Judge throws out Augusta Township Open Meetings Act lawsuit
A judge has thrown out an Open Meeting’s Act lawsuit brought by one half of the Augusta Township Board of Trustees against the other half.
Washtenaw County Court Judge Timothy Connors did not find that several members of the board violated the OMA by holding a short-notice special meeting to accept the resignation of the treasurer and appoint a new one in September.
The suit was brought by Supervisor Pete Hafler, Trustee Mike King, Trustee Dan Lula and former Supervisor and Trustee Kathy Jackson. They were asking that Connors invalidate Clerk Kathy Giszczak, Trustee Bill Tobler, Trustee Brian Shelby’s vote to accept the resignation of former treasurer. They were also asking a subsequent vote to appoint Susan Burek be invalidated.
Giszczak, Tobler, Sherbine and Shelby were present for a special meeting that was called on Thursday, Sept. 1 and scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2. None of the plaintiffs were present.
That was enough for the quorum necessary to hold the vote, and OMA laws require notice to be provided within 24 hours of the meeting.
The plaintiffs charged a number of wrongdoings in Sherbine’s resignation. Attorney Nik Lulgjuraj wrote in his compliant that Sherbine failed to tender her resignation to Hafler as she is required to do.
He said the defendants knew the plaintiffs would be unable to attend because of vacation plans and work schedules, and he alleged the stated purpose of the meeting on the notice, which said it was for a “Treasurer’s staffing report”, was intentionally misleading.
Lulgjuraj also wrote that there was no debate or discussion at the special meeting, which indicated the decision to accept Sherbine’s resignation and appoint Burek was predetermined.
Lulgjuraj alleged that the reason Sherbine was resigning was because of her role in firing former deputy treasurer Janice Blair. He said Giszczak admitted in a deposition for a wrongful termination lawsuit that she electronically eavesdropped on a conversation between Blair and Hafler, and that recording had been used against Blair in her firing.
Electronic eavesdropping is a felony punishable by five years in prison, though no charges were ever brought against Giszczak or Sherbine.
Sherbine previously told AnnArbor.com she was resigning because she is moving to Alabama to be with her family.
Connors disagreed that there was any violations of the OMA, though he admonished the board for their behavior.
“I’m gratified by the judge’s decision,” Tobler said. “We have maintained that we followed all the necessary rules and that we had notified (the plaintiffs) of the special meeting, and they chose not to come.”
Giszczak repeated her stance since the issue arose.
“They had a chance to participate at that special meeting and they didn’t show up,” she said.
The plaintiffs either declined to comment or were unable to be reached by AnnArbor.com.