by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

Vernon Township resident Paula Brooks, who lives roughly 20 feet outside of the Durand city limits, or just across the street, challenged the Durand City Council during its Tuesday, Aug. 9 Special Meeting, accusing the group of trying to hold meetings without informing the public. This is not the first time Brooks has questioned the city regarding special meetings, and Durand’s city attorney, Charles McKone, and city manager, Amy Roddy, took exception to her comments. Not only do they feel that Brooks’ allegations are untrue, but Roddy and several council members have taken issue with Brooks’ consistent interest in their activities over the years.

Brooks has been regularly attending council meetings since July of 1996 and has a trove of notes she has compiled over that time. When an issue comes up, she checks her records and brings her questions to the council. Brooks first began attending the council meetings after the city tried to annex her property, though some council members believe Brooks has had an axe to grind with the city since she was charged for a library card at the Durand library years ago. Either way, the tension between the two sides has been quite evident for years.

On this night, Brooks asked why the council has continued to hold special meetings without making an effort to inform the public. Additionally, Brooks took issue with the important agenda items that are discussed during the meetings in question, such as the announcement of Roddy’s retirement, the optioning of property, and street repairs.

“I realize that I am a township resident, but one who has attended a good number of your council and committee meetings over the last 20 years,” Brooks said during the opening public comments section of Monday’s meeting. “We are all a community, and not just when it tickles your fancy. Yes, you are posting your meeting notices in accordance with the Open Meetings Act, but is appears to me that you are doing things behind closed doors, or that you don’t want the public to know what you are doing. None of us have time to be playing the game of guessing when the next meeting is.”

As is usually the case when Brooks addresses the council, no council members responded to her comments until later in the meeting, when Jeff Brands attempted to explain the reasons behind the special meetings by saying, “I get a little offended when we get accused of not giving the public 30 days notice. Some of these issues come up rather quickly and we cannot always wait until our regular meetings.”

McKone also felt the need to address Brooks’ comments at the end of the meeting, during which time he defended the council. “There is always reasonable notice given, whether we are talking about a special meeting or a regular meeting,” McKone said. “I have worked with so many councils over my 42 years, and I don’t know of anyone on this council that has tried to hide anything from the public on any level. This council has been honest with the public on virtually every issue, and to sit and accuse this council of anything inappropriate or untoward is totally unfair.”

Roddy, who retired as the city’s full time city manager Aug. 5 and is working as the city manager on an interim basis, then took her turn in responding to Brooks’ comments.

“I would like to address Paula Brooks’ comments, once and for all,” said the usually unflappable Roddy. “City government runs very differently than in the township, and I think you fail to realize that because you go to all the township meetings and see a very simplified form of government. They have one meeting a month, they speak very haphazardly, they don’t have a lot of organization, and they don’t have department heads. That is not what the city of Durand is. We have several department heads and a lot of moving parts. Sometimes we do not have the luxury of informing the public because we have deadlines to meet. I take offense, and the community should take offense, to your comments, because you have been doing this for 20-plus years. I’m leaving, but I pity the people who have to follow, because you are not a nice person.”

Durand Attorney and City Manager Scold Local Resident was last modified: August 15th, 2016 by Karen Elford