New policy to ensure board members are notified of legal matters

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Two months after a heated discussion about legal matters, the Grand Blanc Township Board of Trustees has approved a litigation policy.

The policy establishes guidelines for disclosing, to the township board, information on pending and potential litigation against the township.

Under the new guidelines, any board member, agent or township employee who is served with a legal complaint or pleading must inform the township supervisor, who then must alert the township attorney. The attorney, in turn, will inform the board members.

Supervisor Scott Bennett, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the policy, expressed concerns about the number of complaints that will be brought to the board’s attention, and whether matters of workers compensation should be disclosed.

Bennett has said citizens often threaten to sue the township when they are upset, but such lawsuits never materialize. Disclosing that information could take up considerable time.

Regarding workers compensation, Bennett said, “I’m not sure we want to bring up worker compensation litigation to the board. I believe it could be a violation of some things.”

That comment caught the attention of Trustee Joe Massey, who responded, “For some unknown reason, I guess you have just said, all along, what you believe in … that you don’t believe everything should be done before the board. It should be done behind closed doors … the board should be left in the dark.”

Township attorney David Lattie explained that the board may discuss workers compensation issues in closed session.

“I believe it is absolutely within the necessary purview of the board to consider significant workers compensation matters,” Lattie said. “There may be items or cases that don’t involve a significant amount of money, and probably don’t involve significant input of the board. My goal is not necessarily to have the board spend significant time on those matters. But based on recent experience, they can be significant and can be important.”

The policy states that only those workers compensation issues involving litigation must be disclosed to the board.

The issue of disclosure arose in early June at a meeting in which some board members accused former Superintendent Dennis Liimatta, whom the board fired June 23, of not following orders.

At that time, Massey had said neither Liimatta nor Lattie notified the board of two pending lawsuits.

Bennett has said the information in question was properly reported to the board. In addition, both Liimatta and Lattie said they notified the board.

Further, Lattie said one of the matters never materialized into an actual lawsuit.