05/22/2012 01:05 pm ET

Emergency Manager Review Teams Not Subject To Michigan's Open Meetings Act, Appeals Court Rules

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that Detroit and Flint's state-appointed financial review teams were not subject to the state's Open Meetings Act. Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch announced the decision Tuesday morning via Twitter.

Under Michigan's emergency manager law, the governor can appoint a review team to examine a city's or school district's books for financial stress. The review team then makes a recommendation to the governor on whether to appoint an emergency manager, sign a consent agreement or take no action.

The appellate court overturned a series of lower court rulings that found the review teams had indeed violated the Open Meetings Act by meeting in private. Judges William C. Whitbeck, Peter D. O'Connell and Michael J. Kelly found the law did not apply to the two review teams because they were not public bodies, the Detroit News reports.

However, the three-judge panel also ruled that state Treasurer Andy Dillon and members of the Detroit review team could be found in contempt of court for violating an order from Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette not to meet in private until the courts settled the issue, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Earlier this month, the court heard oral arguments for the case, which involves two lawsuits filed by Highland Park school board member Robert Davis, another by AFSCME union activist Edward McNeil, and a fourth filed by Flint AFSCME Local 1600 President Sam Muma.

Earlier this year, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina temporarily removed Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown from his position, citing a violation of the Open Meetings Act by Flint's financial review team.

The Court of Appeals is also waiting to hear arguments on whether Michigan voters will be allowed to consider repealing Public Act 4, the law that governs financial review teams and emergency managers. The state Board of Canvassers recently deadlocked along party lines over a challenge to the font size of the referendum petition.

Flickr photo by walknboston.