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January 29, 2024, Proposed Meeting Minutes

Meeting of the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission
January 29th, 2024
Williams Building, Lansing, MI


Called to Order:

Melissa Palepu called meeting to order at 1:05pm.

Members Present:

  • Melissa Palepu
  • Jonathan Walden
  • Michael Draminski
  • Hon. Lisa McCormick (left at 1:30pm)
  • Katie Papke
  • Jeff Getting
  • Ben O’Hearn

Not in attendance:

  • Leslie King
  • Alice Johnson


Agenda Item:

Call to order and Welcome. Chairwoman Melissa Palepu welcomed Commission members and the public.


Agenda Item:

Roll Call. Athena Thorton took roll call of the Commission Members.


Agenda Item: 

Commission Member Introduction:  Melissa Palepu had asked the board to introduce themselves briefly. She had requested if the board members would email a small bio for it to be used on the website. If the board members would like, they can also send a photo to be added to the website, but it is not required. Melissa Palepu introduced herself as AG for human trafficking and child abuse. Jonathan Walden introduced himself as Detective with Michigan State Police working in child exploitation crimes. Mike Draminski introduced himself as complaint section manager at bureau of licensing. Hon. Lisa McCormick introduced herself as Judge in the family division of the 30th circuit court and she started the child advocacy center. Katie Papke introduced herself as survivor of human trafficking, works in private practice, is an adjunct professor, working in the office of Veterans Affairs and assisting in the nation human trafficking prevention committee. Jeff Getting introduced himself as the Kalamazoo prosecuting attorney. Ben O’Hearn introduced himself as legal aid for victims of human/labor trafficking.


Agenda Item:

Elect Vice Chair: Melissa Palepu had asked if the board would like to have members volunteer to become vice chair or if they would like to have members volunteer and then put it to a vote. Jonathan Walden stated he would be willing if no one else would be willing. Katie Papke stated she would be willing as well. Katie Papke stated she will put herself up for vice chair. Motion to elect Katie Papke, all in favor and none opposed.


Agenda Item:

Acknowledgement of Bylaws: Melissa Palepu had asked if there were any questions about the bylaws. None of the board members had stated to have any questions. Melissa Palepu stated if any changes need to be made to inform her and it can be put on the agenda. All board members acknowledge that they have the bylaws and have read them on their own.


Agenda Item:

Annual Report Approval:  Melissa Palepu stated that the annual report had to be at the governor, senate and house by February 1st. She stated the report was sent out with the agenda for the meeting. She stated that the report is short due to last year not having enough people appointed and there was one meeting held. She stated that in the report conveys the board is still active and engaged, general goals were set to let them know that we, as a committee, are still moving forward and are excited about the goals we have set. Melissa Palepu had requested for motion to approve the report. All in favor, none opposed.


Agenda Item:

Schedule Committee Meetings for 2024: Melissa Palepu had informed the board that there will be 6 meetings set for the year, which meets the required 4 meetings that must occur and gives 2 additional days, should there be any missed meetings. A ten-day notice needs to be posted prior to the meetings due to the open meetings for the public. Every other month may be the best way for the meeting structure to follow. Melissa Palepu stated that joining via zoom/teams is allowed, she will remain in person. The dates were set for the next meetings: 03/27/2024, 05/22/2024, 07/31/2024, 09/25/2024, 11/13/2024. Meetings will occur at 12:30pm. Motion to move to schedule, all approved and none opposed.


Agenda Item:

Sub-committee approval: Melissa Palepu stated that the board can either remain divided into sub-committees or everyone can be set to open to work on everything. Subcommittees would hit the goals like data collections, funding and research, public awareness, victim resources, training and education, policy and legislation. Each of those goals must be worked on, it can be done as subcommittees or as a large group. Lisa McCormick stated that it would make sense to keep it as a large group as there is not enough people to do subcommittees currently. Melissa Palepu had asked Jeff Getting what he thought, as he was a part of the committee in previous years. Jeff Getting stated that would rely on what the goals are within the committee, and it would make sense to reimagine what we should do currently rather than what was done in the past. Ben O’Hearn stated that the board could invite experts who are non-committee members to assist in the subcommittees and that it would be difficult to get a large group to move forward on six different areas.


Agenda Item:

Set Goals for 2024: Melissa Palepu ask, what are the goals for 2024 for the whole commission. Jeff Getting stated what he would like to see is already in motion, as three bills were introduced to Michigan senate had been passed and will be introduced to the house and assigned to Representative Greens committee. The commission should be actively supporting these bills. Melissa Palepu stated she believes Representative Greens has her own bills as well relating to human trafficking. It would be helpful to see if the proposals could be sent to the commission to read and review. Melissa Palepu stated she would like for the commission to be more known both in the community and with advocacy groups. She stated a formal email can be sent from the board to different advocacy groups to open the doors for more collaboration and engagement. An option would be getting opinions from advocacy groups as what the role of the commission could be in terms of assisting the overall goal. At the next meetings, goal can be voted on, it can then be put on the website and people who are searching online for resources can find it there. The board will email each other to see what can be done in all six spaces.

Katie Papke asked Melissa Palepu if she had any ideas for goals. She said for funding and research, it could be finding grants as a lot of advocacy groups are struggling financially, on the website could have a list of grants and it can redirect the user to where to apply for it. Data collection would be focused on getting more accurate numbers on human trafficking as there is no reliable data. Katie Papke stated certain data agencies are putting out information from data that may be two or three years behind when it was posted. An option could be talking to law enforcement, PA offices and DHHS offices to get a more accurate number in relation to how many human trafficking cases there are, etc. Training and education would rely on data we are able to collect and to get the word out there about what human trafficking is. More resources can be located and put on the website which will encourage more traffic on the website. Another option would be to have pamphlets made that can be set out in public places like schools and hospitals. Public awareness would also relate to the prior goal of getting the Human Trafficking Commission name out there and having the board attending more meetings as a member of the Human Trafficking Commission. Victim awareness would involve the commission engaging with advocacy groups, potentially bringing them in and seeing what they would need or want from the commission. Melissa Palepu stated as her work in the AG office is also with human trafficking, the advocacy groups appreciate touring their facilities and meeting with survivors. A lot of advocacy groups need assistance funding their houses. Policy and legislation already have three bills pending introduction to the house. Representative greens also have some bills she has been working on. It would be great to get the bills passed and the commission should lead their support to those bills.

Hopefully, there can be a physical card or pamphlet with information in there about the Human Trafficking Commission. A draft email will be worked on later this week, Friday, in relation to sending to advocacy groups or other agencies for the commission to engage with. Melissa Palepu stated to inform her of who the board members would like the email to send to. It would be nice to have potential meet and greets this year as well, it is better to get more personal and it starts the conversation around human trafficking much easier.


Public Comment:

No one from the public attended. Melissa Palepu will look at a way to make it so the meeting can be joined by the public online. It would encourage more people to join so their voices/ideas/concerns can be heard.



Melissa Palepu made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Supported by the board members, motion carried. The meeting was adjourned at 2:02pm.

Next Meeting: March 27th, 2024, both in person and via Teams.