Grosse Pointe Shores Board of Review Adopts Rules Resolution
The Grosse Pointe Shores Board of Review adopted a resolution outlining ways in which they will abide by the open meetings act to ensure public access after a resident kicked out of a meeting filed a complaint with the state tax commission.
Grosse Pointe Shores resident Charles Leahy will withdraw his complaints with the Michigan Tax Commission and the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office regarding the Board of Review failing to hold open meetings after they adopted a resolution outlining exactly how they intend to follow the Michigan's Open Meetings Act.
Leahy announced his decision Tuesday to the Grosse Pointe Shores council, commending the city for addressing the matter quickly and correcting it.
The Board of Review is a committee that conducts the annual process in which homeowners can seek tax relief for a variety of reasons. Ultimately the decisions impact each of the cities fiscal budgets because any reductions the Board of Review approve reduce the amount of income for that particular city as well as funding to entities beyond the city.
The Shores Board of Review met in a special session last week that last only minutes during which they adopted a resolution outlining how the board will in the future follow the Open Meetings Act and ensure public access to all portions of the tax relief hearings.
Last month, Leahy informed council of the complaints he filed at the state and county level. He requested the city take the complaints seriously and fix the problem.
Leahy has lived in the Pointes for years, currently in the Shores, and has been attending Board of Review tax relief request hearings in the five cities since 2010 in an effort to ensure the commissioners are abiding by the open meetings act. His action has affected change to the process in Grosse Pointe Park, recently in Grosse Pointe Farms and now in Grosse Pointe Shores.
Farms City Manager Shane Reeside said Monday that one board member who Leahy pointed out was not appointed by the council was able to attend the hearings but not participate as a member.
The Farms also moved their Board of Review sessions into the council chambers/courtroom and out of a small conference room, Reeside said. The conference room is not obviously accessible to the public. Grosse Pointe Park instituted a similar change after Leahy complained last year about the space used there.
Both of the changes were recommendations by Leahy, who simply wants residents and members of the public to be able to attend the hearings. He believes attending the Board of Review session can be educational for a petitioner to learn more about the process.
"I'm happy the city resolved this problem on its own without supervision by Lansing," Leahy said Tuesday following the meeting. "It's truly a sign of good local government."
He has seen progress in each of the Pointes since he began regularly attending the meetings in 2010, he said, but challenges remain. Each of the Board of Reviews in all of the cities have a way of "ushering people out of the room" before deliberations on their case, he said, but they are entitled to stay for that portion of the meeting as well.
Shores Mayor Ted Kedzierski said he was happy with the outcome, describing it as a move to support "open and transparent government." He talked with Leahy after his announcement at the last council meeting about "what it would take" for Leahy to withdraw the complaints.
Each of the Board of Review members signed the resolution despite some initial belief that they could close the deliberation portion of the meeting as explained by commissioner Jan Pemberton at the last council meeting. Resistance to hold open meetings was voiced a year ago by the Board of Review Chairman John Lizza who chuckled while explaining to council how he kicked Leahy out of a meeting then because he didn't believe he should be a part of the meeting.
Kedzierski said he believes there was some confusion due to training at least one of the commissioner had. Shores Interim City Manager Mark Wollenweber said the commissioners also did a bit of their own independent investigation into whether the meetings should be open after Leahy filed his complaint with the state, leading to the agreement on the resolution.
The board had been advised by several officials, including the city's attorney Mark McInerney, that the entire meeting, including deliberations, should be open, but they repeatedly kicked Leahy out of the meeting prompting him to file a police report to document the violation.
None of the Board of Review members attended Tuesday's council meeting.