Flint, MI– At Thursday night’s recessed city council meeting, City Administrator Clyde Edwards said he and other city employees technically don’t need to come to every council meeting.
“If we’re going to stick to the letter of the charter, then we don’t need to be here,” Edwards said.
This statement came as a response to Councilwoman Monica Galloway’s request for a progress update during a future meeting on areas in her ward she had emailed Edwards about.
That’s when Edwards said it would be “redundant” to provide one.
“We don’t need to come to every meeting to answer questions, if all you need is quarterly reports. We can fulfill that requirement, but we can present our material by way of your agenda, and all of our staff don’t need to be here,” he said.
This conversation took place during a special order Galloway had requested to discuss blight. At first, she was just trying to determine who the “department head” over blight was now that it was an office division separate from planning and development and no longer under the purview of Suzanne Wilcox.
Because of the new structure, Edwards said there is no one considered the department head.
“It’s considered the Office of Blight Management,” he said. “So, you have a coordinator, you have somebody in charge of that aspect…department heads have to be approved by you guys.”
Galloway said she was asking in an attempt to establish who she should address blight questions too now.
“I’m trying to identify section 3-208 of the Charter that says the mayor shall require department heads to appear to discuss…the progress and performance of their departments,” she said. “So I’m trying to establish, if I have a question about that area, now that it is not under the department head Suzanne Wilcox, who is the department head?”
Council President Kate Fields said she believed Edwards, as the city administrator, would be considered the department head of the office of the mayor, making him the department head over blight, but Edwards did not confirm.
Galloway proceeded to make a request to Edwards, under the assumption Fields’s understanding was correct, that he provide a quarterly update and discussion of progress and performance.
“I’ve sent multiple areas within my ward that need concern, and I want to thank you because you consistently send back a response of ‘received,’” Galloway said. “And so what I’d like to do is have you…come before us, and specifically talk about the progress being made on those specific areas.”
Edwards responded by saying that he fully respects the charter and has had perfect attendance in council meetings. He said he didn’t know where Galloway was going with her question.
“We have department heads at every meeting. You are able to ask department heads questions, no problem,” he said. “Everybody is here, freely and working long hours…and we’ve not failed on anything…so I find it redundant, if we’re gonna have to do quarterly reports, then I don’t feel that it’s necessary for us to be at every meeting.”
Galloway said she didn’t know why Edwards “had to say all of that.”
“I’m not telling you how to handle your staff. I don’t know if it’s a threat to say we either abide by the letter of the charter or we don’t,” she said. “That’s not where I’m going.”
Galloway said she appreciated Edwards’ staff being at the meetings and that her request was not to “minimize any of those things.”
She then requested that the progress update on the areas in the seventh ward she asked about be emailed to her directly, instead of talked about during the meeting, which Edwards said could be done.