Lawsuits Allege School Board Members Violated Open Meeting Act
December 16, 2021
By Jon King / firstname.lastname@example.org
A series of lawsuits have been filed against members of a local school board alleging they have been subverting the Open Meetings Act while developing policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
Three separate complaints were filed in Livingston County Circuit Court against Brighton Area Schools Board of Education President Roger Myers, Vice President Alicia Reid, Treasurer Angela Krebs and Trustee Laura Mitchell seeking an injunction to halt the activities of the Health, HR and Policy Committee, alleging they are in violation of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act by not being open to the public.
Krebs and Mitchell recently drafted a resolution, which was presented by Reid, attempting to temporarily require masks in the district amid high rates of COVID-19 in the community. It was voted down 4-3, with Myers joining those in opposing the resolution.
The lawsuits, filed by Jennifer Smith, Nicole Cullers and Susan Topoleski, were filed within ten minutes of each other on Friday, December 10th. All three woman are associated with, or members of, the Moms 4 Liberty group which has been outspoken at school board meetings in advocating against mask mandates, COVID testing or the quarantine of students identified as close contacts of infected individuals. In fact, at the November 22nd meeting of the board, during which quarantine protocols were discussed, Smith threatened the trustees they would either be recalled or, in her words, “We’re coming for you. Take it as a threat. Call the FBI. I don’t care. You’re all either going to be recalled or we’re all coming for you. That’s what’s happening.” Moms 4 Liberty also recently had restrictions placed on its Facebook page for violations of the social media company’s COVID misinformation policy.
The lawsuits claim that the three-person committee is subverting the Open Meetings Act by “implementing policy without granting the public access to these meetings”. However, the filings also acknowledge that a quorum of the seven-member board is four members. While the Open Meetings Act does require meetings to be accessible to the public, it also states that a meeting is defined as any gathering in which a quorum is present. Despite that, the suits claim the committee violates the quorum requirement.
However, an opinion from the Michigan Attorney General's Office would indicate otherwise. It states that, "The OMA does not apply to committees and subcommittees composed of less than a quorum of the full public body if they 'are merely advisory or only capable of making ‘recommendations concerning the exercise of governmental authority.’”
When asked about the lawsuit, Board President Roger Myers, who himself is an attorney, told WHMI; "This is a baseless lawsuit by the three plaintiffs who harbor unfounded animosity toward the four board members being sued. All of the lawsuits will be dismissed, but unfortunately getting to that point will result in a needless waste of taxpayer dollars and will take away our valuable time as board members that could otherwise be spent working to better the education and safety of our students."
The lawsuits were each assigned to different circuit court judges, with dates set well into 2022 to be heard.