MAC COVID-19 Update
Legal expert advises on OMA, FOIA concerns during crisis

Even with emergency Executive Orders modifying the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act, counties still must have a mechanism to acknowledge receipt of FOIA requests and guarantee members of the public can hear and participate in county board sessions, a legal expert on public transparency matters told a MAC Virtual Legislative Conference workshop on Wednesday.

Matt Nordfjord, of the firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey, provided an analysis of do’s and don’ts for counties under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s EOs on the two transparency requirements, then fielded questions from an audience of nearly 50.

Other points Nordjford made:

  • The EO on FOIA is “not a pause button on everything.” Counties still must comply with FOIA requests that can be handled electronically, for example.
  • While boards need to allow public comment in their virtual sessions, they can operate under the same rules they have for physical sessions, including limits on time and cutting people off who act to disrupt the meeting.
  • Board members need to be careful not to use private text messaging between each other during public meetings to deliberate on public matters.

The session on transparency laws was the fifth event in the Virtual Conference. Complete details, including registration for upcoming events, are found at the conference page.
Next up for conference: Podcast 83 with special White House guest

Douglas L. Hoelscher, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs, will join MAC’s Podcast 83 team for a quick update on federal actions and to take a few questions from county leaders in Michigan.

To pre-register for the Podcast 83 event, which starts at 11 a.m., please click here.
Whitmer says she will extend ‘Stay at Home’ order

During a Wednesday press conference, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she will extend the Executive Order to discourage non-essential activity and promote social distancing. The timeline on short-term extension should come out Friday, but Whitmer added that some version of the “Stay at Home” order will be in place “for a long time here.”

The governor also said new teams had been formed to aid public health departments working with long-term care facilities to make sure they are implementing the best protocols and testing residents appropriately; the departments would get $3.8 million to do the work.
MAC director to appear on Beckmann show Thursday

Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director, will be a guest on “The Frank Beckmann Show” on WJR-AM radio tomorrow between 10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.
Currie will discuss how counties in Michigan and nationwide have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and how crucial it is for Congress and the Trump administration to enact federal funding that will flowing directly to counties for this response.

A National Association of Counties analysis released earlier this week said that the financial burden on the nation’s approximately 3,000 counties would exceed $144 billion through the end of fiscal year 2021.

Those outside of WJR’s broadcast area may listen live to the show here.
Be sure to pursue public health funding options

The CARES Act passed at the end of March by Congress identified funding opportunities and other provisions that may apply to local health departments across Michigan.

The Center for Health and Research Transformation did a deep dive and provides an analysis of potential funding available. The analysis also covers CARES Act policy options that may provide opportunities for local health departments to expand services.

The Michigan Association of Local Public Health has shared this information with its members and MAC encourages county commissioners to support the health officers in applying for additional funding from the federal government.

For more information on MAC’s health policies, contact Meghann Keit at