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FRIDAY, Oct. 13 —The Michigan Civil Rights Commission voted unanimously during a secret meeting to award the commission’s director a $24,740 bonus.
Agustin Arbulu, who is paid $152,250 a year, was given a 16.25 percent performance bonus on Sept. 18 in a closed door meeting that violated the Michigan Michigan Open Meetings Act. Vicki Levengood, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said the vote was an “inadvertent oversight.” She said the commission was rushing because hundreds of citizens were waiting to weigh in on an issue before the commission.
The vote was noted in the commission’s Sept. 18 minutes, published online.
“While we would normally not share information from a closed session as part of the minutes for the open meeting, the Commission and Department made the decision to do so in this instance in order to be as transparent as possible,” Levengood wrote in an email. “There was never any intent to hide information from the public, and the vote itself will be reenacted by the commission at its next meeting so that it will be in full compliance with the Open Meetings Act.”
Under state law, reenacting it nullifies the violation. The Open Meetings Act requires all deliberations and votes of a public body to occur in a public meeting.
Commissioner Linda Lee Tarver, an Ingham County Republican, made the illegal motion. It was seconded by Commissioner Jeffrey Sakwa, of Birmingham.
Anna Heaton, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, declined to comment on the bonus, noting the independent commission, which is appointed by the governor, made that decision.
She confirmed that no departmental leaders in the state were awarded bonuses this year.
Levengood said this is the first time the commission has issued a performance bonus for its director that staff of the department could find. She said the bonus in question was the result of a 2015 policy revision that created an annual review process for the director. That policy includes the possibility of a bonus at the commission’s discretion.
The bonus drew criticism from both state senators who represent Ingham County. Democrat Curtis Hertel Jr., from Meridian Township, said the raise could cause morale problems in the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, while Grand Ledge Republican Rick Jones, of Grand Ledge,, called the bonus “inappropriate.”