If members of public boards and commissions flout their responsibilities, the state does not have to defend them against legal action. That’s the message of a letter from the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, and it focuses on the bipartisan state panel that certifies election results.
Democratic state senator Jeremy Moss requested the letter – which is different from the official opinion of an attorney general because it is not an official interpretation of any law or policy of the state. Moss said he was concerned about what the council might do after the November election with statewide races and contentious voting issues around abortion, voting rights and limits on mandate at stake.
Members of the Michigan Board of State Solicitors are evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Moss says the letter sends a message,
“So while this may not be an official opinion, it is a clear signal from the department of its position as to how it will or will not defend the actions of those who do not comply. the law,” he said. Michigan Public Radio. “And if they fail to fulfill their ministerial duty to certify an election, they could face sanctions.”
From the letter to Moss:
“Therefore, in response to your questions, a member of a state board, board, commission, or task force, who receives advice from the Department regarding his or her clear and n Failure to act in accordance with such advice may be denied representation by the Department in civil disputes related to this duty and could potentially lose their legal immunity from tort liability.
The letter was signed by Chief Deputy Attorney General Christina Grossi.
Decisions of the four-member canvassing committee must be made by majority vote with at least one Republican and one Democrat vote. Board deadlocks almost always go to court.
This is what happened with the Promote the Vote and Reproductive Freedom for All campaigns to amend the Michigan Constitution. After deadlockMichigan Supreme Court order the Board of Directors to place the questions on the November ballot.
GOP board member Tony Daunt complied with the order and said that’s how the system is supposed to work. He told Michigan Public Radio that a State Department using its discretion to threaten members of any public council with legal consequences for acting in good faith is a dangerous development.
“It has a chilling effect on the ability of these councils to do their job and do it responsibly,” he said. “I think it’s a particularly insidious method of intimidation by essentially seeking to arm the powers of government to prosecute people who disagree with you on a matter of policy or law.”