On Wednesday, September 28, Disability Network West Michigan was confronted by at least a dozen angry consumers who forced Muskegon’s Center for Independent Living to conduct its first open Board Meeting in two years.
Disability Network had planned to close the meeting after public comment, but was forced to conduct it openly when members of the disability community showed up and held them accountable. It was incredible!
Each consumer’s circumstance was different, but they shared the common theme: each person took the time to explain that they are not receiving the services Disability Network West Michigan is funded to provide. One by one, each consumer explained that the only response they get from Disability Network is “we don’t do that” before being hung up on.
The crowd applauded the public comment by Peer Action Alliance and then proceeded to interrupt, question, and demand accountability from Muskegon’s Center for Independent Living.
Disability Network responded by unanimously voting to close all future Board Meetings to the public. Watch the vote below.
Unfortunately, the DNWM Board was unable to appreciate the empowering nature of what was taking place. About half way through the meeting, Board Member Mike Hamm made a motion to close all future Board Meetings to the public. We were told that WIOA requires Centers for Independent Living to conduct closed meetings. That statement is totally and completely inaccurate (the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act does not reference open meetings at all). The audience asked several crucial questions, all of which went unanswered. At that point, they ended discussion and voted unanimously to close all meetings – completely ignoring consumer concerns.
After the vote, we asked how closing meetings to the public advances the mission of an organization that is meant to be controlled by the local disability community, especially one that has adopted accountability to the public in its mission statement. No response. When we asked again to see which part of the law he was referencing, Board Member Mike Hamm sneered “You need to read more”.
So Disability Network West Michigan’s first open meeting will also be its last – unless the disability community has something to say about that.
“Doubling down on the disrespect they show for the disability community is one of the most colossally incompetent strategies I’ve ever witnessed an organization pursue so doggedly,” said local advocate Eleanor Canter. “Disability Network must honor its responsibilities and begin treating the community with respect, and we’ll know it when we see it”.
- Joe Doyle (President / firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Sandy Baker (Vice President / email@example.com)
- Tracy Knight (Secretary)
- Jan Thom (Treasurer)
- Mike Hamm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Frank Hollister (email@example.com)
- Carl Occhipinti
- Mark Stein
- Caryn Vennema
- John Wahlberg (firstname.lastname@example.org)