A series of lawsuits filed last year against members of a local school board alleging they subverted the Open Meetings Act have been dismissed at the request of those who filed them in the first place.
Three separate complaints were filed in December of 2021 in Livingston County Circuit Court against Brighton Area Schools Board of Education President Roger Myers, Vice President Alicia Reid, Treasurer Angela Krebs and Trustee Laura Mitchell seeking an injunction to halt the activities of the Health, HR and Policy Committee, alleging they were in violation of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act by not being open to the public while developing policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
The lawsuits were filed by Jennifer Smith, Nicole Cullers and Susan Topoleski, who were all associated with, or members of, the Moms for Liberty group which had been outspoken at school board meetings in advocating against mask mandates, COVID testing or the quarantine of students identified as close contacts of infected individuals.
However, according to court records, the plaintiffs sought to dismiss their own lawsuit. In response to the motion for dismissal, the defendants, in this case the district and the various named board members, asked the court to require that the plaintiffs “collectively be obligated to reimburse Defendants for all attorney fees and costs incurred in defending against this frivolous action as a condition of the dismissal…”.
The motion went on to question why Conely and Trombley were not included in the lawsuit along with the other board members.
“The answer is simple,” stated the response, “as explained below, these blatantly frivolous lawsuits were filed by Plaintiffs at the behest of and in secret collaboration with Conely and Trombley to judicially harass Defendants with whom Conely and Trombley had an axe to grind because of their positions on various school board issues.”
It went on to allege that in October and November, 2021, the plaintiffs regularly attended school board meetings, and at the conclusion of several of them, “Conely and Trombley would rendezvous with Plaintiff Jennifer Smith and other Plaintiffs for after-hours, clandestine meetings at the MOD Pizza restaurant in Brighton. At that time, Plaintiff Jennifer Smith’s husband was the area Director for MOD Pizza franchises, so her after-hours access to the restaurant provided a private venue at which one or more of the Plaintiffs, Conely and Trombley could meet to strategize regarding various issues to be decided by the Board, including various COVID-related issues.”
The response went on to note that both Conely and Trombley appeared at the initial court hearing for the lawsuits on January 20, 2022, in order “to privately meet and strategize with Plaintiffs before and after the hearing. When asked why they were appearing in Court to support the Plaintiffs who were frivolously suing their fellow Board members, Conely retorted that “it’s a free country” and Trombley flippantly responded that he “just happened to be in the neighborhood.” After a lengthy post-hearing strategy meeting inside the courthouse, Conely and Trombley left the courthouse with Plaintiffs Smith and Cullers.”
A picture of the group leaving the courthouse together was attached to the document as an exhibit, adding “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
It was also noted that as part of the discovery requests, the plaintiffs were requested to produce “all communications related to this action, which included all emails or other communications between Plaintiffs and Conely and Trombley,” noting that at the time those responses were due, Conely and Trombley were the subjects of proposed recall petitions.
The motion to dismiss the lawsuits was granted on August 4 with prejudice by Judge Michael Hatty, which means they cannot be refiled at a future date.
BAS Board President Roger Myers told GIGO News that the plaintiffs filed their complaints as a form of judicial harassment and knew they were frivolous from the outset, as confirmed by the fact that they sought a dismissal of their own complaints, which he called “extremely rare.”
”They requested that the judge dismiss their case without prejudice (meaning they could refile the claims in the future) but we opposed and argued the claims should be dismissed with prejudice (meaning they could not be refiled) as frivolous and to order the plaintiffs to pay all defense legal fees and court costs,” said Myers. “The court granted our request to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice as meritless. The court refrained from awarding legal fees at this time but warned the plaintiffs that any future filings of frivolous claims by them would result in monetary sanctions. I am pleased with the outcome which will allow us to continue our committee structure and focus our energy on leading the district forward to provide the best possible education for our students while hopefully deterring future frivolous lawsuits.”
Requests for comment have been made to Conely, Trombley and Smith, but have yet to be returned.