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December 01, 2015

MSC may decide if a village clerk is a “public official” under the Open Meetings Act

In Bitterman v. Bolf, No. 151520, the Michigan Supreme Court scheduled oral argument to decide whether to clarify the interpretation of “public official” under Section 13(1) of the Open Meetings Act, MCL 15.273(1).  Specifically, the case involves the question of whether a village clerk is a public official, in a case where the clerk, in good faith, added language to the minutes of a village council meeting to correct an error.
 
Cheryl Bolf was a clerk for the Village of Oakley and Shannon Bitterman filed a complaint against her, alleging she falsified minutes from a village council meeting on November 8, 2012.  Bolf admitted that she added a paragraph, in good faith, to the approved minutes to correct an error.  Bitterman moved for summary disposition alleging that Bolf violated the Open Meetings Act by altering the minutes, and Bolf moved for summary disposition alleging that a village clerk is not a public official under the Act.
 
The trial court concluded that Bolf was not a public official for the purposes of the Act and granted summary disposition to Bolf.  Subsequently, Bitterman appealed.  The Court of Appeals reasoned that a person is only a public official for the purposes of the Act if they are a member of a public body.  The court identified the village council as the public body and concluded a village clerk is not part of the council.  Therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision.
 
The Michigan Supreme Court granted mini-oral argument on the application for leave to appeal and ordered the parties to address the definition of the term “public official” under the Act.

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