Emergency Manager Law, Highland Park, Rick Snyder — February 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Michigan GOP rebuked by TWO rulings by the SAME judge. Highland Park Emgcy Mgr may be out of a job.


Take that! And THAT!

Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette is on a roll. Yesterday he delivered two rulings that set Michigan Republicans back on their heels.

First, he ruled that an obscene and blatant power grab by Oakland County Republicans is unconstitutional.

An Ingham County judge on Wednesday struck down a controversial state law that changed the way Oakland County’s commissioner districts are drawn.

Judge William Collette said the law was unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs hailed the striking down of what they described as a “Republican power grab.” Lawyers for Gov. Rick Snyder, a defendant, said an appeal is likely.

Collette ruled the law, Public Act 280, should have received a two-thirds majority vote because it dealt with a local matter; violated the Headlee Amendment against unfunded mandates, and impinged on the rights of county voters to petition for judicial review of their reapportionment plan.

The law was signed by Snyder in December after the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected a GOP challenge to a redistricting plan drawn up by a Democratic-controlled Oakland County Apportionment Commission.

It reduced the commission from 25 to 21 members and turned redistricting over to the Republican-controlled county commission.

I wrote about this travesty back in January.

The same day, Judge Collette ruled private meetings of the Financial Emergency Review Teams looking into the finances of the City of Detroit and the Highland Park School District violated the Open Meetings Act. This means that these groups will need to begin again.

A judge has ruled that state-appointed review teams looking into the finances of the city if Detroit and the Highland Park school district broke Michigan’s open meetings law. The judge says review teams that can recommend state takeovers of local governments and school districts are public bodies that must operate in the public eye.

The ruling by Judge William Collette says the state needs to re-launch its review of the Highland Park school district, and do so in public. But there are no immediate plans to remove the state-appointed emergency manager who was placed in charge of the district two and a half weeks ago. The ruling also says future meetings of the Detroit review team – which has yet to make a recommendation — must take place in public.

The lawsuit was filed by Highland Park school board member Robert Davis.

“This is a monumental victory for democracy,” Davis said.

In the case of Highland Park Schools, that means that Emergency Manager Jack Martin may not legally actually be the Emergency Manager.

Governor Rick Snyder says “poppycock” (not a direct quote.) From a statement released by his office yesterday:

The Department of Treasury and the administration are closely reviewing today’s ruling and consulting with the Attorney General to determine appropriate next steps that will help ensure the fiscal and academic health and well-being of our communities and schools.

At this time, we do not believe the ruling affects the appointment of Jack Martin as Emergency Manager for Highland Park Schools.

As for Highland Park Schools, our top priority has been, and will remain, providing students in the district with a quality education. They need and deserve every opportunity to succeed.

The Highland Park School District is in a severe fiscal crisis that only will further jeopardize the district’s students and families and get worse without continued state support and assistance. The district has already needed two advances in State Aid to avoid payless paydays and the Michigan Department of Education expects yet another request for additional hardship funding.

Where the City of Detroit review is concerned, the financial review team’s work will continue in accordance with the Open Meetings Act.

I’m beginning to really like Judge Collette.