Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Lawsuit Filed Over E-Mails and Parking Structure

12. August 2009 • Matt Hampel
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A lawsuit was filed yesterday against the City of Ann Arbor alleging that e-mail exchanges during the February 17, 2009 Council meeting violated the Open Meetings Act. It claims that the City did not provide all the e-mails on request, and made unauthorized deletions, violating the Freedom of Information Act. The focus of the suit is the proposed underground parking structure and City Council’s deliberations about it.

The plaintiffs are Herb David Guitar Studio; Kiki Properties, LLC; Jerusalem Garden; and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. The defendant is the City of Ann Arbor. This is a Washtenaw County Circuit Court Suit. Case number is 09-945 CZ. It was assigned to Judge Archie Brown.

The suit alleges that the construction of the parking structure will be a nuisance, damaging the nearby business owners. It also alleges that the vibrations, noise and dust of construction will be a trespass on their properties. It is also claimed that the construction of the parking structure violates the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.

The suit asks the Court to declare that the City approved the project in violation of the Open Meetings Act and that the nondisclosure of documents violated the Open Meetings Act. It also asks the Court to enjoin Council members from engaging in any further private e-mail discussions during public meetings regarding the project or its funding.

The suit asks for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the City from constructing the project until a comprehensive study of its environmental impacts and possible alternatives is made.

Our thanks to Dave Cahill for contributing this synopsis.

The filing

Thanks to The Ann Arbor Chronicle and Vivienne Armentrout for sending us this document

MEPA suit filed against the City of Ann Arbor



  1. Our government reporter Ryan Stanton wrote about the lawsuit today on AnnArbor.com.

    We’ll keep following it.


       —Stefanie Murray    Aug. 12 '09 - 10:23PM    #
  2. Stephanie,

    If the bonds have been sold and the project hasn’t been approved, won’t the city be out millions in fees if something goes wrong and no bids are accepted? Isn’t that a big part of this story—the city’s apparent attenpt to rush this through the process without any firm proposals or bids in place? Will this be an area a2.com will looking into?

    Does a2.com have any pending lawsuits over city documents or emails related to this matter?


       —alangoldsmith    Aug. 12 '09 - 10:48PM    #
  3. How many other City Council deals were cooked behind the scenes on laptops instead of in the light of day? Has anyone looked at the 601 Forest deal? There is way too much money around that project for there not to have been some laptop horsetrading.


       —bfranklin76    Aug. 12 '09 - 11:56PM    #
  4. The lawsuit also asks for a jury trial.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 13 '09 - 12:05AM    #
  5. The bonds have not been sold. According to the City Financial Manager, they won’t go out for bid until next week.


       —Sabra Briere    Aug. 13 '09 - 12:27AM    #
  6. Let me correct that — the SALE won’t close until next week. My error. Things can get lost when you only hear them instead of read them.


       —Sabra Briere    Aug. 13 '09 - 12:35AM    #
  7. Tom Crawford reported at the Aug. 6 council meeting that the bonds had gone out for bids and had received favorable bids, 5% taxable (which means they didn’t sell them as municipal nontaxable bonds, I think, with fewer restrictions) but the actual rate to the city is 3.9% because of a federal subsidy (Build America bonds).

    My understanding is that the bond sale closes on Aug. 19. The city is not required to accept any of the bids.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 13 '09 - 01:51AM    #
  8. One hopes the North Maple AND 601 Forest emails provide some insight into the mid-Council meeting laptop negotiations. Steve Kunselman has told the story repeatedly of seeing Leigh Greden send an email to Margie Teall telling her that she had to vote YES on the 601 North Forest project so he (Greden) could vote NO on the project (which he did). Higgins, Teall, Hieftje, Greden, Rapundalo, Lowenstein and Easthope were all nailed for counting votes via email by the Ann Arbor News piece on July 21st. Makes Kunselman’s story seem more credible.

    John Hieftje and his political pals Leigh Greden, Marcia Higgins, Carsten Hohnke, Margie Teall, Tony Derezinski, Sandi Smith, Steve Rapundalo and Chris Taylor have demonstrated quite clearly that they are singularly incapable of ethical conduct simply by sending those emails, not to mention skirting OMA laws. I think bfranklin is right on….follow the money.

    People are really angry. Having to spend tax dollars to defend against a lawsuit because the Hieftje Eight (several of whom are lawyers and KNEW they were breaking the law) conducted business in secret is gonna make people even more likely to want to extract political revenge. Hieftje and his buddies have been downright nasty, mean and threatening to those who’ve run against them, and disagreed with them politically.

    There’s gonna be some serious pay-back now. Hold on to your hats. I’ve heard that there is a local citizen group in touch with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. If Council members caught up in the scandal think belatedly coming up with a lame “ethics policy” on their own, and refraining from using laptops except under certain circumstances is gonna make this go away, they are dead wrong. Many of them are going to be dead meat, politically, before this is over.


       —UMGrad1234    Aug. 13 '09 - 02:00AM    #
  9. As a newspaper reporter several years ago in Salem, Oregon, I covered the city council. They had a computer available to the public on which they could view all e-mails between city councilors. This would be a relatively cheap and easy measure to increase transparency.


       —Dan Meisler    Aug. 13 '09 - 02:28AM    #
  10. [removed]
       —Blaine Coleman    Aug. 13 '09 - 02:41AM    #
  11. UMGrad: I think it might be wise to wait until the arguments [of the trial] — or at least until we can read the filing. Speaking of which, does anyone have a digital copy?


       —Matt Hampel    Aug. 13 '09 - 03:01AM    #
  12. Here is one. Thanks to David Cahill for doing hard legwork at the Court Clerk’s office and supplying the hard copy.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 13 '09 - 03:10AM    #
  13. What I have found interesting is that Hooper Hathaway is the law firm of record for the plaintiffs when that law firm’s website lists the City of Ann Arbor as one of its clients.


       —Mark Koroi    Aug. 13 '09 - 03:28AM    #
  14. Bruce Wallace of the Hooper Hathaway firm representing the plaintiffs has in the past been a registered contributor to political candidate committees for both Leigh Greden and Chris Easthope.


       —Mark Koroi    Aug. 13 '09 - 03:34AM    #
  15. From the Greden emails:

    They already have $6m in their cash budget for 5th/Division. So, we’re not actually adding a new $6m. This simply shifts it from their cash fund to their bond fund, so they have the chance to bond for it as they see fit.

    (Greden to Higgins, 17 Feb 09, 8:06PM)

    Can someone explain what this means? The Chron reports that the DDA is starting on 5th & Division work.


       —Matt Hampel    Aug. 13 '09 - 03:36AM    #
  16. Here is the Chronicle’s coverage. Note especially that the suit may stop delivery of the bonds because the City may not be able to certify that there is no litigation pending.


       —David Cahill    Aug. 13 '09 - 02:25PM    #
  17. Alan,

    I’m not aware of any pending lawsuits. Also wanted you to know that I passed your comment on to our news director, Amalie Nash, and Ryan Stanton, our government reporter.


       —Stefanie Murray    Aug. 13 '09 - 03:40PM    #
  18. Thanks for the info Stephanie.

    And, thanks David. That was my question—whether the bond sale would mean there would be no turning back from the project without a major financial hit.


       —Alan Goldsmith    Aug. 13 '09 - 06:36PM    #
  19. And, forgive me for spelling your name wrong Stefanie!

    One point here. It was the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center who started the ball rolling on this issue with the FOIA email request and then the A2 News and Ann Arbor Chronicle followed up with requests of their own. I would hope, seeing as this is a major issue, et. al., that the A2.com would be as agressive in their coverage as well.

    Thanks.


       —Alan Goldsmith    Aug. 13 '09 - 06:43PM    #
  20. For a detailed account of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center’s work on this issue, including links to many of the original documents referenced in our complaint, see my August 16 blog post at http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/blog/.


       —Noah Hall    Aug. 17 '09 - 12:03AM    #
  21. “….[h]old on to your hats. I’ve heard there is a local citizen’s group in touch with the U.S. Attorney’s Office….”

    Who is the “local citizen’s group” and what alleged violation of federal law is suspected so as to invoke the potential jurisdiction of the local Office of United States Attorney?


       —Mark Koroi    Aug. 17 '09 - 01:08AM    #
  22. Note that the copy of the complaint attached to the Chronicle story was apparently treated with OCR so that it is searchable. I merely made an image pdf of the copy I had, so it is not as useful.

    I haven’t checked the one available through Mr. Hall’s link.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 17 '09 - 02:25AM    #
  23. The danger of a lawsuit is that it could delay bond delivery indefinitely.

    The Ann Arbor Chronicle discussed the delay in its coverage of the lawsuit.


       — Jerry Gilbert    Aug. 18 '09 - 11:59PM    #
  24. The Local in Ann Arbor blog is reporting that the City has revised the downtown plan by including a recommendation for a convention center downtown. The article can be found:

    http://localannarbor.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/the-secret-plan-for-the-conference-center/

    The revised downtown plan is linked in the article and has been posted on the Ann Arbor Area Government Document Repository:
    http://a2docs.org/

    The convention center recommendation can be found on page 26.

    Was the RFP for development projects for the top of the parking lot just a pretext to start us down the road to building a convention center? Looks “scripted” to me.


       —Jack Eaton    Aug. 20 '09 - 10:15PM    #
  25. The convention center has been in the downtown plan drafts for some time – perhaps over a year, even. All iterations have had it and any changes are tracked on the draft plans.

    As for the RFP for projects on top of the parking lot, it looks like a pipe dream to me. The city ought not to have issued it. With the down economy, availability of other, less intense sites around town, I wonder if they will get any serious responses. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do something there so we don’t have a surface parking lot, I just think the timing is wrong. I would guess that the city is trying to turn it into an income-generator to fix the budget, and it just isn’t going to work.


       —KGS    Aug. 21 '09 - 04:44PM    #
  26. As has been noted on the Chronicle site and in Vivienne’s revised blog, the inclusion of the downtown convention center is not new to this version of the downtown plan. Sorry for any confusion I caused.


       —Jack Eaton    Aug. 21 '09 - 04:53PM    #
  27. What I said in my blog was “Meanwhile, with little fanfare, the City of Ann Arbor’s Downtown Plan as amended suddenly has a section that calls for a conference center downtown.” As you see, that doesn’t refer to a specific date but implies that the provision was new, which it was not. My use of the word “suddenly” was confusing, and I’m sorry about that.

    However, that section was added last fall about the same time the DDA was approving the plan for the underground parking structure, so it was all of a piece with the rest of the planning. But I think the inclusion of a convention center in the plan was overshadowed by many hotter issues in A2D2, and since it was not site-specific, it didn’t trigger any alarms about a possible location at the Library Lot.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 21 '09 - 06:45PM    #
  28. I have asked the Arbor Update Powers That Be to start a separate article on the confidential proposal for a conference center. The proposal deserves its own discussion.


       —David Cahill    Aug. 24 '09 - 03:29PM    #
  29. Looks as though it has made it into the “mainstream media” – see AnnArbor.com’s story


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 24 '09 - 07:30PM    #
  30. How can this possibly be considered confidential? Or secret?


       —Matt Hampel    Aug. 25 '09 - 01:03AM    #
  31. Because they (city) weren’t telling. Karen Sidney submitted a FOIA that was denied. Good to see AnnArbor.com doing good journalistic followup.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 25 '09 - 01:08AM    #
  32. Just because a FOIA was denied does not mean that someone “wasn’t telling”; it may simply have meant that the FOIA request was not accurate or precise enough to get the desired records, or that an initial denial wasn’t successfully appealed.


       —Edward Vielmetti    Aug. 25 '09 - 05:07AM    #
  33. The text of the FOIA is here.

    I don’t believe that an appeal was attempted, but I wasn’t involved.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 25 '09 - 09:50AM    #
  34. Sorry, that should have been “text of the FOIA denial”. But it quotes from the FOIA request.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 25 '09 - 09:55AM    #
  35. Let’s set aside the rather odious politics of the proposal’s secrecy and the skid-greasing for it.

    Does anyone here believe that this proposal is economically viable? KGS, who has a clue, says no.


       —David Cahill    Aug. 25 '09 - 08:28PM    #
  36. Anecdotally, I think there is a fair case for a conference center downtown. It’s a great setting: lots of entertainment nearby; close to a large, engaged academic population, and so on.

    One thing that has appeared via AAPS projects: the current climate means that contracts are very competitive. Now might be the right time to build.

    However, I’d be very interested in learning more about the economics of this. How much calculable revenue have similar projects brought? What are the risks? Are there comparable projects in comparable cities that have or haven’t worked?

    Karen Sidney had one take on Vivienne Armentrout’s blog:

    Let me see if I get this. The city gets no money for the land because the sale proceeds are used for the down payment for the convention center. The city gets no taxes, because those are used to make the bond payments on the convention center. The developer gets a convention center to increase traffic to his hotel. He gets $5.3 million in DDA subsidies for things like extra footings and a service alley and a taxpayer backed money losing parking structure right under his development. If it works out, he makes buckets of money. If it doesn’t, the city’s general fund gets stuck with the bond payments and downtown gets a derelict property. And the mayor and the rest of the Council Party tell us we need to pay higher taxes or face more service cuts.


       —Matt Hampel    Aug. 26 '09 - 09:26PM    #
  37. I was once involved in setting up a conference for NARGS (rock gardens) and I can testify that we do not have adequate conference facilities here. We were able to use the Sheraton because it was a relatively small group, and the Eagle Crest Marriott (south of Ypsilanti) was the only other choice. Things went fine, but we had to reserve very early because there was so much pressure from other events, weddings, etc.

    I’m sure that UM departments have found the lack of convenient modern conference facilities to be frustrating. UM is, after all, an internationally prestigious institution and it would be nice to be able to host conferences for many disciplines. The downtown location has obvious advantages.

    That said, I don’t see the finances working out. The preliminary proposal that I read was forthright about this, saying that Ann Arbor can’t mount a self-supporting hotel/conference center. The city would essentially donate the site and the taxes (and we are already committed to paying for the parking understructure). Perhaps if the UM could make a major financial commitment, an arrangement could be made that would not place the primary burden on Ann Arbor taxpayers and residents.

    The pressure on downtown (traffic, population, parking) and other effects on businesses and access by residents to downtown is another issue – one with many sides to discuss.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 26 '09 - 09:51PM    #
  38. UM has quite a lot of room for moderately sized conferences (50-200+). There’s Rackham, the new Art Museum, the (relatively recent) Palmer Commons, Institute for the Humanities, the Union, and other places, including potentially somewhere on the Pfizer campus. Rates for non-UM groups are somewhat high, though.

    There are eight local places listed on ArborWiki’s places to have a meeting page that can host 250-500 people.


       —Matt Hampel    Aug. 27 '09 - 12:45AM    #
  39. I attended a conference at Palmer Commons and it was quite nice. Not a true conferencing facility and I would guess that they could only accommodate around 300 max. This is only large enough for a regional scale conference. Most national conferences attract 1500+. On the other hand, most national conferences are not looking to cities like Ann Arbor or Madison.

    As a comparison, Madison has a striking new Frank Lloyd Wright inspired conference center hard on the shores of Lake Monona and just steps from the square and I have heard that they have trouble booking it solid.

    What this town could use is a downtown hotel to compete with the Dahlmans. Campus Inn is a nice enough hotel but lacking in simple amenities that travelers expect (like coffee in the room)and the decor is outdated. They have no incentive to upgrade because they are the only game “in-town”.


       —Marvin Face    Aug. 27 '09 - 01:46AM    #
  40. Yes, I attended a conference in Rackham last May and it was a very nice facility for a small local conference. I was thinking of the type of conference center where most participants are also housed within the main facility and eat most of their meals there as part of the programming.

    Thanks for the referral to ArborWiki. The item includes a useful reference to an Ann Arbor News article from 2008. It lays out a lot of the issues with spaces. It is interesting that it specifically mentions needing banquet facilities for 1000. The preliminary proposal that I read had a ballroom that would seat 1000.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Aug. 27 '09 - 10:28AM    #
  41. I’ve said on annarbor.com that I’m glad a distinction is being drawn between a “conference center” and a “convention center”. The former seems feasible, the latter does not, nor do I think downtown Ann Arbor should really want one. The danger IMO is turning downtown into just a support area for a convention center. That’s not something we want.

    On the other hand, I think Ann Arbor could use some sort of dedicated-use facility.

    I’m also worried about everything that everyone else is worried about—footprint, appropriate use of the land, how much bulk we are talking about in terms of a towering hotel, proximity to residential neighborhoods, financing, architecture, contribution to streetscape, traffic and so on.

    Personally I think a better block for a conference center is right across the street where the federal building is. Just putting that out there.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Aug. 29 '09 - 02:32AM    #
  42. Let me also add that I am a little surprised the Pfizer property isn’t being considered for a center like this (unless there’s something I don’t know about, which is probably the case).

    Is the conference center just an excuse to get a downtown hotel? Does downtown need a hotel? I guess I admit we could really use something just a little nicer than the Campus Inn.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Aug. 29 '09 - 02:34AM    #
  43. About 2700 pages of city council email have been released and are up on the Ann Arbor Area Government Document Repository.

    Lots to read.


       —Edward Vielmetti    Nov. 5 '09 - 01:23PM    #
  44. The lawsuit remains in proceedings before Judge Archie Brown however there are serious and eanest settlement discussions that are occurring between the parties.

    Expect the City of Ann Arbor to shell out a pretty penny in settlement proceeds to the plaintiffs in exchange for the plaintiffs acknowledging no finding of illegality in the conduct of City Council. This I anticipate well before next year’s City Council elections where some of the main culprits i.e. Cartsten Hohnke, Christopher “Big Bird” Taylor, and Margie Teall will face an electorate of “dim lights”.

    It would certainly be a huge distraction for the newspapers to be covering ongoing legal proceedings before Judge Brown and adverse findings coming down at a time when this trio is attempting to get re-elected. Of course, expect Hohnke, Taylor, and Teall to eagerly vote on any settlement that would put this matter behind them.

    The case however will make good fodder for campaign attacks against these three council members next year.

    Someone is almost sure to take on Hohnke in the Fifth Ward next year. Possible candidates include former County Commissioner Vivienne Armentrout, Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Eric Gutenberg or Ann Arbor Environmental Commission Chairman Steve Bean.

    Expect Washtenaw County Democratic Party Executive CommitteeLuAnne Bullington to run against Taylor, a Butzel Long attorney, in the Third Ward.

    In the Fourth Ward possible candidates include Ann Arbor Republican Party Chairman Jim Hood, Jack Eaton or Eric Lipson, the final two being neighborhood activists.


       —Junior    Nov. 21 '09 - 07:24PM    #
  45. This might be of interest: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/07/AR2009100703996.html

    A $40 million, publicly-funded parking garage sits half empty, costing the city $100,000 per month.

    .


       —Joel Batterman    Nov. 24 '09 - 06:57PM    #
  46. Re: Junior #44

    My sources tell me that the City has no interest in paying anything to resolve the frivolous library lawsuit, and that the plaintiffs are aware of this.

    Luanne Bullington has already declared her candidacy for County Commission. She’s obviously not running for City Council.

    Eric Gutenberg for City Council? He wants to be a judge, not a politician.

    Junior is obviously a poor source of information.


       —City Hall Insider    Nov. 24 '09 - 07:41PM    #
  47. Does anyone have any information on the future plans, if any, of former Councilmembers Leigh Greden and Joan Lowenstein as to running for political office?

    Has anyone confirmed or discounted the rumors that Marcia Higgins may resign her City Council seat and be replaced by Washtenaw County Democratic Party Executive Committee member Diane Giannola?

    Finally, has Luanne Bullington formally announced any candidacy? If so, what is your source?


       —Jerry Gilbert    Nov. 25 '09 - 01:56AM    #
  48. City Council went into closed session Monday to discuss the pending lawsuit.

    They subsequently voted to adopt unspecified recommendations of the city attorney.


       —Mark Koroi    Dec. 11 '09 - 05:47AM    #
  49. “Has anyone confirmed or discounted the rumors that Marcia Higgins may resign her City Council seat and be replaced by Washtenaw County Democratic Party Executive Committee member Diane Giannola?”

    We certainly need another Leigh Greden cheerleader on Council to match Margie Teall.


       —Alan Goldsmith    Dec. 22 '09 - 06:36PM    #
  50. On October 29, 2009, Plaintiff’s attorney submitted a “Motion for Second Summons” to the Court indicating non-service of the summons and complaint and seeking issuance of a second summons since the original summons that had issued in August iith was about to expire prior to service upon the Defendant City of Ann Arbor.

    The motion cites “….ongoing discussions between counsel regarding issues in the complaint” and “Defendant has not been served pursuant to agreement between counsel.”

    On November 2, 2009, Judge Archie Brown signed an order granting a second summons as to the Defendant City of Ann Arbor that is slated to expire on February 10, 2010.

    The action now has been pending over five months in the circuit court and suggests to me the strong possibility that settlement negotiations are occurring and are making some significant degree of progress.

    Typically once a Defendant is served with a summons and complaint he must file and serve responsive pleadings within a limited time frame and at that point the matter becomes “at issue” the Court places the matter on track for discovery depositions and case mediation via order of the court. The failure to serve the city has led to the suit being delayed from forcing the parties to make themselves available for discovery. The City Council actions in confidentially consulting with the City Attorney suggests further proof that there are ongoing serious negotiations.

    There are no other filings contained in the circuit court file as of today other than the summons and complaint and the motion and order referenced above. The City of Ann Arbor has not appeared in the action as of yet.

    Does anyone have any other information on the progress of these matters?


       —Mark Koroi    Jan. 28 '10 - 01:26AM    #
  51. That lawsuit pending in the circuit court has the potential to tip the balance of power in City Council away from pro-development Carsten Hohnke and Company to anti-development forces.

    Activists must pound the table over the electronic mail scandal and ensure candidates aligned with them are on the August of 2010 City Council Democratic primary ballot. Elected officials should be lobbied to informed that any setttlement in the Musicraft lawsuit should be disclosed to the public and subject to public commentary during sessions of City Council.

    Two years ago Kwame Kilpatrick felt secure knowing that text messages implicating him in misconduct would never see any public exposure; City Council members engaging in questionable e-mail activity in Ann Arbor no doubt likewise want to ensure any future settlement terms remain confidential so that politically embarrassing terms or provisions will not be known by the general public. Their political livliehood depends on the e-mail scandal being kept out of public scrutiny as much as possible.

    It will be incumbent for political activists opposing corruption in Ann Arbor to appear at City Council meetings during public commentary periods and press transparency in the e-mail controversy as vigorously as possible in addition to corresponding with elected officials to underscore to them the importance of accountability to those who act with a reckless disregard to the public interest, as those in power have done with respect to the electronic mail controversy.

    If we do this in earnest, we can rest assure those miscreants on City Council whose conduct precipitated the Musicraft suit will be tossed out of office this August.


       —Jerry Gilbert    Jan. 29 '10 - 01:30AM    #
  52. “A sweeping decision released by the Michigan Court of Appeals on Wednesday places new limits on the state’s Freedom of Information Act, concluding that personal e-mails exchanged between government officials are not subject to disclosure”. AnnArbor.com, January 28, 2010

    The decision is certainly pertinent to the Ann Arbor e-mail suit. The fact that it was pending certainly explains the delay in that suit; lower courts don’t rush in when new case law is anticipated. Our local conspiracy theorists will have to be patient while it plays out.


       —Henry Brysk    Jan. 29 '10 - 04:44PM    #
  53. That Michigan Court Appeals opinion is distinguishable in many ways from the Musicraft suit pending before Judge Brown.

    Firstly, the opinion had nothing to do with the Open Meetings Act, which is a key aspect of the Musicraft suit.

    Secondly, the Court of Appeals decision relied heavily on the fact that the e-mails at issue were “personal” in nature and incidentally captured on a computer storage system; in the Musicraft case the electronic mail correspondence at issue were generated during City Council meetings and, to a large part, were in furtherance of City Council business.

    Some have made hay over the fact that some of the correspondence released via FOIA to Noah Hall were personal in nature and should not have been divulged. In reality those “personal” e-mails bear little relevance to Noah Hall’s case since the corporate plaintiffs in the case before Judge Brown can and are relying on correspondences that directly relate to the City Council decisions adverse to the Plaintiffs.

    I believe the recent Court of Appeals decision is an important one in defining the parameters of FOIA, but it will have only a minor impact on the Musicraft case.


       —Mark Koroi    Jan. 30 '10 - 01:46AM    #
  54. I have no idea how much impact the Appeals decision will have on this case. My point was simply that it was normal for the case to be delayed until the decision came out, as it had some overlap (apparently the parties disagree about how much) and could alter the playing field.


       —Henry Brysk    Jan. 30 '10 - 05:08AM    #
  55. In every scandal or tragedy there always seem to be heroes and heroines who appear to emerge. E-mailgate is no exception.

    In Watergate, investigative reporters “Woodstein” broke open that case and Alex Butterfield exposed the White House taping system. Kwame Kilpatrick was unmasked by the relatively unknown reporter M.L. Elrick.

    In E-mailgate, the hero and heroine that have burst forth into the public eye have been Noah Hall and Judy McGovern. Noah’s lawsuit remains in the court system and remains a painful public embarrassment to the City Council members who engaged in computer shenanigans that the city will continue how to deal with to make it go away.

    Judy McGovern’s fine investigative reporting splashed this controversy in the public arena as no other media source did accompanied by superior editorial cartooning.

    These two fine citizens will never likely receive any award by the City of Ann Arbor for their work but their exposure of this scandal no doubt has made a lasting positive impact upon city government and for that Ann Arbor residents owe their enduring gratitude to them.

    Ann Arbor now finds itself at a crossroads not dissimilar to that New York City government faced several decades ago. The New York City affiliate of the Democratic Party known as Tammany Hall which essentially controlled city government unchecked for over 100 years, faced a Fusion coalition of anti-machine Democrats, the city’s small Republican network, and Independents; these forces were led by Fiorello LaGuardia; this coalition toppled the arrogant and corrupt Tammany Hall from power.

    What is currently happening in Ann Arbor politics is that a similar fusion movement is beginning to crystallize whose common theme is dissatisfaction and disgust toward the faction that controls the Ann Arbor Democratic Party and also City Council(I am sure everyone knows to whom I refer). This movement’s primary aim is to restore City Council to members who will have the best interests of Ann Arbor residents as its paramount goal. There are a number of civic organizations and neighborhood leaders that support this fusion movement.

    Last year saw poor strategic planning that squandered opportunities to elect a City Council that would look out for the best interests of Ann Arbor residents and we were lucky to unseat Leigh Greden.

    The poor strategic decisions included having Luanne Bullington, Steve Kunselman, and a third candidate run against incumbent Leigh Greden. Fortunately, that third candidate , Mr Issa, drpped out of the race and Steve eked out a narrow victory despite Luanne and Steve splitting the anti-Greden vote. If Luanne and Steve ran alone against Greden, Greden would have likely lost by a large margin. Thankfully, Greden was defeated anyway in what what former AADP Chairperson Tim Colenback described as the biggest electoral upset in Ann Arbor politics in the last 30 years.

    Liberal independent candidate Hatim Elhady blew a credible shot at unseating Marcia Higgins by not running as a Democrat in the August primary.

    Those who have viewed the Ann Arbor Democratic Party as a local Tammany Hall likewise squandered political opportunities to seize control of City Council by not recruiting anyone to register to run against potentially vulnerable City Council members such as Marcia Higgins or Steve Rapundalo in the August Democratic primary in 2009.

    This year is talk of a fusion slate of candidates that will be recruited to run in each of the five wards in the August Democratic primary against the five incumbents. Noah Hall’s lawsuit will be a primary (no pun intended) theme in attacking the incumbents this summer. The organizers of the fusion movement are the “usual suspects”.

    Hold on to your hats!


       —John Dory    Jan. 30 '10 - 08:32PM    #
  56. “Tammany Hall”? Tammany Hall in those days was literally run by the Mafia. Are you really suggesting that the Mayor and Council belong to organized crime? Such venomous rhetoric cannot possibly improve the way the city is governed.


       —Henry Brysk    Jan. 31 '10 - 11:53PM    #
  57. I occasionally enjoy reading the rhetoric, if only for the entertainment value. I can’t possibly think of Ann Arbor politics as being “seized” or as big enough to have “fusion” parties or even “coalitions.” If only everyday life were actually this exciting!

    Actually, no, if it were, we’d all be a lot worse off.


       —Matt Hampel    Feb. 1 '10 - 01:56AM    #
  58. For those who missed it, I sent out a press release a couple of weeks ago announcing that I will not run for elective office this year.

    Just clearing the registers.

    FWIW, I don’t believe in “slates”. I’ll be supporting candidates in individual races based on a number of factors. In some races I’ll just keep my opinion to myself (or my vote, if that is relevant).

    Poor strategic planning? Each person who runs is making a personal decision. There is no ruling group among those opposed to the way the city has been run in recent years who can dictate as to candidates for a seat. It is the job of each candidate to find supporters and donors and ultimately voters. It is true that small groups of activists will engage in some level of recruitment, but it doesn’t rise to an organizational level.

    I find it amusing that those with the clarion calls for action seem to be mostly spectators in the political process, not participants. (Of course with anonymous comments, you never know.) I’ll repeat what I said to Junior: if you want to see a particular outcome, support a candidate, recruit one, or run yourself. No one is doing that job for you.

    For true political junkies who want to explore topics in Ann Arbor political mechanisms further, I’ve written two posts, one mostly about IRV voting and the election schedule, and one about efforts to institute endorsement by the local party in the August primaries.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 1 '10 - 05:38PM    #
  59. We seem to get these long bizarre missives on a regular basis, under a few different handles. Where on earth do they come from? I’ve never figured it out. Maybe partly because I rarely have the patience to read them to the end.


       —Bruce Fields    Feb. 1 '10 - 07:34PM    #