Judge rules Michigan school board violated Open Meetings Act by muting parent in virtual meeting

Muskegon County Circuit Court Judge William Marietti has ruled in favor of a parent who sued the Mona Shores Board of Education and Stan Miller, the board’s president, for muting him during the public comment portion of a virtual meeting on Aug. 5, 2020.

As reported by MLive, Daniel Olson, who has two students in the district, was muted by Miller twice and prohibited from speaking. Olson had wanted to publicly speak out against board member Wesley Wilson over their 2018 larceny charge. Olson was demanding action be taken to remove him. While the board did censure Wilson and call for his resignation a week after the meeting, Wilson never resigned from the board and his term expires in December 2022.

Judge Marietti ruled that Miller and the school board violated the Open Meetings Act and Olson’s First Amendment rights by denying him the opportunity to speak during public comment, MLive reports.

However, Marietti found that Miller was acting in “mistaken good faith belief” and did not intentionally violate the law by telling Olson to submit a written statement about his concerns regarding the board member.

Both the school board and Miller have objected to the ruling but have not shared anything specific.

“We will review our options after a final order is entered,” Miller told MLive/The Muskegon Chronicle in an email on Thursday. “The objection we filed was to the plaintiff’s draft of a final order; the court is now considering that draft and our objection. The case is still pending, and we do not comment on pending litigation.”

The judge granted Olson’s request for injunctive relief and also ordered the board to pay for Olson’s legal fees, but denied Olson’s request for damages.

“I’m a taxpayer in the community,” Olson said. “I have kids in this school. And I want to make sure that the taxpayers in the community are protected. When somebody wants to speak regarding a matter of public concern, they have a constitutionally protected right to speak and a statutory right to speak.”



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