MENOMINEE, Mich. (WJMN) — The Menominee City Council voted unanimously to back a resolution Tuesday night at a special meeting, responding to two orders from a Circuit Court judge that cite allegations of Open Meetings Act violations.
Matt Cross, a lawyer representing the city in the lawsuit brought by Rize and the Fire Station, said the move could be key to keeping the doors open at three recently-reopened local dispensaries.
The resolution was a written response to the Sept. 26 and Oct. 17 orders from Judge Barglind that worked to freeze the state of the marijuana economy in Menominee while the latest round of lawsuits were argued. On Monday, the judge decided to temporarily lift a Nov. 3 temporary restraining order against Lume, Higher Love, and Nirvana after more evidence and testimony was given.
The resolution shows an agreement among councilmembers that any violations of the Open Meetings Act were procedural mistakes, and nothing more.
Judge Barglind is expected to make another decision on the TRO and underlying preliminary injunction Wednesday.
These were the comments made by councilmembers before the vote to pass the resolution:
DOUG ROBINSON: I just think that the resolution as it stands, everybody should take a deep breath and consider that I believe all of us moved in that direction that we thought we should go. So I’ll speak personally, I’m a free-market person. I don’t care if you’re selling chicken nuggets, or any other business. And if you have to compete, we compete.
Some will win, some will lose. Everybody knows that, that’s how it works. That’s how Americans that.
It provides several things, provides the free market, provides jobs which desperately needs— good paying jobs, and provides revenue for the city which we desperately need.
So it’s a win win. Long term thought process in five or seven years we will probably have two companies left, because the other three won’t be able to compete. Because other states are going to be doing the same thing.
I ask that you review the resolution, go forward with what we have decided, and let’s put this behind us and get on with other business that this city has.
JOSH JONES: No comment.
KRIS RUSCH: No comment.
JOE DULAK: There certainly is an element of frustration i n dealing with this perplexing marijuana situation. I do to truly appreciate the collective efforts in our city. We value open government. Yet recently we didn’t fully meet the Open Meetings Act standards.
This situation is a learning opportunity to reinforce our commitment to transparency. I’m confident that this resolution aligns with our city’s best interests and strengthens our integrity of our […] proceedings.
JACQUELINE NUTTER: Over my time on council, my stances on various issues have evolved significantly. I think we can all acknowledge our past, potential, unintentional shortcomings regarding the Open Meetings Act. It’s clear to me that this matter isn’t even about marijuana or policy on marijuana. This is about ensuring our compliance and putting the right step forward in how the city governs in the future.
Just as we all signed affidavits showing our intent and compliance, I’m hoping stronger together to get this resolution, hopefully finally, put this matter to bed.
MICHAEL DEDAMOS: I think one of the big themes I’ve had since the beginning of this entire saga is frustration. The decision originally made to grant licenses to two applicants was made while before I was elected… I stepped right into the middle of the lawsuit and thought the best way forward is just to get through it.
Five members of this council had the opportunity at the beginning of this process to go with uncapping, and for whatever reason that remains a mystery to this very day, they did not decide to do that until after we very nearly won a lawsuit, and then went with uncapping.
I have been willing to seek some compromise on the issue, even though if I would have been here originally, I would have stood with Councilman Pullman and said, ‘you know, we shouldn’t do any of this because it seems like it was a more headaches than it was worth’, but it was already done by the time I got here, and I was willing to see compromise with the Lume resolution.
And some people have seen the firestorm on social media where some quotes of mine are taken a little context. And I’m sorry if people took my sarcastic comments the wrong way, but the gist of what I was saying, which was not reported in the newspaper, was that even though I do not personally like marijuana, our personal feelings or personal philosophies, shouldn’t be what guides our decision making.
I’m here to represent the people of the First Ward. I’m not here to represent the personal opinions of today, and I’m here to act in the best interests of the city of Menominee, not in my best interests.
So to that end, this Resolution we’re about to go around, which clarifies some of the Open Meetings Act violations, and I really hope that maybe as a little clarity in the situation, it cuts through some of the fog that’s on social media that seems confused to people.
When we entered that closed session, there are two people in this room who knew anything about any sort of proposed ordinance.
One of them was Councilmember Robinson, who three days earlier we had sat and talked about everything under the sun for about 2 hours, and he would not tell me a word about what he was having planned. He said that he had a plan, did not disclose any of those details.
And I guess how the other person found out about what we were… Doug Robinson was going to propose will always be a mystery… But there’s only two people in the entire room knew what was going to happen before we entered that whole session.
So there was no collusion among anybody, any of the other people here. We were all as surprised as anyone to find out that Doug had a plan, and we never discussed the merits of it because it seemed pretty clear they had the votes to do what they wanted. My side was outnumbered, so there was no point in discussing that.
And in terms of what was discussed, probably, I mean, we went around this table and all reiterated the exact points we made in the process, which was, well, ‘can we do this?’ Apparently we could… ‘And will it work?’ And I guess this jury would still be out of it. But, you know, we thought we were standing on solid ground.
The city of Detroit had done a similar thing, even cited legal precedent. We were getting, seeking the advice of our attorney, which seems wise when you’re proposing a piece of legislation, particularly very controversial one. So it’s completely legitimate to ask our lawyer, ‘is this allowed?’ and he cited precedent from the city in Detroit, and they had worked around a ballot initiative by adding a corporation… to… I don’t know the specifics, I’m not a legal scholar.
But I really resent a lot of the accusations that, you know, people, that palms had been greased. I know these people, all of our finances have been […], but people voted out of the initial thing. Their finances were were a matter of record. If there had been any palms greased, it would have that easily found out during the discovery of the first lawsuit.
And, you know, I think everybody acted out of principle, particularly Doug, who came up with the plan. He wanted to see this all put behind us.
I think all of us want to see this put behind us, we have so many issues in the city of Menominee. I really wish all your people would show up when we have some of these other meetings, like the piece of property on 56th Ave. that was ill advisedly bought.
None of you were here to tell us not to do that. Now, I kind of, the longer we get into that process, I wish you would’ve been here to give us your opinion.
[Mayor Stegeman interjects to ask DeDamos to stay on the topic of the hearing]
DEDAMOS: Okay, so in terms of the not calling for a roll call vote, I mean, I was the most anti-marijuana person in the room, I was not going to absolutely hold up a closed session with our lawyer waiting for us. It was pretty well understood between everybody here that we were all going into closed session with no objection to it.
So, I mean, it was a technicality that we were supposed to call for the roll call vote. Yes, but nobody felt violated by it happened, it was more of a procedural thing, I think, than anything. So I look forward to writing the book on it. Thank you.
DONNA MARINEAU: I will say that I also agree with Councilman Robinson. I am all for a free market, I’m free market person. I owned my own business at one time, but I’m not here for my own personal agenda.
I’m here because I’m speaking for the people of this community, and the people of this community are not just the people sitting in here, but it’s all 8500 of them that voted for us.
And I am speaking for the ones that wanted their own vote on this. They wanted to vote for this themselves, and that’s what the people wanted. That’s what I am for, for what the people wanted to do.
But I am in the minority in this group, and we didn’t even have to be here in the very beginning if we had just been a little bit more patient. But we were that and this is where we sit and like everybody else, we just kind of want this to go to, this whole situation to just get taken care of and move on with the city, and what needs to be done.
And there’s a whole lot more out there that needs to be done for this city than just marijuana. And unfortunately, our city managers are stuck dealing with all these marijuana issues instead of moving forward with what really needs to be done.
So as much as I am not fully on board with everything that’s going on, I reluctantly will take this issue up and move forward with it, unfortunately. But I will continue to speak for the people and not for myself. I have no agenda. I am here for the people of this community.
That’s all I have to say.
MAYOR JEAN STEGEMAN: For 12 years I have served this community with integrity. I have said on several occasions, I know that I had committed a technical error.
Judge Barglind’s words—’technical error’. That is my mistake. There is no way meant to violate the Open Meetings Act by doing that, and in nobody’s mind would that have triggered the lawsuits that we’re in now.
This is about money, and like Councilman MarineauI am in the minority, and I wish we could go back in the Wayback Machine, and go back to May, where we had won our lawsuit, and it would be put behind us.
We would not have taken any of the other actions we’ve taken, which were not violations of open meetings, just, in my opinion, poor decision making.
We tried to accommodate everybody and we came out with an original ordinance. We tried to accommodate people who wanted access. We tried to accommodate those people who wanted access with competition, and we wanted to keep it discreet for all of the 50% of the people of Menominee who didn’t want it in this community at all.
However, when it comes to this resolution, I don’t believe anybody on this council went out of their way to deliberately make mistakes.