As a result of Peer Action Alliance’s ongoing and persistent advocacy to bring consumer control to Muskegon’s Center for Independent Living, Disability Network West Michigan has issued an updated Board list and announced a new policy regarding open Board Meetings (PDF).
The new policy states that DNWM will meet publicly quarterly (four times per year), but can enter into closed meeting for any reason. That means that, according to this policy, the real number of open meetings could be as low as zero. The DNWM Board meets monthly, so even if DNWM does elect to hold quarterly open meetings, less than 1/3 of its Board meetings will be open to the public.
“In Camera (Closed Board and / or Session of the Board): The board may move to in camera or hold board meetings that are not open to the public if it determines it is in the best interest of the organization to do so. The following matters will be dealt with in camera: Any matter that the board determines should be the subject of an in camera session. In-camera are closed sessions or entire board meetings that cover information that may not be recorded in the minutes or divulged to the public.”
Michigan’s Standards & Assurances require that Centers for Independent Living (which are funded with state and federal taxpayer dollars) regularly hold Board Meetings that are “generally open to the public”. DNWM’s new policy directly contradicts that requirement.
The new policy also censors consumer input. Anyone who wishes to attend the meeting must make a request in writing to the Executive Director 48 hours before the meeting. Comments are censored for content:
“Individuals or groups who wish to speak must make this request in writing to the Executive Director, stating the purpose of their request, any group they may represent, and their contact information. To be considered eligible to present to the board, the presentation or information provided by attendees must align with the board agenda.”
The next DNWM Board of directors meeting will be held Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. at the United Way Building in Downtown Muskegon. We’ll be there expecting an open meeting. To RSVP or request accommodations, Disability Network West Michigan Executive Director Tamera Collier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 231-332-4035.
Consumers have been locked out of our CIL’s Board Meetings since January of 2015. Will the DNWM Board of Directors show up this time, or is this another trick to shield themselves from any responsibility and oversight? We’ll find out! Stay tuned.