Michigan Judge Nixes Decisions of Emergency Review Team

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Review teams looking at financial takeover in the city of Detroit and in Highland Park Public Schools have been found in violation of Michigan's open meetings law, says an Ingham County Circuit Court judge.

The Associated Press reported that in view of the judge's ruling, the review team's decisions are invalid. too. This throws the appointment of Jack Martin as emergency manager for Highland Park schools into question. Here are details on the evolving debate over Michigan's emergency manager law.

* Highland Park schools became the sixth Michigan entity and second school district after Detroit Public Schools to get an emergency manager. In January, says MLive. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Martin, a corporate CPA and former CFO for the U.S. Department of Education, to the financially struggling school system.

* According to the World Socialist Web, Martin's first act as emergency manager was to close Barber School, one of only three remaining schools in Highland Park, Mich. Martin is a big supporter of privatizing education and opening schools up to for-profit ventures.

* Robert Davis, a school board member in Highland Park, filed the lawsuit earlier in February, says Click on Detroit. The lawsuit questioned state Treasurer Andy Dillon for conducting the financial review committee meetings behind closed doors. Davis, a union activist, says he's suing in hopes of getting Michigan's emergency manager law completely overturned.

* At the time the lawsuit was filed, Gov. Snyder's office said that emergency manager review committees weren't subject to Michigan's Open Meetings Act. They said they've acted in accordance with the law.

* According to Judge William Collette who heard the case, that's not so. The review meetings are in violation of Act 267 of 1976, the Open Meetings Act . He has placed an injunction against further meetings, reports the Detroit News. Also, Judge Collette says everything that was decided in those Highland Park meetings is not valid, including the recommendation to appoint Martin.

*According to Public Act 4, Gov. Snyder may only appoint an emergency manager after the review committee has met and recommended the appointment.

* Sara Wurfel, a spokesperson for Gov. Snyder's office, says the judge's ruling affects only the style of the review meetings, not the appointment of Martin.

* The City of Detroit is also in financial review and Judge Collette's ruling could seriously curtail the review and appointment process. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says that city's review committee will comply with the Open Meetings Act, but so far further meetings have been tabled since the judge barred them from meeting privately.

Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes about people, places, events and issues in her home state of "Pure Michigan."

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