State police investigating Harper Creek board member

BATTLE CREEK, MICH. - Michigan State Police opened an investigation Monday into a possible Open Meetings Act violation by a Harper Creek school board member.

"We opened an investigation today at the request of the Calhoun County Prosecutor's Office," said Det. First Lt. Chuck Christensen of the State Police's 5th District headquarters in Paw Paw.

"From this point forward, we will be gathering information and conducting limited interviews and, upon completion of our findings, we will forward them to the Calhoun County Prosecutor's Office for a review of the complaint."

Superintendent Rob Ridgeway declined to comment on the matter. Board President Tim Martin could not be reached for comment. 

The Open Meetings Act requires school boards and other public bodies to meet in public, notify the public in advance of meetings and keep meeting records. 

Christensen said the complaint alleges that the board member under investigation did not follow Open Meetings Act procedures. He did not name the person under investigation or the person who filed the complaint.

The investigation should take about a month to complete, Christensen said.

Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert would not comment on the investigation. But said that anyone who intentionally violates the Open Meetings Act faces a $1,000 fine the first time, but could get up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine for a second offense.

Harper Creek's board has seen a fair amount of contention over the past three months, largely revolving around former board President Vikki Bauer. 

In March, the board ousted Bauer as board president and censured her in April for speaking to Emmett Township officials on their behalf without the full board's consent.

The board censured Bauer a second time on May 25 for revealing sensitive information to the public regarding a potential Title IX violation and a complaint from Athletic Director Ed Greenman. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education, including in sports. 

Harper Creek has spent more than $16,500 in legal fees on complaints and investigations involving Bauer, though not all of the legal fees and investigations were a direct result of her actions.

About a month ago, the board voted to reimburse her for legal fees related to two alleged harassment complaints filed against her earlier this year.The board has paid more than $10,500 this year alone for complaints involving Bauer.

Earlier this month, residents formed a committee to recall her from office. Committee members say they hope she'll resign before they begin the process.

Bauer did not attend the board's June 12 meeting.

© 2017 Battle Creek Enquirer


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