Complaints filed against Evart DDA
EVART — Evart’s Downtown Development Authority board is being held to task for allegedly holding meetings that one city resident claims should have been posted and open to the public.
Roger Elkins, a long-time Evart resident, recently filed a letter with the office of Osceola County prosecutor James Sims, alleging that the DDA board met on at least three occasions without proper public notification that meetings had been called.
Elkins is an elected representative on the county Board of Commissioners from the Evart-area district. He also was a candidate for the DDA director’s job that was posted.
DDA board chair Alan Bengry said the complaint is unfounded.
In his letter Elkins noted to Sims:
“Please be advised the Evart DDA meetings of October 13 and October 19 appear to be in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
“October 13 was a special board meeting for the purpose of interviewing DDA Director candidates and hearing a presentation from Wade Trim for an infrastructure grant.
“A special meeting would need a posting of the meeting and the purpose.
“A notice of a special meeting was not posted at the DDA office. ...”
Elkins claims the meeting was not posted at any other municipal facility.
He then noted he believed a meeting held Oct. 4 was also in violation of the law.
While hesitant to comment on the complaint since it is still under investigation, Bengry said Elkins’s allegations were unjustified.
“There was notice posted for the Oct. 13 meeting,” he reported. “The meeting of Oct. 19 is our regular meeting, and that has been posted publicly since the beginning of the June as part of our regular calendar.”
Further in his complaint, Elkins pointed out that four members of the DDA had earlier met to consider which of the DDA director candidates to interview.
“As a board there were no other written comments of suggestions from any of you,” he wrote. “In essence this became a selection for interviews by four board members and not the entire board.
“With a committee making a decision for the entire board this may be a violation of the Open Meetings Act. The meeting was held without any public notice.”
Bengry disputed Elkins’s claims. On Oct. 4, a committee met to discuss the selection process, Bengry said, but it was not a majority of board members – four of nine members – and it did not demand a posting since no decisions were made or action taken. It was not planned as a meeting at which action would be taken.
“The entire board has offered input in the selection process of a new DDA director,” he said.
Following his filing of a complaint with the prosecutor, Elkins reported he had checked numerous times in advance of the interviews to see when and where the meetings would take place.
At no time, he pointed out, could he find notice of a public meeting to be held by the DDA.
“I’ve been told there were notices, but I would like to see a copy of this meeting announcement,” Elkins said. “I don’t know that anyone tried to circumvent the process or do anything under the table, but in my opinion, someone needs to be aware of what the Open Meetings Act requires and to make sure the DDA is in compliance with this law.”
Elkins noted there he felt there were general irregularities with the selection process that were simply highlighted by the alleged Open Meetings Act violations.
“I sometimes feel the DDA is running roughshod over the people in their own community,” he said. “I wonder if there was a legitimate mistake here? Or what?”
Sims said his office would be review the complaint.
“We will approach this complaint with careful consideration,” he said.