CMDA attorney Andrew Brege participated in the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority’s (MMRMA) Risk Management Workshop recently held in Lansing, MI. MMRMA members from throughout the state attended the conference. Mr. Brege gave a presentation to a well-attended group on Public Meetings: Working with the Public and Boards to Avoid Lawsuits.
The presentation concentrated on the Open Meetings Act (OMA). Ms. Husband and Mr. Brege explained that the Act requires all members of governing body with decision-making authority to conduct their business at a properly noticed, open meeting. At an open meeting, members of the public have the right to speak and make comments, subject to reasonable regulation. For example, the public body may establish time limits for individual speakers.
Additionally, members of a governing body should not exchange information or debate a topic in the form on e-mails or text messages; as such communications could be considered a violation of the OMA. Even if the e-mails are not relevant to the public issues being considered, e-mails sent between members could still be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr. Brege also explained the open carry rules in public meetings and that a local governmental unit cannot restrict the carrying of firearms on its property, unless specifically allowed to do so under state law.
A public body that violates that OMA may be subject to money damages, including attorney fees, as well as possible injunctive relief. An individual board member that violates the OMA may be subject to both civil fines and criminal prosecution.
If you or your governmental entity is interested in more information, or a similar presentation, please contact Mr. Brege at (616) 975-7470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.