City Council holds special closed session to discuss ongoing litigation

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 - 11:35pm

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor listens at a city council meeting.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor listens at a city council meeting. Buy this photo
File Photo

A special session of Ann Arbor City Council took place this Monday in regard of two court cases: Attorney General et al. v. Gelman Sciences, Inc., relating to the dioxane plume caused by Gelman Science, and Think Right Strategies v. City of Ann Arbor, which involves a conservative political consulting firm suing the city over anti-discrimination laws.

The meeting started with public commentary from Chuck Lockes, a member of the citizen-run group A2 Safe Transport, which aims to improve pedestrian and transportation safety within the city. Lockes spoke about the statistical report he generated on pedestrian crashes in Ann Arbor from 2004 to 2016. He said he emailed the report to all councilmembers and only got a response from Chip Smith, D-5, whom Lockes said responded negatively to the report. 

Lockes urged the council to properly address the issue of endangering pedestrians.

“Mr. Smith said he wanted to promote or get away from certain car cultures,” Lockes said. “I want to know, from him, if that means it’s okay for the city of Ann Arbor to accept a few extra casualties along the way. That seems to be the insinuation of what he is saying, from that logic.”

The council then went into closed session under the Michigan Open Meetings Act for pending litigation set forth or incorporated in MCLA 15.268(E). This policy discussions of those matters in which a judgment has not yet been reached or in which a settlement agreement has not been accepted from OMA rules.

The first case scheduled to be discussed by the council is Attorney General et al. v. Gelman Sciences, Inc. Gelman Science is the company responsible for a large plume of the toxic chemical 1,4-dioxane in the Ann Arbor area's groundwater. The case was brought to Judge Donald E. Shelton who ruled for Gelman Science to be responsible for the plume cleanup.

Gelman Science appealed in 2017 to the Michigan Supreme Court in hopes of persuading the court to remove local plaintiffs from the ongoing Gelman Science plume legal case. That way the company only would have to negotiate with the state attorney general's office and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. However, the appeal was rejected, which allows local parties to participate in court for what they demand as a better cleanup of the plume from Gelman Science. 

The second case brought to the council is ThinkRight Strategies v. City of Ann Arbor. Conservative political consulting firm ThinkRight Strategies, founded by University alum Grant Strobl and Jacob Chludzinski, filed a lawsuit against the city of Ann Arbor, challenging city law they claim has forced ThinkRight Strategies to promote political messages and causes that contradict their conservative and religious principles.

Under current Ann Arbor legislation,  it is illegal for businesses to discriminate based on political beliefs. Thus, if ThinkRight provides advocacy services to Republican candidates, Ann Arbor requires them to provide similar services to Democratic candidates. To ensure compliance, Ann Arbor can fine violators up to $500 per day and pursue additional remedies. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom has taken on the case. The law firm is also representing the Tennes family, which owns Country Mill Orchard and Cider Mill in Charlotte. The city of East Lansing in 2017 blocked the owners from selling apples at the city’s farmer’s market because the Catholic orchard owners don’t open their farm to same-sex weddings, in violation of the East Lansing’s anti-discrimination ordinance. 

This case was filed on July 29, 2019 and is currently in Preliminary Injunction.

The Daily was not able to obtain any information from the closed session.