Shouting match erupts at Shelby board meeting
By Sarah Wojcik
December 18, 2013
SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Tensions flared again between Trustee Nick Nightingale and the rest of Shelby’s Board of Trustees Dec. 3 when Nightingale requested to alter a previous meeting’s minutes.
At the previous meeting Nov. 19, the board voted 6-1 to settle a $745,000 lawsuit Nightingale filed against board members Paul Viar, Michael Flynn, Doug Wozniak and Rick Stathakis for a violation of his first amendment rights. Flynn, at that time, read a scathing statement in which he accused Nightingale of enriching himself at the expense of Shelby taxpayers.
Nightingale wished to move the approval of the Nov. 19 minutes from the Dec. 3 consent agenda to the regular agenda in order to make a motion to add Flynn’s prepared statement as an attachment.
The board approved Nightingale’s request to move the item to the regular agenda, but before Nightingale made a motion, Clerk Stanley Grot made a motion to approve the minutes as they were. Trustee Paula Filar seconded the motion.
“You know, this is absolutely ridiculous,” Nightingale said. “I made a motion to remove those minutes because I wanted to make a motion. Now, you guys are voting to go ahead and approve the minutes.”
He began to make his motion but was cut off twice by Trustee Paul Viar, who told Nightingale that there was a motion on the floor. Nightingale responded by telling Viar to learn some manners.
Supervisor Rick Stathakis interjected to allow Nightingale to make his motion.
Nightingale did so, saying, “He said, and I quote, ‘Make a brief statement into the record for the public.’ Mr. Flynn, can I gain some support on this? You said at the last board meeting you wanted your statement read into the minutes, and they have been taken out by the clerk.”
Silence from the board resulted in Nightingale’s motion dying.
When Stathakis invited comment from the public, several residents came to the podium. Nightingale’s parents, whose company was part of the lawsuit, berated the board for a lack of transparency, and resident Thomas Turner said that the topic was “beating a dead horse.”
Stathakis also cautioned board members not to respond based on a request from John Gillooly, Shelby’s legal counsel, that no comments be made until the lawsuit is completed, and that it was his understanding the matter had not been completed yet.
Flynn pointed out that a video of the meeting ran on Shelby TV and also is accessible via the township website. He also said, in response to resident comments, that if he ran for re-election, he would publish the transcript himself.
Stathakis consulted Township Attorney Rob Huth about whether Flynn’s request to add his statement to the record constituted having to add it to the minutes.
“I think ‘record’ has a legal connotation in a lawsuit,” Huth said. “In terms of the township act, ‘record’ does not apply. … It’s recorded (on video), as Mr. Flynn said. It’s there; it’s part of the record.”
Grot said he absolutely would not add Flynn’s statement as an attachment to the minutes because parliamentary procedure calls for a summary of the meeting, and he included a summary of Flynn’s statement in the minutes.
“You beat up on me because I would not listen to you. I would never listen to you,” Grot said to Nightingale. “Once the minutes are done, I can’t alter the minutes. They have to be brought to the table.”
Grot and Nightingale raised their voices and Stathakis had to sound his gavel to bring the meeting to order.
The board voted 6-1 to keep the minutes as follows: “Mr. Flynn read a prepared statement into the record explaining his vote to the public. He will not vote to reward Mr. Nightingale one cent of taxpayer dollars.” Nightingale cast the only nay vote.
About the author
Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik covers Shelby Township and Utica for the Shelby-Utica News. Sarah has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2013 and attended Oakland University. She won a first place 2013 Excellence in Journalism award for open government reporting and a second place 2014 Excellence in Journalism award for a series of explanatory stories from the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
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