Earlier this month, we reported that 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 issued an updated Board list and announced a new policy regarding open Board Meetings (PDF).
We had sincerely hoped that the leadership at Disability Network West Michigan was finally ready to acknowledge their responsibility as a taxpayer-funded Center for Independent Living. Unfortunately, Disability Network’s new policy is another slap in the face to advocates. Instead of turning over a new leaf, Disability Network West Michigan is engaging in another trick to shield themselves from oversight and responsibility.
According to the new policy, anyone who wishes to attend must make a request in writing to the Executive Director. We submitted a request to attend the meeting, only to be told that Disability Network West Michigan’s “open meeting” will be closed to the public immediately after it’s called to order.
“In-camera” means that the meeting will be held behind closed doors and that the public may not observe. Disability Network West Michigan has decided to conduct their entire meeting in-camera, which means that their “open” Board Meeting is not open at all.
The words “open” and “closed” have meanings that are not synonymous. Disability Network West Michigan hopes to convince the public that they’re holding open meetings while continuing to conduct closed meetings.
It is a lie. This is exactly the type of disrespect we will no longer tolerate.
The following people have the power to change what’s going on at our Center for Independent Living:
- Tamera Collier (Executive Director)
- John Wahlberg (Board Member)
- Frank Hollister (Board Member)
- Renica Minott (Board Member)
- Jan Thom (Board Member)
- Mike Hamm (Board Member)
- Tracy Knight (Board Member)
- Sandy Baker (Board Member)
- Joe Doyle (Board Member)
Full transcript of email communications between Tamera Collier (Disability Network West Michigan Executive Director) and local advocates:
Peer Action Alliance (March 24): “[Your State Contract Analyst] says that Disability Network West Michigan is holding Board Meetings that are open to the public. Can you please provide me with the date, time, and location of Disability Network West Michigan’s next Board Meeting? Your prompt reply is very much appreciated. Thank you.”
Peer Action Alliance (April 1): “Ms. Collier, This is documented failure to respond. Please respond with the date, time, and location of Disability Network West Michigan’s next board Meeting by the close of business Monday, April 4.”
Tamera Collier (April 4): “The next board of directors meeting will be held on April 27, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. Please refer to our board meeting policy located on our website for the procedure for attending the meeting.”
Peer Action Alliance (April 11): “In accordance with Disability Network West Michigan’s new policy, this is a written notice that the following individuals plan to attend your upcoming Board Meeting on April 27 at 10:00 a.m. at the United Way Building in Downtown Muskegon. We hope to find an open Board Meeting.”
Tamera Collier (April 25): “Individuals or groups who wish to make representation to the board must make this request in writing to the me, 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. I will respond to all requests addressed to the board. Per our policy our agenda has been placed on our website. Please send us a detailed request for time at our board meeting.”
Peer Action Alliance: “We are not requesting to present to the Board at this time. We hope only to observe an open Board Meeting.”
Tamera Collier: “Please refer to our agenda. We have set time for public comment. The remainder of the board meeting is, ‘in camera’.”