Ann Arbor Council: Legal Opinion? No Thanks

At its April 2, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council rejected a resolution on a 3-7 vote that would have directed the city attorney to provide a written legal opinion on the transfer of funds from the dedicated street millage fund for use in the city’s public art program. The city’s Percent for Art ordinance stipulates that 1% of all capital project budgets be allocated for public art, up to a limit of $250,000 per project. The legal basis for the program, which relies on taking monies from dedicated millages and fees to serve the purpose of public art, has been sharply questioned.

Since being hired as city attorney, Stephen Postema has circumvented Ann Arbor’s city charter requirement that written legal opinions be filed with the city clerk (thus making them public) by contending that his written opinions are “advice memos” and thus not opinions. The city responds to requests under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act for the content of such advice memos by asserting attorney-client privilege.

By Ann Arbor’s city charter, however, the city attorney is under the direct supervision of the city council. And the council could have forced Postema to produce a written opinion with the resolution on its April 2 agenda. In the 3-7 vote, the council showed no enthusiasm for exercising its city charter mandate. The resolution got support only from Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).

The resolution was brought forward by Kunselman and co-sponsored by Briere. For additional background, see: “Council Preview: Marijuana, Art, TIF.”

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]