Green Charter Township Supervisor Jim Chapman appeared to violate the Open Meetings Act March 14 when he limited public comment to two 20-minute periods during a township, which barred some attendees from speaking about concerns related to a communist Chinese company Chapman and local leaders are trying to bring to the area.
The Midwesterner broadcast the full meeting and captured the times Chapman made reference to the cap on public comments:
Green Township supervisor Jim Chapman appeared to violate the MI Open Meetings Act on 3/14/23 when he capped public comment at two 20-minute periods, barring some from speaking.
Residents attended to voice opposition to a communist Chinese company seeking to locate in the area. pic.twitter.com/89oq5leP0f
— The Midwesterner (@Th_Midwesterner) March 20, 2023
The Michigan attorney general publishes a guidebook and the Open Meetings Act, and has a section specifically about public comments:
A public body may adopt a rule imposing individual time limits for members of the public addressing the public body. In order to carry out its responsibilities, the board can also consider establishing rules allowing the chairperson to encourage groups to designate one or more individuals to speak on their behalf to avoid cumulative comments. But a rule limiting the period of public comment may not be applied in a manner that denies a person the right to address the public body, such as by limiting all public comment to a half-hour period.
At the outset of the meeting, Chapman declared speakers would be given three minutes, which is allowed, according to the AG’s guidelines.
The meeting grew contentious when Chapman ended the second public comment period. One woman began making remarks and Chapman angrily cut her off.
Watch the full meeting here:
Morley resident Mary Englesman filed a complaint with Attorney General Dana Nessel, arguing Chapman violated the Open Meetings Act with his policy.
“The 125 people sat quietly,” Englesman said in the complaint, according to a copy reviewed by The Midwesterner. “During the two listed public time allotments approximately 15-20 people, chosen by Chairman Jim Chapman, spoke using their 3-minute slots. Many more were denied their chance to speak when Chairman Chapman announced the time for public comments was over.
“Several people lously said OMA violation. Chairman Chapman publicly referred to the township policy limiting comments unless the board agreed and subsequent vote. Chapman turned, asked the trustees if they wanted to extend public comment time. They declined. Public was asked to leave. Chapman stated they needed to finish their financial business,” Englesman wrote.