MENOMINEE — Menominee County Judge Mary Barglind is scheduled to hear a request today from marijuana retailer First Property Holdings / Rize to intervene in a lawsuit that marijuana company Highwire Farms has brought against the town of Menominee due to the city’s lack of transparency in the retail marijuana selection process.
The proceedings are expected to be held via Zoom at 9 a.m. on Friday, and immediately thereafter, the court is expected to consider the Highwire Farms case against the Town of Menominee in a pre-trial conference at 9:30 a.m. via Zoom.
City council member William Plemel said Thursday he had not seen the lawsuits and was unaware of Friday’s hearings. The EagleHerald’s phone calls to city attorney Mike Celello and interim city manager Brett Botbyl were not immediately returned.
First Property / Rize and Highwire have applied for retail licenses to open marijuana stores in Menominee. Rize was licensed, unlike Highwire Farms.
Highwire is among several marijuana applicants who have said the city’s way of selecting companies for licensing was unfair, but the lack of transparency involved in the process is at the heart of the company’s lawsuit, filed on October 15. 2021. The city has blocked company representatives from speaking at several meetings, limiting the speaking time of company representatives and the public, and making decisions behind closed doors when decisions should have been made. taken at public meetings.
“There was a private deliberation. There has been no public deliberation “on the selection of companies,” said Eric Kennedy, owner and COO of Highwire.
“They tried to limit public comment. You can’t do that, ”he said. “You are limiting our speech and this is a violation of the Open Meetings Act,” Kennedy said.
The Open Meetings Act (OMA), Act 267 of 1976, is designed to provide transparency to the public about how decisions are made. The law “supersedes any provisions of the local charter, ordinances or resolutions that relate to the requirement that meetings of local public bodies be open to the public,” the Highwire file states.
“The bottom line is that the board had the opportunity to hit the pause button and correct all of the OMA’s violations and issues. They haven’t, so it creates a pattern of non-transparency, ”Kennedy said in a telephone interview with the EagleHerald on Wednesday.
Highwire’s lawsuit is against the Town of Menominee and he appoints the following: Menominee Town Council, Judicial and Legislative / Staff and Labor Committee, Marijuana Section Scoring Committee, Former Director City Manager Tony Graff, Acting City Manager Brett Botbyl, Former City Engineer and Director of Public Works Tricia Alwin, City Worker Derrick Schulz, City Clerk Kathy Brofka, Fire Chief Mark Petersen and City Attorney Mike Celello.
Highwire says the town of Menominee repeatedly violated Michigan’s open meetings law in the process used to determine which marijuana companies would be granted retail licenses.
The Highwire court document states that “the illegal ratings committee decisions were not made in accordance with the Open Meetings Act and should be immediately set aside.” This would give Highwire another opportunity to apply for a license.
In its application to intervene in the Highwire case, First Property Holdings, which uses the name Rize for its marijuana stores, says its due process rights are threatened if the court asks the city to restart the selection process retail marijuana licenses.
Friday’s hearing is to see if we can’t (intervene) in this matter, ”said Bill Wentworth of First Property Holdings / Rize. “We are just trying to protect our rights.
In its court file, First Property / Rize said that once a license is granted, it becomes a “protected property interest which cannot be revoked without due process.” He said Rize’s due process rights would be affected without intervention. He asks the court to allow him to intervene in the Highwire case.
“Highwire seeks to strip Rize of its license and ownership rights so that Highwire can have another opportunity to be eventually chosen,” according to court documents from First Property / Rize.
First Property Holdings / Rize received a municipal license on September 27 and purchased the former Stang Sales & Service property at 3213 10th St. for $ 900,000 on September 30. She plans to build a marijuana dispensary, fast food restaurant and culture center at this address, according to court documents.
To comply with the city ordinance, Rize said he has until March 26, 2022, or six months from the date the license was issued, to be fully operational on 10th Street.
But in its filing, Highwire said, the charter for the town of Menominee “openly recognizes that it is mandatory that the charter requires compliance with the Open Meetings Act.”
The law “provides that a decision made by a public body can be overturned if the public body has not complied with (the requirements of the law) in making the decision,” said the Highwire file.