Flint, MI– Over the course of about six hours, the Flint City Council was only able to get through one full committee meeting, leaving planned discussions on ordinances, appointments, and contracts behind.
Instead, the council spent much of their time appealing warnings, arguing, and discussing the personal living situation of one member.
On Oct. 20, the Flint City Council met for their regularly scheduled four committee meetings: finance, governmental operations, legislative, and grants.
The council first went into an unexpected closed executive session for about two hours to discuss the Flint water crisis litigation. But once the meeting returned to the public, most of the council’s discussion had little to do with the business on the agenda.
The council approved moving six resolutions to the next council meeting for final approval, but didn’t get to discuss any of them.
“It’s one minute to nine. We’re told that most staff are going to be leaving at 9 o’clock,” said Council President Kate Fields before making a motion to move the resolutions to council.
Last week, Mayor Sheldon Neeley announced that the city administration would be excused from council meetings at 9 p.m. due to their long hours.
“I’m not going to be put in a position in no committee meeting to be rushing through passing stuff to council … because somebody, in my opinion, like a little Napoleon syndrome or something, wants to say to this council and to the community, ‘We’re making hundreds of thousands, and we’re not going to be on the phone,'” said Councilman Eric Mays.
Still, the council sent the items to the next council meeting without discussion.
At the next committee meeting, the council didn’t get to any of the resolutions, which included the appointment of Chief Financial Officer Robert Widigan, who has been serving as ‘interim’ CFO since August. The council has repeatedly postponed his appointment.
The meeting got off to a rocky start after Mays went over his allotted speaking time for council response to public speakers. Councilwoman Eva Worthing asked him to wrap up, and Mays said he was “getting to end it,” and continued to talk.
Worthing again told him his time was up and tried to pass the floor to Councilman Maurice Davis for his turn, to which Mays replied, “Lord, take control of this devilish mess. Lord, you take control. The devil is alive.”
Worthing then gave him his first warning and told him he was out of order. Mays appealed her ruling.
The council argued over her ruling, and Mays told Worthing that she herself was out of order and should be removed the same way the council voted to censor Fields for 30 days.
“You certainly can try to remove another white person from this council, Mr. Mays. That’s your prerogative,” Worthing said.
Councilwoman Monica Galloway called a “point of order” and told Worthing she made a “racist statement.”
“You’re constantly saying people are raising race, and you just did that,” Galloway said. “It’s inappropriate and it will not be tolerated. You can try and make this about race, but you just did that, you are out of order.”
Worthing denied her “point of order” and said Mays talks about “Black and white” all the time and that nobody says anything.
The argument continued for about twenty more minutes.
The first item of discussion was a special order called by Worthing to “discuss the address of Council Person Mays since his primary residence is being foreclosed on and boarded up.”
Councilman Herbert Winfrey asked the council if they were sure that this was something they wanted to do.
“In the past, these addresses and things that have been coming up, it’s because it was put to us by public speakers. Usually, we are responding to them,” Winfrey said. “But are we really really going to do this? With the business that we have to do tonight … I just think this is a waste of time.”
Worthing said that other members’ addresses have been questioned many times and that this was only fair to do.
“It has come to my attention that Mr. Mays may not be living at his address. His home is being foreclosed, and … if voters are voting for him for that address, I wanted to have a special order so that Mr. Mays can clear the air and tell us if he’s living in his home,” she said. “And if it’s been foreclosed, how is that possible? And where will he live when he is no longer able to live in that residence?”
Fields asked Mays if he had “permission from the county to be living in this foreclosed house.”
Mays told them he pays his taxes and maintains his house and that his home will only be foreclosed if he doesn’t pay his taxes by the end of March.
“That gives me the right to stay here, and you can walk with me side-by-side…. Don’t you worry about paying my taxes because you ain’t gonna write the check,” Mays said. “And don’t you worry about you thinking I’m committing a fraud.”
Galloway expressed her dissatisfaction with this special order and said she would be dropping off the call.
“This is personal. You guys are doing such low things, just two weeks before the election … it’s just disappointing that we make an attack on each other,” Galloway said.
Worthing said her special order was not an attack. Last week, Worthing called a press conference calling for civility on the council and condemning the use of personal attacks.
“If you have a defense of that fact, that’s fine, but it’s a fact. It’s not an attack,” she said. “So I think, in order to move on, we’re going to have to get some training on what constitutes facts and opinions on issues and what’s a personal attack.”
Council members spent the last hour of the meeting discussing Worthing’s special order on Mays’s address. Eventually, enough members left the meeting that they lost a quorum and could no longer continue.
Here are the agenda items the council did not discuss:
- A resolution giving an honorary street sign designation to the Greater Galilee Baptist Church
- The appointment of CFO Robert Widigan
- A resolution to approve the Brownfield Redevelopment Plan on James P. Cole Blvd
- An ordinance related to drag racing
- An ordinance related to how landlords handle evictions
- An ordinance related to loitering in a motor vehicle
- An ordinance related to the use of controlled substances by city officials while on city property
- An ordinance for another PILOT affordable housing project
- An ordinance related to the Building Code Board of Appeals
- A contract with Michigan State University to do a program evaluation
- A contract with the Greater Flint Health Coalition
- A change order for a contract with My Brother’s Keeper