The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against Tar Creek residents who claimed their property was undervalued by the trust involved in the federal relocation plan, but eight of the nine justices agreed the trust violated the state's Open Meeting Act by inviting appraisers and the state's secretary of environment into a closed meeting.
The high court sent the open meeting matter back to Ottawa County District Court for the judge to decide whether the violation was willful and whether residents should be allowed to see records of the executive session of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust. Larry Roberts, trust operations manager, declined to comment Tuesday on the ruling. Johnny and Patty LaFalier and Missy Beets sought class status for residents whose buyout payments were reduced because they were paid by their private insurance carrier or the Federal Emergency Management Agency after a 2008 tornado. They claimed they had signed a contract for the purchase of their property; their property was damaged by the tornado, and the insurance payment they received on the property was deducted from the relocation assistance offer. They also said the Open Meeting Act was violated when company officials went into executive session with the trust to discuss appraisals. J.D. Strong, state environment secretary, was also there. The district court judge ruled against them, and they appealed.
Payments called OKThe justices all found that the trust's decision about payments was constitutional.