Brighton community activist and frequent City Council critic Susan Backhaus is charging that three City Council members who attended meetings of a private pro-Headlee override group at the Brighton Chamber of Commerce building owe the chamber $450.

The pro-override group, which does not have a formal name, consists of several City Council members and others who are in favor of passage of the Headlee override issue that will be on the ballot in August. The reason Backhaus claims the three council members owe the money is a, quote, “running deal” she alleges exists between the two by which the city can hold meetings in a special room free of charge. But since the three meetings which took place were by a private entity, and not official city meetings, Backhaus claims the three council members should have to pay for the room for a charge of $150 per meeting.

However, Chamber President and CEO Pam McConeghy says Backhaus has it all wrong. McConeghy says it is up to her discretion as to whether to charge a group to use the room or not. She tells WHMI, in her words, “We have members who don’t pay and those who do…it depends on the needs of the group.” McConeghy then cited the Salvation Army as one example of a group which is not charged to use the meeting room. “(The chamber has) no special arrangement with the city, (and) we look at it as a community building.” McConeghy says.

City voters are being asked to override, or nullify, the Headlee Tax Limitation Amendment in the city. The amendment, passed by the Michigan legislature in 1978, limits tax increases to 5% or the rate of inflation — whichever is lower. City officials assert that the extra revenue is needed because streets have been deteriorating for many years but they don’t have the revenues to repair them or install new pavement. A “yes” vote on the date of the primary election on Aug. 7th would allow the city to levy up to 20 mills, the charter limit. (TT/JK)