Flint, MI– When Pastor Allen Gilbert returned home from attending the Flint City Council meeting on Feb. 28, his wife told him he needed “to put a stop to it.”
At that meeting, Gilbert, and the rest of those watching, witnessed fights among council members that led to two members being escorted out by police, and two leaving in protest.
During the Ethics and Accountability Board meeting on March 8, Gilbert, the board chair, said it was time for the board to take action against the “misconduct” on the city council.
“It was a type of misconduct representing this city. It was a misconduct,” Gilbert said.
Reading from the Flint City Charter, Gilbert said that “the city council members are expected to conduct themselves with appropriate decorum” and “act respectfully with constituents.”
“So how can we help our city? We can step in as the ethics and accountability board and fulfill that section,” Gilbert said.
The board decided to send a letter to the council after discussing the “disrespect” they witnessed toward council members, city staff, potential contractors with the city, and Flint residents.
Vice-Chair Joseph King said that “everybody got disrespect” and added that the executive branch was also “part of the problem.” Gilbert said it was like watching the council “explode” right before his eyes. Board Chair Linda Boose pointed out that after hours of meeting, the council was unable to complete their agenda.
“The first agenda never did get voted on,” Boose said. “Two councilpersons got escorted out by police, two others left. I don’t have that kind of time.”
Ombudsperson Tané Dorsey said she’d recently talked with an attorney about what the ethics and accountability board can do to deal with the council.
“At what point does dysfunction of city services impede on ethics? And at what point is it the duty of the ethics and accountability board or the duty of the ombudsperson to ensure that city services are running?” she asked. “Ethics can be subjective … but if you have a council that can’t keep a quorum because there’s so much dysfunction, that’s a problem.”
Board member Patrick Julian said it was the board’s responsibility to talk to the council about their behavior.
“We see the ethics that’s going on, and we don’t approve of it ourselves,” Julian said. “It’s our responsibility to bring it to their attention.”
The board decided to have Dorsey draft a letter to send to the council detailing the violations the board recognized and admonishing the council to follow and update their rules, especially as they relate to punishing their members.
Dorsey said she would also outline their board’s responsibilities to “ensure ethics in the city of Flint.”
This is the first time the board has decided to send a letter like this to the council as a body, Dorsey said.
In the past, the board has publicly admonished Former Councilman Maurice Davis and recommended that the council update their rules related to punishing members after Councilman Eric Mays was removed from his seat for thirty days.
The board took those steps for individuals, but the board made it clear that the misconduct they witnessed recently was not from just one person.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s President Mays, or Councilman Murphy, or Councilmember Lewis, Councilwoman Worthing, it doesn’t matter,” Gilbert said. “It is not working, according to the Flint City Charter.”
Dorsey said she expected to get the letter to the council by March 11.
To make a complaint with the ethics and accountability board, you can visit their website. The board also meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. in the dome at Flint City Hall, at 1101 S Saginaw St. The public is welcome to attend the meetings and tell the board about their concerns.