Jan. 22 2014 12:00 AM

Public forums will be held in early February in Lansing, East Lansing and Delta Township


Wednesday, Jan. 22 — The chairman of a 10-member panel conducting an external review of the Board of Water and Light announced his plan for transparency today following reports this week that some of the team’s work might be done in private.

Retired Brig. Gen. Mike McDaniel announced three public forums scheduled for Feb. 4-6 in Lansing, East Lansing and Delta Township to collect community input on the utility’s response to last month’s ice storm. Locations and times have not yet been announced. They follow a trio of public forums last week held by the BWL for its own internal review.

McDaniel also announced that the panel’s first organizational meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 a.m. at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, 240 Museum Drive in Lansing. The media are invited to attend, but it's unclear whether the public is.

The decision to hold the meetings in public “was made in the interest of transparency,” according to a press release, “despite a ruling by Lansing City Attorney Janene McIntyre that the (review team) is not subject to Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.”

“Legal advice from the city of Lansing clearly demonstrated that the (Open Meetings Act) does not apply to the (review team), but since we hold transparency as a core value, we are willing to go beyond what is legally required because we believe strongly in conducting our business in an open format whenever possible,” McDaniel said in a statement. “In the end, I believe the public will be satisfied with the openness of our process. In the final analysis, our work will be judged by the report we produce and the strength of the recommendations we make.”

Today’s announcement contrasts with statements McDaniel made to the Lansing State Journal earlier this week, in which he said the group’s being subject to open meetings and records laws would create “constraints” and would be “really burdensome.”

“I pledged to make this as open as possible, but it has to be a productive process as well,” he told the Journal. “You can’t have your deliberative process subject to public scrutiny. To reach a final decision, you absolutely have to be able to have work sessions where we can develop our recommendations.”