Outside Legal Counsel PLC

TC Resident and Grand Traverse Board Settle Open Meetings Lawsuit

For Immediate Release | Feb 26, 2014

Traverse City resident Ann Laurence and the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners today settled their lawsuit involving various allegations of violations of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.

The lawsuit, filed in late 2013 in the Grand Traverse County Circuit Court, alleged the Board of Commissioners scheduled a special public meeting to discuss the budget shortfall of approximately $1.5 million and then announced to a packed meeting room the Board was going to limit public comments to 15 minutes in total during the first public comment period. The complaint alleges various citizens were denied the opportunity to express their views and opinions to the board about the proposed budget decisions.

After filing the lawsuit, the two sides agreed, in lieu of determining legal liability, the Board would amend its meeting procedural rules. The new requirement mandates that "neither the chairperson nor the board shall end or conclude any public comment period until each and every member of the public desiring and/or requesting to make a public comment during a public comment period has a full and fair opportunity to do so."

The Board also agreed to pay attorney fees and costs related to the lawsuit.

“Grand Traverse residents are guaranteed the right to be heard when they attend a meeting of their board of commissioners,” states Philip L. Ellison, a open-government litigator from the law firm of Outside Legal Counsel PLC. “While the Board could have dragged out this matter, they agreed to reasonably ensure the rights of their constituents into the future.”

The parties signed a settlement agreement and placed a copy of the language to be added to the county board rules in the court record as part of the final order. A copy of the final order may be downloaded here.