By TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — One council member and a resident believe the city council violated the state Open Meetings Act recently when it adopted the city’s anti-bullying policy during a closed session.
City officials went into closed session Sept. 24, to discuss the anti-bullying policy — centered on elected city officials. The officials said they then reopened the meeting to vote to accept the policy, but one of two residents who waited out the closed session said the meeting wasn’t reopened.
Resident Ray Magusin said the doors to council chambers didn’t reopen after at least a 30-minute wait.
Magusin said not one council member opened the door to return to the public meeting, so the public was unable to hear the vote after waiting through the closed session.
The Open Meetings Act prevents city councils from making public decisions in closed sessions. By not reopening the door, as Magusin claims, the council was still in closed session.
City attorney Joe Corvaia said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting that after the closed session, the hallway was checked for any waiting citizens. Yet, near the end of the meeting he said the council will make sure such a violation “never occurs again.”
That statement caused the gasp from at least two citizens in the audience, including resident Nancy Simmonds, who said from her seat that the attorney said there was no violation and then said there was.
“This was a clear violation of the open meetings act,” said Councilman Dennis Hayes regarding the handling of reopening the meeting. “All public decision making should be made in public.”
Hayes said he was exempt from the first five minutes of the closed session, saying Corvaia asked him to excuse himself from the meeting but then after, he was invited in by the rest of the council.
Hayes, who feels the policy was directed at him, took part in the unanimous vote adopting the anti-bullying policy.
“I didn’t want to be viewed as I was for bullying,” he said justifying his yes vote.
City Administrator Karen Folks said it isn’t about discipline if someone is found guilty of bullying.
“It is about council members covering and governing their own conduct,” Folks said after the Tuesday meeting. “It’s about them conducting themselves with conduct appropriate to a business environment.
“We want (bullying) to be at a minimum. It’s not about discipline, it’s about stopping the behavior.”
“An anti-bullying policy in my mind is really being a bully,” Magusin said Tuesday. “Really, you are breaking your own bullying law.
“I would really like to have someone look into the anti bullying law.”
Corvaia did not return calls for comment by press time.
(Tereasa Nims can be reached at [email protected])