By Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published February 18, 2010
The University’s Board of Regents was hit with a lawsuit yesterday, which claims that a closed-door meeting that took place two weeks ago was in violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act, according to a news report published last night.
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The regents met in University President Mary Sue Coleman’s private conference room for approximately 90 minutes on Feb. 3, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Michigan Daily at the time. According to the source, the meeting centered around the NCAA investigation into allegations that Michigan’s football program violated NCAA regulations governing the allowable amount of time student-athletes can spend in practice and off-season workouts.
According to a report published by The Detroit Free Press last night, University alum Robert Davis filed a lawsuit yesterday against the regents for holding the meeting in private, something he alleges violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
Davis told the Free Press that he wasn’t trying to harm his alma mater with the suit, but wanted to make sure the University was held accountable.
“I live U-M football and basketball and I want to see the University of Michigan do well,” he told the Free Press. “I just hope and I pray that University officials follow the same rules that they hold the student-athletes to.”
According to the Free Press, Davis’s lawsuit seeks a court order to prevent the Board of Regents from holding executive sessions on the NCAA investigation and requests that minutes from the Feb. 3 meeting be released to the public.
In an interview with the Daily last night, University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said the University behaved "appropriately" when it held the closed-door regents meeting earlier this month.
“The University acted appropriately,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said she couldn’t speak about the specifics of the lawsuit since she had not seen a copy of it yet.
However, on Feb. 8 — prior to yesterday’s lawsuit — University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told the Daily the regents meeting didn't violate any regulations set forth in the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
Fitzgerald said at the time the meeting did not fall under the act because it was an “informal” meeting of the Board of Regents, not a “closed” meeting as set forth in the act.
Additionally, Fitzgerald said the meeting was not even classifiable as a meeting as defined in the act. The Michigan Open Meetings Act defines a meeting as “the convening of a public body at which a quorum is present for the purpose of deliberating toward or rendering a decision on a public policy.”
Fitzgerald said because the meeting was not subject to the act, no meeting minutes were kept.
Asked why the University posted a notice for the Feb. 3 informal meeting of the Board of Regents — a requirement set forth for all meetings under the Michigan Open Meetings Act — Fitzgerald said it was done as a courtesy to the campus community. He also said he believed it was a standard practice that had been in place for the almost one year he has worked at the University.
The Michigan football program has been under investigation by the NCAA since Oct. 23 when NCAA Vice President for Enforcement David Price sent a letter of inquiry to Coleman.
At the time, Price wrote he hoped to complete the investigation by Dec. 31, 2009, but that the date was a goal and not a firm deadline. Neither the University nor the NCAA has released any information about the NCAA probe since it began.
When the allegations against the Michigan football program were first brought forward in a Free Press article in late August 2009, the University also launched an internal investigation into the matter. To date, University officials have not released any information regarding that investigation.