The Almer Township Board of Trustees has rescheduled a public meeting for the second time in 2016 for violating the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
A special meeting originally planned for Monday will be held 6 p.m. today – an hour before the Almer Township Planning Commission meets – after the board realized it performed a procedural error in calling the session.
The purpose of Monday’s meeting was believed to award a contract to Spicer Engineering in connection with a $200 million wind turbine project planned for Almer, Ellington, and Fairgrove townships. A similar meeting was set for 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, in Ellington Township.
“I believe that this meeting was not properly noticed,” said Treasurer Patricia Witkovsky (seeking reelection in November and running unopposed) to the other board members.
Jim Miklovic, Almer Township supervisor, told The Advertiser that the meeting was called concerning a contract with Saginaw-based Spicer Engineering and another company, though he didn’t say what company or for what services.
Before the meeting reached that point, however, Witkovsky said the procedure to call the meeting was illegal.
“Do you believe in following the law?” Witkovsky asked Board Supervisor Jim Miklovic, who later said he did.
“It doesn’t follow the Charter Township Act (359 of 1947 section) 42.7, (subsection 2),” she added. “And so I feel that it’s in violation — it’s an illegal meeting and I recommend that we not continue with this meeting. There are certain protocol that you have to follow on charter township and I don’t think it was followed.”
The act requires a special meeting to be called by township clerk on the written notice of request by the supervisor or two members of the township board. A written notice must then be given to all township board members designating time, place and purpose of the meeting and should be served personally or left at the members’ residences, according to the township act excerpt.
Witkovsky said she thought something was wrong the Sunday before the meeting took place and asked if Miklovic served the meeting correctly. She said he assured her “it’s all taken care of.”
Township attorney Brian Garner asked if the notice for the special meeting had Clerk Peggy Reavey’s name at the bottom, based on the Act’s instructions. Reavey said it didn’t. All board members noted they had not been served personally.
“I didn’t know anything about it until (The Advertiser) heard it when I heard it,” said Reavey on the confusion of the protocol error Monday evening.
Reavey said she hopes it doesn’t happen again.
As The Advertiser reported March 16, the board was accused of violating the Michigan Open Meetings Act because notice of the meeting was not posted to the township’s website almertownship.org. The violation was presented by attorney Joshua Nolan who represents the Ellington-Almer Townships Concerned Citizens group.
“I want to congratulate Patty for doing the right thing — for being diligent and reviewing the way things are supposed to be done and having the courage to stand up and make sure we do things properly,” said Ellington Township resident Russell Speirs after the meeting.
During the “meeting” Reavey, Miklovic and Garner went outside into the parking lot to write up special meeting notice during an extended recess and presented the rescheduled time to the board and residents.
Since there was no formal meeting, there was no motion to adjourn and the original plan was never discussed.
“It didn’t get started,” Miklovic said afterward. “That’s just the way the business is so really, what can I say the meeting’s rescheduled and we’ll deal with it Wednesday.”
Attendee George Patullo said he thought Monday’s session showed something important about Almer Township meetings.
“At this point, obviously, the meeting was held without proper notification,” he said. “This township has had lots of that. All of our townships in that county have had lots of that — procedural errors. And when we can do it right, that’s what the concerned citizens want — things done right.” (Listen to the beginning of Monday’s meeting below. Story continues below audio clip.)
The Advertiser reported Saturday that this meeting and another at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Ellington Township would both concern plans to “consider a contract with Spicer Engineering.”
About a week earlier, Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources L.L.C. filed applications for special use permits for the Tuscola Wind III Wind Energy Center that calls for 52 turbines in Ellington, Almer and Fairgrove townships.
NextEra currently has two wind projects in the county including Tuscola Bay Wind in 2012 centrally located in Gilford Township and Tuscola II Wind Energy Park found in parts of Akron, Fairgrove, Gilford, and Juniata townships in 2013.
Concurrently, a petition with more than 200 signatures has been turned into Reavey that would put recent changes to the Almer Township wind ordinance to a township-wide vote. The signatures currently are being validated.
Debanina Seaton is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at [email protected]