The JIM's lawsuit against the City of Jackson which alleges violations of the Open Meetings Act is moving forward. Not much is happening at this point in the litigation but the City has filed an amended answer to my complaint which was filed primarily to correct an understandable oversight in the answer filed by the attorney for the City.
In the original answer the City admitted the paragraph of the JIM's lawsuit that alleged that Laura Schlecte was a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan. I say this oversight was understandable because from the prospective of a lawyer I understand how this could have been easily overlooked. This allegation was contained in a section of the complaint that lawyers (including myself) typically just scan through since it is generally not entirely important to the case. However, in this case it was an important issue because the JIM alleged that Schlecte, an elected official who is required by law to be a resident of the City of Jackson, does not live in the City of Jackson. The actual residence of Schlecte has been an issue of concern to the residents of the City of Jackson long before the JIM commenced it's lawsuit against the City. I don't believe that the issue has ever been adequately addressed or resolved but hopefully it will be soon.
I also filed an amendment to my initial complaint which corrects some factual errors I made in my initial complaint and adds some additional factual allegations which primarily relate the conduct of council members Greer, Schlecte and Dobies before and after their secret meeting with Larry Schaffer which lead to the odd situation where the City paid him $64,000 to voluntarily resign.
After filing my amended complaint, I spent some time thinking about what I would actually like to see happen as a result of this lawsuit as one of the Plaintiffs and as an owner of the company that is the other Plaintiff. I spent a fair amount of time considering this and decided that I would like to see the following happen:
1. I would like the City to redo the meeting wherein they voted to approve the separation agreement with Larry Schaffer in public as required by the Open Meetings Act. This would allow the issue of the payment of $64,000 in severance pay to Mr. Schaffer and the reasons for his "resignation" to be discussed in public and provide the residents of the City to voice their opinions about this issue. This is how it should have been done in the first place.
2. I would like to see the City implement a feature on its website that would allow interested residents of the community to sign up for an email list and receive copies of notices for public meetings via email.
3. I would like to see all future notices of public meetings contain more information and meet the specific requirements of the OMA including a more detailed description of the nature of the issues to be discussed at the meeting so that members of the public can make an informed decision of whether or not to attend.
4. I would like the members of the City Council to receive some education and training regarding the requirements of the OMA and the ethical obligations of elected officials as provided for under state law and City ordinance.
5. I would like some money to compensate me for my time and the expenses I have incurred in filing this lawsuit.
That pretty well sums up what I would like to see happen.
If this case goes to trial and I am successful, a judge or jury could require the City to do some, but probably not all, of this. The City could also just agree to do this on its own and save the tax payers some money in the form of additional attorneys fees. However, the City Council doesn't seem to have a problem engaging in conduct that is likely to get them sued or spending Jackson taxpayer's hard earned tax dollars on legal fees so I won't hold my breath.
I bet most of us who pay taxes in this City could think of many more productive and valuable ways to spend our tax dollars and we should not forget this when it comes time to voice our opinion at the election booth the next time these folks are up for re-election. I can assure you that I will not forget and will do my best to remind the rest of the community.