LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan official has apologized for silencing a 9-year-old girl who tried to voice opposition to construction at a city council meeting.

Lansing City Council President Patricia Spitzley allowed four adults but not fourth-grader, Charli Collison, to address the council July 10. Charli wanted to protest the construction of a driveway through Ormond Park, a popular spot for children to play, the Lansing State Journal (http://on.lsj.com/2uPRAmV ) reported.

Spitzley initially defended her decision, saying children shouldn’t make public comment. She has since apologized and in an email to Charli and her mother. She also asked to meet Charli to apologize in person.

“… I have a responsibility to make sure that everyone feels comfortable (to) make public comment at Council meetings. I failed you,” Spitzley wrote in her email. “You know what hurts the most? The fact that I may have made you cry.”

She also publicly posted an apology via Facebook, saying she regretted the negative attention her decision drew to Lansing. She didn’t address violating the state Open Meetings Act.

“My lapse in judgment has shined negative spotlight on the City that I love,” she wrote. “I can accept the harsh and justified criticism against me regarding my conduct on July 10th. What is unbearable is the negative impact it may have on my City, my fellow Councilmembers and the Mayor who had no part in my actions.”

Charli’s mother, Kelly, said she is still upset and that several people have encouraged her to file an Open Meetings Act lawsuit.

“I’m not saying my 9-year-old should be on the City Council,” she said. “I’m saying my 9-year-old should be able to speak to the City Council.”

Kelly Collison said Spitzley’s apology only came after the official received negative media attention.

Other children plan to speak at the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday to support Charli in her opposition to the park construction. Council Vice President Carol Wood said the children should be welcomed and given their time under the Open Meetings Act. She also said it goes further than just following the law, and that the council should be encouraging them to help grow good citizens.


Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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