On Aug. 1, Michigan Court of Appeals denied a request by four members of Wayne State’s Board of Governors to overturn decisions made at the June 21 meeting — where half of the members were present.
Board members Michael Busuito, Sandra Hughes O’Brien, Dana Thompson — who didn’t attend the June 21 meeting — and Anil Kumar – who was on vacation – sued President Wilson and the four members who were present, which included Board Chair Kim Trent, Marilyn Kelly, Mark Gaffney and Bryan Barnhill.
In question was a ruling by WSU’s general counsel, Louis Lessem, which allowed President M. Roy Wilson to act as an ex-officio member in order complete the quorum — the majority — and conduct business, according to the lawsuit.
Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens considered the Michigan Constitution, state law and Wayne State bylaws in her ruling, said the Detroit Free Press.
"Pursuant to this definition, it is apparent that Wilson is considered a member of the board by virtue of his office, regardless of whether he possesses the right to vote as possessed by other board members," and, as president, his position can be counted to establish a quorum, she wrote.
“We’re disappointed with the decision and are exploring our options,” said O’Brien.
She and the other board members who sued, rejected the purchase of 400 Mack Avenue, proposed to be the future site of a new pediatrics center, three times prior, she said.
“We rejected it at $14 million. They approved it for $16 million.”
The building was sold for $6.1 million in 2016 and the university is paying double the market value and President Wilson would not provide substantial financial analysis, studies or real-estate comps, she said.
“Somebody has to pay for this debt, and it’s not us, it’s you guys. It’s the students and we’re just not willing to do that.”
She said the decision to boycott was in the best interests of WSU.
However, the June 21 meeting was one of the most important meetings of the year and planned two years in advance, Board Chair Kim Trent said in a letter to the Detroit News.
The boycott was an attempt to obstruct university progress, she said. “This obstruction seems part of an ongoing strategy to harass Wayne State’s outstanding president, M. Roy Wilson, into resigning.”
Trent said the administration provided a “full property appraisal and more than adequate information” to the board on May 1.
In the letter, she said the assertion that WSU is purchasing the building for double market value is a “false conclusion” based on a comparison between “a property appraisal, which estimates market value, with a property assessment, which is done by the city for tax purposes and comes in far less than the property appraisal.”
The next BOG meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20.
Carmen is a correspondent for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photo by Jonathan Deschaine.