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Published: Saturday, 3/25/2006

Meetings complaint in Monroe dismissed

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - A complaint filed by a Monroe City Council member alleging an Open Meetings Act violation by four other council members has been dismissed by the Monroe County prosecutor's office.

"After a lengthy and deliberate review of the documents in our possession, we have determined that the alleged conduct does not constitute a criminal offense because there was no credible evidence there was a meeting in violation of the [act]," Assistant County Prosecutor Michael Roehrig said.

Mr. Roehrig's opinion came in a letter Tuesday to Detective David Meyer, a Michigan State Police trooper who asked the prosecutor's office to investigate a complaint by Councilman Linda Compora.

On Jan. 17, Ms. Compora alleged that Councilmen Brian Beneteau, John Martin, Edward Paisley, and William Burkett held a closed meeting in the council lounge before the regular meeting.

According to Mr. Roehrig's findings, the group met briefly to discuss how the council meeting would be handled after Mayor C.D. "Al" Cappuccilli left the chambers earlier feeling ill. Mr. Cappuccilli asked that Mr. Burkett serve in his place. After Mr. Burkett entered the room, Mr. Martin closed the door.

Observing this, then-City Manager Debbie Manns knocked on the door and told the council members they should not be meeting in a closed room, after which the group stopped their discussion, Mr. Roehrig said.

Ms. Compora has been feuding with the four council members and the mayor since they were elected in November. She believed the group met that night to discuss the fate of Ms. Manns, whom Mr. Cappuccilli had said during his campaign that he wanted to fire.

Ms. Manns was fired at a Feb. 6 council meeting after Mr. Burkett raised the issue as a non-agenda item. He was supported by Mr. Martin, Mr. Beneteau, Mr. Paisley, and Mr. Cappuccilli, while Ms. Compora and Councilman Dorothy Edwards voted to retain Ms. Manns.

Ms. Compora said the unannounced action supported her claim that other council members met to develop a plan to get rid of the city manager.

In his letter to Detective Meyer, Mr. Roehrig said, "We acknowledge it was no secret that Manns was in disfavor with the new administration and the issue of her dismissal may well have been discussed out of the public ear prior to Mayor Cappuccilli and the new councilmen taking office in January. However, there is nothing beyond Councilwoman Compora's feelings to suggest that Beneteau, Martin, Paisley, and Burkett conferred about the matter in a closed meeting [on Jan. 17]."

Ms. Compora said she was not surprised by the decision, but believes the investigation should have been handled differently.

"Given the political nature of this issue, I believe it should have been turned over to the state attorney general for an unbiased opinion," she said.

Contact George Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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