Council not aware of town hall meeting
May have violated executive order
REED CITY - Reed City city council members expressed concerns regarding a recent town hall meeting, hosted by Mayor Trevor Guiles.
Two issues were brought to Guiles' attention at the May 18 council meeting -- consent of council and complying with executive orders.
Council members said they should have been notified of the plan to hold a town hall meeting because it gave the appearance of something that was sanctioned by the city council.
However, they had no knowledge of it ahead of time.
"The mayor has done his own thing, without the consent of the council," said Council member Dave Sharlow. "As someone representing the city, I don't think that is right."
Guiles said he did not feel that he had done anything wrong by calling the public together for comment on the city reopening issue. He said he has had similar meetings with the public many times in the past without the consent of council.
"Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, I had met with constituents at local restaurants regularly to discuss issues and get input from the community," Guiles said.
Council member Nate Bailey said he did not personally have an issue with the mayor meeting with constituents but posting it on the city's official Facebook page made it appear that it was approved by the city council.
"It gave the appearance of being sanctioned by the city council as an entity," Bailey said. "If it came from your own personal Facebook page, that would be different. It's just the appearance of it."
Council member Carol Tillotson added that she was a little concerned at the suddenness of it, and that as a council member, she did not know about it.
"For the mayor to go out and talk to people, I don't have a problem with that. That is our job as council to talk to people," Tillotson said. "But if it is labeled as a town hall or something like that, it should have the approval of council."
Guiles said he understood the council's concerns.
Reed city Police Chief Chris Lockhart told the council it was his interpretation that the meeting violated Executive Order 77, and that is why he brought it to the mayor's attention.
"Mark Watkins (Osceola County Emergency Management Director) had received four notifications regarding the meeting," Lockhart said. "I was up front with the mayor that it would be looked into accurately and fairly as all potential violations of the executive order that came into the office."
Watkins would not comment on the notifications he received.
Guiles said he did not feel that it was a violation of the executive order because the website Michigan.gov states that it does not apply to outdoor activities that are protected by the first amendment.
"The policy states the persons may engage in expressive activities protected by the first amendment, but must adhere to social distancing recommendations, and that was observed," Guiles said.
City manager Ron Howell said he believed the issue was with the limit of social gathering to 10 or fewer, but did not have first hand knowledge of the complaints.
Sharlow said they had received conflicting reports that the number of attendees was anywhere from 8 to 12 people.
"There were nine people there, because I counted them, Tillotson said, and I can say that everyone remained six feet from one another. They maintained the social distancing."
Reed City Police Officer Brian Koschmider said the meeting had garnered attention from agencies larger than the city level, and that was why it was an issue.
Lockhart did not respond to inquiries about what larger agencies were involved prior to press time.
"I have to be straight up with all of you, this feels really bad," Guiles said. "We have really been trying to make head way in hearing from our people, and that's what this town hall was all about - gathering together to hear from the people.
"We are making decisions about a situation that is unprecedented, and yes the meeting came about very quickly, but I wanted to hear from the people before we made any decisions at the meeting Thursday night," Guiles added. "I wanted to be able to bring their ideas to the council at that meeting."
The council voted to extend the closure of city facilities and parks at the meeting May 14.
"I understand that if it is coming from the city's Facebook site, then it looks like it is coming from the city as a whole," he continued. "I can appreciate that, although I have posted all the mayoral meetings on that same page. You can be certain it won't happen again."