Last-Minute Special Meeting Could Jeopardize Candidate Forum
Plymouth Township Board of Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday — days before League of Women Voters' scheduled candidate forum — for vote on meeting room use policy
The Plymouth Township Board of Trustees posted notice at about 4:15 p.m. Wednesday of a special meeting 7 p.m. Thursday at Plymouth Township Hall.
On the meeting agenda, the only item of business is the meeting room use policy, posted under "new business," which would limit use of the room to homeowner associations and nonprofit organizations.
This move, if approved and put into effect immediately, could cancel a July 16 candidate forum by the League of Women Voters of Northwest Wayne County scheduled from 7-9 p.m. at the township hall.
Under the Open Meetings Act, a 24-hour lead time between posting a meeting and having a meeting is the shortest time permissible.
The timing of the meeting — and its posting — raised eyebrows amongst the League of Women Voters of Northwest Wayne County.
"We did not know it was happening until it got posted," said Angela Ryan, the nonpartisan group's president, of the special meeting.
The board's next regularly scheduled July meeting is July 17 — the day after the scheduled forum.
Ryan said Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume had told Paula Bowman, a representative from the group, that the special meeting could be a possibility and relayed meeting minutes from 2008, in which the board unanimously deemed using the township hall's meeting rooms could be considered an in-kind campaign donation.
According to the meeting minutes, Township Attorney Tim Cronin said groups cannot use township resources for campaigning under the Campaign Finance Act. According to the minutes, Cronin indicated an organization could pay to rent a room, but not provide it for free.
Ryan said she feels the township is misinterpreting the law and said that under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act Section 169.257, 1d, the use proposed by the group would be permissible under state law.
As written, the law offers an exemption for "The use of a public facility owned or leased by, or on behalf of, a public body if any candidate or committee has an equal opportunity to use the public facility."
"Our goal is for the public to hear from all of the candidates for equal time, unedited and unbiased," Ryan said. She said the group recently had a similar forum in Northville in a municipal building and has another forum scheduled at the Canton Township Administration Building on July 19.
Ryan said the group still has its sights set on the Monday forum at Plymouth Township Hall and has not yet secured a backup venue if the measure passes Thursday and displaces the forum.
Stay tuned with Plymouth-Canton Patch for more on this story as it develops.