At its October 28 meeting, the Grand Traverse Academy board of directors rejiggered its published agenda: moving a “closed session” up from its penultimate spot to a key spot right after roll call.
Anyone interested in the guts of the meeting (superintendent's report, Full Spectrum's Mark Noss and his report) would hardly sit and wait without knowing how long this “legal opinion” might take, and that's the point.
I do know that the board reviewed a legal opinion from its current attorney, Kerry Morgan, regarding the Traverse City charter school's oft-rumored math and science center expansion. Scheduled to be constructed on site by Mark Noss' MDN Development, LLC, the new building was the focus of a marketing push during the previous school year. The campaign was developed to attract the 125 new students and the roughly $940,000 in additional state aid they'd bring to the Grand Traverse Academy — dough that would be needed to pay Noss and his silent partners their $30,000 monthly lease payments. (Monthly lease payments were scheduled to leap to $38,000 per month in the second year.)
Expecting that my Freedom of Information Act request would likely be denied on the grounds of attorney-client privilege, on October 28 I sent an email to superintendent Susan Dameron, the Grand Traverse Academy's FOIA contact. Dameron responded November 4 on behalf of the board, quoting attorney Kerry Morgan:
“MCL 15.243(1)(h) exempts from FOIA “Information or records subject to the attorney-client privilege.” A FOIA request for “a legal opinion prepared for the Academy’s Board of Directors for discussion at its October 28, 2016 meeting” is therefore exempt under MCL 243(1)(h). The FOIA should be denied.”
But here's the thing: although the board can deny my request based on attorney-client privilege, it does have the right to reveal key information contained in the recommendation.
After all, it's the same bunch that paid out thousands to provide taxpayer-funded legal representation for its former president, Brad Habermehl, while he testified for the defense in 2015 during Steven Ingersoll's sentencing hearing.
You remember Brad “I and Steve are 2 of the five” Habermehl, don't you? The man who admitted under oath in federal court that the Grand Traverse Academy board he'd headed was “deferring recovery of 5 million” owed to the charter school by Steven Ingersoll?
I thought you might recall that...scoundrel.
Here's one thing the Grand Traverse Academy board can tell us without needing a FOIA to pry it out of them: who are the investors behind Mark Noss and his MDN Development?