Exhibit A: Transparency in Grand Rapids City Council

We all know that transparency in government at the State and Federal level is rare or non-existent. At the local level, however, because City Councilmembers, Mayors, County Commissioners, etc., are our friends and neighbors, we would expect that all aspects of city and county government would be completely transparent. Apparently, transparency is not the case in Grand Rapids.

I viewed the archived ICTV video or the March 9, 2015, Grand Rapids City Council meeting with interest. During the Public Forum portion of the meeting, after the meeting had been called to order, Ron Niemala and Robert Ward presented the Council with three questions of significance regarding expenditures of taxpayer monies. The questions posed to the Council for response were:

1. A response to the Minnesota State Auditor’s report showing that Grand Rapids ranks sixth highest in the State for per capita revenue expenditures in municipalities with populations over 2,500;
2. The status of the ongoing SEC investigation of the City of Grand Rapids for the City’s failure to disclose or its misrepresentation of information relating to the sale of city revenue bonds and the fines and or costs relating to such investigation; and,
3. The real or apparent conflict of interest of Councilman Ed Zabinski to use taxpayer monies to fund a private business to be owned all or in part by Councilman Zabinski to be located in Central School.

Each of these questions relates to direct expenditures of Grand Rapids City tax revenues. As the questions relate to tax monies expenditures, the citizens and taxpayers in Grand Rapids deserve a formal response by the Mayor and City Council. The archive ICTV video shows that no responses were given nor was any commitment to provide official response at a later date.

Even more disturbing, the Official Minutes of the City Council Meeting gave a mere three sentences to the serious concerns presented by Niemala and Ward and neither stated the questions and concerns presented nor gave any indication of the Council’s response to those questions or concerns. The Minutes of the meeting gave only a partial rendering of the issues presented and gave no mention of the request for response.

There is no legitimate reason why a complete and accurate record of official proceedings cannot be made and preserved. By not providing the public with complete and accurate records, the Council gives the appearance that they are acting in secret and are not subject to public scrutiny or comment. The law requires a true, complete and accurate record of official proceedings. The interpretation of material presented or the opinion of the officials participating has no bearing on the requirement of completeness and accuracy of the record.

John Nelson
Grand Rapids Voice

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