperly holding the office of supervisor after allegedly moving out of Cottrellville Township in early 2013.

The Circuit Court has scheduled a court conference on December 11 to set deadlines for the remainder of the case.