Flint, MI–The City Council unanimously voted to reappoint Nicholas D’Aigle and appoint Pastor Jeffery Hawkins to the Ethics and Accountability Board at the meeting Wednesday night.
There was a resolution to appoint DeWaun E. Robinson to the board as well, but it failed.
D’Aigle was appointed to a two-year term on the board in 2018 that expired this year. Councilwoman Kate Fields recommended he now be reappointed for a six-year term.
Fields said he “brings a lot to the board” as an attorney.
“I’m very proud of him because he thoroughly understands the idea that the E&A Board needs to be impartial and objective,” Fields said. “He makes no public social media comments whatsoever or discusses the business of the board.”
Councilwoman Eva Worthing agreed.
“There are many on the E&A Board that just don’t get that this is supposed to be an impartial board,” Worthing said. “Mr. D’Aigle is independent, he’s an attorney, he’s never gotten on social media and disparaged anyone.”
There was more discussion around the appointment of Hawkins, who was appointed by Mayor Sheldon Neeley for a six-year term on the board and will be replacing Loyce Driskell whose term just expired.
Hawkins serves as the chair on the Black Lives Matter Advisory Task Force that City Administrator Clyde Edwards said “is responsible for providing advice and information to the Mayor.”
Councilman Eric Mays questioned Hawkins’ legal ability to maintain both positions.
Hawkins said he believes he would personally be able to serve in both positions, but was unsure as to whether the charter would allow for that. He said if he ends up having to choose one, he would want to serve on the E&A Board.
Mays also asked whether Hawkins would be able to be critical of Neeley since it was Neeley who appointed him, to which Hawins responded “absolutely.”
Councilman Allan Griggs shared his concerns about the E&A Board becoming more religious, and whether Hawkins, Pastor of the Prince of Peace Missionary Baptist Church, believed in the separation of church and state.
“It’s not so much as me being on the board as Pastor Hawkins, but as Jeff Hawkins who happens to be a Pastor, Jeff Hawkins who happens to be a businessman, Jeff Hawkins who happens to do diversity training,” Hawkins said.
Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter nominated Robinson to join the E&A Board, and said he was a “nice young man” who would “serve the board” and “be fair.”
Robinson is the Chief Executive Officer of Artistic Visions Enterprise and has served on multiple research projects including the Father and Sons project and the Flint Water Research project. He is also a member of the Black Lives Matter Michigan Leadership Team.
“He is a millennial, and we need to give our young people a chance to step up and serve,” she said.
Worthing and Fields felt with his political activism and social media presence, he would not be able to be impartial.
“I commend his work in the Black Lives Matter movement and all of his other projects, however he is very political, he does support candidates, he has done a live[stream] with Mr. Mays and seems to be close with him. I see him with Mr. Mays in many pictures on Facebook,” Worthing said.
“I don’t think that anyone should be friends with a member on council that’s on the EA board. It’s very hard to be impartial when that is the case,” she said. “Also, the nature of his movement can be political.”
Councilman Santino Guerra said he didn’t think Robinson would be the right choice for the E&A board, but thought “he would be a great fit for many other boards in the city” and even “a potential political candidate one day.”
Councilman Herbert Winfrey said Robinson was “a really marvelous student” of his at Whittier Junior High School.
“I don’t believe that Mr. Robinson would have a problem with disagreeing with myself, Councilman Mays or anybody else,” Winfrey said. “That’s just the man that I know.”
“I’ve seen him working with students and young people of all cultures and I believe he loves to do that,” he said. “It just so happens that his skillset has allowed him to be chosen to be a part of the Black Lives Matter and I would hope that my colleagues wouldn’t hold that against him.”
Council President Monica Galloway said she wanted to give Robinson an opportunity so that his peers “will see themselves in government, see themselves making decisions.”
Robinson said during the meeting that “from a community member standpoint, from what I see on council, there are some things that need to be worked out, there are some people that need to be held accountable.”
“Everybody has something to work on if we want to make sure we move Flint in the right direction,” he said.
Fields and Worthing pushed Robinson to specify who exactly on the council he was referring to when he made that statement, and argued that in saying that, he proved that he was biased.
“To me that says that he’s already made up his mind and I can’t vote to support someone who is going into the job with no objectivity,” Fields said.
Galloway pointed out that Hawkins, who was unanimously voted in, didn’t come under the same scrutiny Robinson did.
“[Hawkins] is adamantly out there in the protests, trying to keep people calm, standing up for what is right during this time, he has a very good relationship with the mayor,” she said. “I just want to make sure that this council…that we are gonna hold the same standards.”
The vote was 4-4 with an abstention from Guerra, so Robinson was not approved.