Judge clears way for DPSCD superintendent talks

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

A judge on Tuesday cleared the way for contract negotiations between the Detroit school board and its choice for superintendent.

Community activist Robert Davis has been trying to stop those talks, accusing the school board of violating the Open Meetings Act by privately negotiating contract terms with its chosen superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, through the appointment of a subcommittee.

But Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan ruled Tuesday that audio from an April 18 school board meeting refuted Davis’ claim, and Sullivan denied Davis’ request for a temporary restraining order in the matter.

“The court denied the emergency motion for a temporary restraining order,” said Lawrence Garcia, an attorney for the Detroit Public Schools Community District. “As far as that motion goes, the defendants are the prevailing parties and the plaintiff did not prevail.”

A district lawyer has said the board did not appoint, direct, recommend or suggest “any subcommittee that is to negotiate a contract with the new superintendent.”

Davis, who is known for filing numerous lawsuits against government agencies over issues of public transparency, admitted on Tuesday the audio did not prove the school board created a subcommittee.

“There was not technically a subcommittee made last week,” he said.

The ruling comes in the midst of Davis’ ongoing litigation against the district. He claims the board has repeatedly violated the Open Meetings Act in its search for a new superintendent.

The activist previously targeted a meeting he said was improperly advertised and has asked a judge to halt and restart the entire search process in the public eye.

Davis has challenged the district's search for a candidate to replace interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather, who was appointed last year by the district’s then emergency manager, Steven Rhodes.

The district retained Ray and Associates for the superintendent search in late January after community input through surveys and focus groups. Seventy-five applicants from around the country sought the job.

The search firm narrowed the field to 10 candidates and the board reviewed their application packages, including videos, in closed session. Officials assigned each candidate a number and brought the process to open session, during which applicants were discussed without revealing names.

The members further narrowed the selection to three finalists before choosing Vitti.


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Twitter: @HollyPFournier