OUR VIEW: Secretly recording not-so-secret meetings in Edmore


By Daily News • Last Updated 10:06 am on Monday, October 14, 2013

Chet Guild just doesn’t get it.

The Edmore village president has repeatedly shown a lack of basic understanding when it comes to running an open meeting since he was elected to office a year ago.

Most infamously, Guild dragged a long overdue Averyville Acres loan situation into the spotlight when he unabashedly brought up the issue and opined on it without restraint at the May 13 village council meeting.

“We haven’t blabbed that to people around town, you know,” said Guild during that meeting to council and audience members regarding possibly suing Tony and Shari Maxfield, who comprise the Averyville Acres partnership. “The council has hopefully kept it pretty much under their hat. We haven’t talked about it here in front of the newspaper or anybody so that it’s in the papers or anything like that.”

The goal of The Daily News is to keep the public informed, especially when public officials start talking about controversial topics involving taxpayer money. While we never set out to create drama, red flags do go up when we hear public officials talk about keeping items of public interest “under their hat.”

At that same meeting last spring, Guild also referenced a Chemical Bank vice president (“Tom sat right here and he just babbled on and on and on …”) and led a discussion about the Maxfield family and their alleged personal spending habits. “I know people in Edmore are tired of being spit on,” Guild declared.

That meeting was detailed in a Daily News article after The Daily News was provided with an audio recording of the meeting. A portion of the recording was also posted on our website so the public could hear the frank discourse for themselves.

According to the Open Meetings Act, the right to attend a public meeting includes the right to tape record, video tape, broadcast live on radio and telecast live on TV the proceedings of a public body at the public meeting. Also, the exercise of the right to record meetings may not be dependent upon the prior approval of the public body.

At the Aug. 12 meeting, the village council voted to start recording their own meetings in response to whoever in the audience was recording.

“Apparently somebody in the audience is recording,” Guild noted. “I guess we can record too.”

So we can only conclude that Guild must have known he was being recorded by his own village officials when he spoke at the Sept. 26 Edmore Economic Loan Fund Development Committee meeting.

Tony Maxfield spoke at length at that meeting and concluded by saying, “things have gotten out of hand to the point where it’s not beneficial for any of us for this to keep coming up.”

Guild took it upon himself to assign the blame.

“It’s called the newspaper and it’s called secretly taping meetings and then being sent to the newspaper,” he declared.

“It’s a public meeting,” responded Tony’s sister, Shari Maxfield. “You should expect that it could go anywhere.”

Thank you. At least one person at the meeting has common sense.

Nobody forced Guild to talk at length and with disdain about the Maxfields in a public setting. It doesn’t matter whether he knew he was being recorded or not. The Open Meetings Act became law in 1977 — it’s not exactly a new policy.

When Guild was elected last November, he told The Daily News, “I would like to get back to some basics in local government.”

We think that’s a good idea. We suggest Guild start by refreshing himself with a review of the Michigan Open Meetings Act handbook. There’s one available at michigan.gov online.

 

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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