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jct74
05-31-2014, 03:38 AM
McMillin measures strengthen Open Meetings Act, require greater transparency

May 27, 2014

Michigan local governments could no longer have closed door meetings on potential litigation under legislation overwhelmingly approved by the Michigan House that strengthens the state’s Open Meetings Act (OMA) and ensures local elected officials adhere to the OMA.

State Rep. Tom McMillin, a champion of open government and greater transparency, sponsored House Bills 5193-94 to create state law that mirrors two recent state court cases that make local governments more transparent. Under the OMA, local governments can generally have closed door meetings on “pending” litigation. But some local municipalities interpret that to mean anticipated or possible litigation. The Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that local governments could go into closed session for ongoing litigation only.

“The Open Meetings Act exists to require all governments to be as transparent as possible, and local elected officials will no longer be able to go into closed session to discuss phantom litigation or ‘what-ifs’ under these important reform measures,” said McMillin, R-Rochester Hills. “The bills are a needed fix to ensure greater transparency and more open government. We’re also holding local elected officials accountable if they break the rules.”

HB 5193 clarifies that the “pending litigation” exception to the Open Meetings Act does not apply to a meeting in connection with “anticipated litigation.” HB 5194 clarifies that an intentional violation of the Open Meeting Act cannot be remedied by the public body at issue reconvening and reenacting a decision in an open meeting. Public officials who intentionally violate the OMA would be civilly and criminally liable, regardless of whether they reconvene.

McMillin introduced the measures after hearing concerns from Michigan Coalition for Open Government officials, who expressed a need for these legislative initiatives based on experiences at the local level.

The bills were sent over to the Senate last week.

http://gophouse.org/mcmillin-measures-strengthen-open-meetings-act-require-greater-transparency/