A convicted sex offender on probation left a public Lansing City Council meeting Thursday night at the urging of the city parks director, which is an apparent violation of the state Open Meetings Act.
Adrian Hill left a public meeting at the Foster Community Center that was to discuss a possible city rule against sex offenders renting city facilities. Hill’s attempted rental of Lett’s Community Center for a charitable event spurred the meeting, which was of the Council Public Safety Committee.
Before the meeting began, Parks and Recreation Director Murdock Jemerson called Hill into an office and told him that his presence at the meeting could be a probation violation. Jemerson told Hill that cameras at the center were recording his presence there, which police and probation officials could watch. Both Hill and Jemerson confirmed the details of the conversation.
Hill said that in order to avoid a confrontation, he agreed and left the community center.
"I told (Jemerson) I didn't want to leave," Hill said in a phone interview Friday morning. "I said I wanted to speak for myself. He said it was best for me to leave."
Hill said that during that meeting Jemerson called Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski to check on Hill's probation restrictions.
"The chief aired on the side of caution to advise Adrian Hill to leave the center if he was unaware of the conditions of his probation or parole were. To do anything less would have been misleading to Mr Hill," said Lansing Police Capt. Ray Hall.
Asked if Hill were violating any laws or terms of his probation, Hall responded "No none. He was not in any violation of any sex offender registration laws or his probation terms."
Hill was arrested in April on the warrant for failing to register as a sex offender, a misdemeanor. He pleaded guilty in May and is serving nine months’ probation, a suspended jail sentence and almost $800 in fees. Under state law, sex offenders cannot be within 1,000 feet of schools, but the law does not prohibit proximity to preschools or community centers.
Robin Luce-Herrmann, an attorney specializing in the Open Meetings Act for the Michigan Press Association, says Jemerson’s actions may have violated the law.
"Let me put it this way," Luce-Herrmann said, “it's certainly a violation of the spirit of the Open Meetings Act to try to persuade people from attending a public meeting, even if they weren't forcibly removed."
A handbook on the law produced by the Michigan Attorney General's office says, "no one may be excluded from a meeting otherwise open to the public except for a breach of the peace actually committed at the meeting."
Lansing City Attorney Brigham Smith disagreed with Luce-Herrmann.
"The opinion of the Office of the City Attorney is that no Open Meetings Act violation occurred," Smith wrote in an email. "Mr. Hill's departure from the meeting was ‘a mutual decision’ based on the uncertainty regarding whether his presence constituted a probation violation. He was therefore not ‘excluded’ as that term is used in the OMA."
"I think it is troublesome to exclude anybody," Luce-Herrmann said. "It is particularly troubling when somebody with a particular viewpoint on an issue before a public body doesn't have the opportunity to comment."
Hill said that he is considering seeking an attorney
In 2004, Hill communicated with an undercover state police officer pretending to be a 13-year-old female Lansing Everett High School student, according to court records. Court transcripts reveal Hill sent dozens of emails, many of them sexually explicit, and ultimately arranged a meeting with the fictional teen in Biggie Munn Park in Lansing for oral sex. Instead, Hill was met by Lansing and state police.
Hill was convicted in 2005 of accosting or soliciting a minor for immoral purposes. As part of his sentence, he was ordered to register as a sex offender until 2030. However, Lansing Police say he stopped registered in 2007.
This story was updated on June 7 at 6:22 p.m. to include comments from Lansing Police Capt. Ray Hall.