Monday, June 29, 2015

Bridgeport School Board Meetings And The Michigan Open Meetings Act

There was a Bridgeport School Board Personnel Committee Meeting held on June 1st, 2015 and there had been no public notice posted prior to this meeting being held.  According to the OMA, "a meeting of a public body cannot be held unless public notice is given consistent with the OMA".  School Boards and their standing committees, which the personnel committee is,  are considered "public bodies" under the OMA.  The OMA states that there are penalties for OMA violations, "a public official who "intentionally violates" the OMA may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and may be personally liable for actual and exemplary damages of not more than $500 for a single meeting"
You can view the Michigan Open Meetings Act here -

There have been notices posted for all the other school board committee meetings before and after this personnel meeting on June 1st.  It is my understanding that the decision was made by board member Marti Sageman, who is also the Chairman of the Personnel Committee, that no notice be posted for this meeting based on an opinion that was given by Brad Banasik, legal counsel at the Michigan Association Of School Boards organization.  Marti Sageman had contacted him with her concerns about the meetings and the OMA.  She has shown time and time again her disdain for my video camera being allowed into the meetings and them then being posted on YouTube.
She states right in the June 1st meeting her feelings about YouTube.  You can view the meeting here -

I have obtained the email from Brad Banasik, through the Freedom Of Information Act, concerning his opinion on the meetings and the OMA.  In reading the email, it seems to mainly focus on what meetings would not be subject to the OMA; but in the second paragraph he quotes from the Attorney General's opinion "that a meeting of a standing committee of a county board of commissioners, composed of less that a quorum of the full board, is subject to the OMA when the committee is effectively authorized to determine what items of county business are referred for action by the full board".  That is exactly what the school boards standing committees such as the personnel committee do, they "determine what items of county (here school board) business are referred for action by the full board".

I have questions after reading this email.  Why did Marti Sageman first contact Mr. Banasik about the meetings and the OMA; was it just to try and find a way to keep my video camera and Mr. Rhines out of the meetings?   Did she just miss the Attorney General's opinion in the second paragraph, or did she not understand it, or did she "intentionally ignore" it?  If she intentionally ignored it, then would that be considered a "intentional violation" of the OMA?  If she truly believed that the Personnel Committee Meeting on June 1st did not need to be posted or open to the public, why did she not try to have me removed from that meeting?   That makes me think she knew that to do so would have been in clear violation of the OMA.
In the School Boards own bylaws, it states that "All meetings for the conduct of the affairs of and the transaction of business by the Board, including committee and subcommittee meetings shall be open to the public.  Broadcasting and taping of the public Board  shall be subject to the following rules..."  Is this another policy she just doesn't understand or willfully ignores?
Maybe she is just ignorant of the purpose of the standing committees and their role, of the rules concerning them, and if so, why is she the Chairman of the Personnel Committee?  Actually why is she still even on the school board when she doesn't seem to be aware of the laws and even the school boards own bylaws concerning the rules, roles and behavior governing school board members?  Maybe she is aware of them but chooses to ignore them? Some of her actions are in clear violation of the boards own bylaws, but she just continues on her merry way doing whatever she wants.

You can view the Bridgeport School Board of Education site and view the "Board of Education Policies" where you can read their statement that one of their goals is "To conduct Board business openly, soliciting and encouraging broad-based involvement in the Board's decision-making processes by the public, students, and staff". Also their policies concerning the use of recording devices in their meetings.

I have posted here the email from Brad Banasik to Marti Sageman.  Click on the photo's to see a larger copy of them.

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