At tonight's Scottville City Commission meeting, a closed session was properly held by the commission to consider a settlement proposal offered by Ludington Torch founder and chief editor, Tom Rotta (aka XLFD, Xavier Luft) to close a nine-count lawsuit alleging multiple violations of state transparency laws involving the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act.
The twenty-page Summons and complaint served on the commission on August 2, 2021, delineated a pattern of contempt of the two laws that are the hallmarks of open government along with some other contentions that some real crimes had been committed by former Police Chief and Interim City Manager Matt Murphy. At the heart of the five FOIA counts was a pattern of improper delay and denial of FOIA requests made by Rotta. Among the four OMA violations was the improper posting of meetings, three instances where Rotta was unable to comment at remote Zoom meetings, and the unwarranted removal of Rotta from the first May meeting in 2021 for holding a small placard that reminded city officials of what part of the city charter they were violating.
After discussing the topic of settlement strategy for about 25 minutes, the meeting was reconvened and the six city commissioners present (Commissioner Rob Alway was absent, likely because he didn't feel like covering this development in the Mason County Press) voted unanimously to accept the terms of the settlement offered by Rotta who was representing himself in the prosecution of the case.
Like a boss, Rotta would follow up this settlement acceptance by berating the commission for failing to follow their charter and disenfranchise Scottville citizens by not allowing for public comment before the business of meetings is decided, segueing to chiding them for not being transparent by letting the citizens know what was contained in an ordinance up for first reading that night, and for not showing them the materials commissioners reviewed in choosing the new city attorney (which was Ludington's prior law firm, Mika Myers) when they chose them even when they were the high bidder.
A recap of the meeting will be forthcoming, along with the terms of settlement once it's finalized by the city's civil attorneys.
You hear that? You hear it?
The sound of the Scottville City Commision grinding their teeth down to nubs.
And all that time I thought it was a noisy coffeemaker.
To their credit, the clowncilors conducted themselves professionally this evening, it gives one hope that they can someday exorcise the demons within them and once again hold their heads high as city commissioners working openly and interactively with the public. One of them mentioned to me after the meeting and outside that they actually appreciated my comments at the end, and their hope was that they are able to one day get back to being able to have the public comment at the beginning and end of the meetings-- like the commission used to do until early 2021-- and share more information with the public.
I even met one of the city officials on the lawsuit at the local Meijer's today, expecting them to make some snarky comment about spending some of the money I received from the City (even though the finalization papers have yet to be filed), but they held their tongue.