Conflict of interest
Our Township Board just gave the approval of a new Building Administrator that does a great deal of work for the township. This was done at a special meeting, the notice was on the door of the township hall and the appointment was not on the agenda. No other notifications were posted. I feel that this is a definite conflict of interest. Plus, the special meeting was set intentionally so that the township residences were not aware. I am concerned!!! Is my concern valid?
There seem to be two situations that we need to discuss related to the question you pose. First we need to define a "conflict of interest." Secondly, was the meeting a "closed session" or an open meeting that was held at a special time? I can address both types of meetings nonetheless.
For there to be a potential conflict of interest, an official would make a decision in their government office capacity which directly impacts their:
· Relatives/family (employer/employees, business partner)
· Proximity (as it influences one’s property value)
Courts and statutes have established the minimum standard which creates a conflict of interest. However, a local government or a government body (in its bylaws or rules of procedure) can and should raise the bar, and set a higher standard for when a situation could be considered a conflict of interest.
Secondly, there is the issue of holding either a special meeting or a closed session. A special meeting can be held if proper public notice is given, i.e. the the notice posted publicly a certain number of hours in advance of the meeting. The Open Meetings Act does not require that an agenda be posted publicly, nor is there a requirement that reasons for the special meeting be given.
In the case of this perhaps being a closed session, many government boards will have a placeholder on their regular meeting agenda in case they need to go into closed session. According to the Michigan Open Meetings Act, boards may only go into closed session for specific reasons, typically having to do with personnel etc. Here is a link to the Open Meetings Act in case you want to research further.