We, the people of the City of New Buffalo, Berrien County, Michigan, in order to procure the fullest benefits of local self-government under the Constitution and laws of the State of Michigan do hereby ordain and establish this Charter.’ Preamble of the New Buffalo City Charter
The City Charter is our own ‘Constitution,’ enacted over fifty years ago when the city’s leadership took the village to city status, laying oversight of the Charter’s laws in the hands of the elected city council members. It is a grave responsibility for not only the elected council members but also the city administrative staff who are accountable for the enforcement of the Charter.
Today, City Clerk Lori Vander Clay violated the Charter. She announced a special City Council meeting for tomorrow morning through an email blast instead of posting it on City’s website. She stated the business for the meeting as ‘New Business.’ The City Charter specifies in Section 3.6 that ‘no business shall be transacted at any special meeting of the Council unless the same has been stated in the notice of such meeting.’ Unless Vander Clay posts the new business that the council members are to vote on 18 hours prior to the special meeting, any vote taken will be void. It violates the Charter. Charter Amendment
This appears to be a further attempt by city employees to disenfranchise the taxpayers from city business. First they moved public safety video equipment from police oversight to the city manager, then they changed policies that weaken surveillance of possible fraud or embellishment, and finally disconnected the live streaming of public meetings. These were all victories by the employees to build a secretive wall between them and accountability. Why would they work so hard to accomplish public work behind closed doors?
Vander Clay is disregarding another section of the Charter. Section 3.14 states ‘the proceedings or an abstract of the proceedings of the Council shall be published on the official website for the City of New Buffalo, once within fifteen days after each Council meeting.’ Section 3.14
This section of the Charter was fulfilled by the live stream recordings of the public meetings. Since Vander Clay and other employees took it upon themselves to discontinue the recordings, this requirement is not being met. It is another violation of the Charter and another wall between the employees and accountability to the taxpayers.
The real problem appears to be that the kids at city hall have no adult supervision. The elected city council members are shrugging off their legal duty of oversight for the Charter – our own Constitution. The continued disregard by the Council emboldens the employees to do as they wish without surveillance or oversight. When we allow this to continue, the accountability shifts from them to us. It’s not a blame game, it’s accountability.