Flint, MI– For the next 30 days, Flint’s City Council president will not be allowed to speak at the meetings.
During a special meeting on Sept. 28, the council voted 5-2 to “censor” Council President Kate Fields. The council specifically voted to allow her to vote at the meetings, but not speak for the next 30 days.
“You people will have to live with your consciences if you have any,” Fields said to the council before passing the chairing duties over to Vice President Maurice Davis.
The special meeting was called by Councilwoman Monica Galloway and Councilman Eric Mays, after Monday night’s meeting lost a quorum, the minimum number of members required to conduct a meeting, before completing the agenda items scheduled for the night.
Three council members broke the quorum on purpose, protesting Fields’s decision to remove Mays from the Sept. 27 meeting after an argument that stemmed from a public hearing.
That argument came when Fields interrupted a public speaker, Arthur Woodson, multiple times to tell him to remain germaine to the topic of the public hearing, and ultimately gave him a warning. Mays said he believed Woodson was on topic, and appealed her ruling.
After an argument about the appeal vote, Mays called a “point of order” to get on with the meeting. Fields called it a “phony” point of order, because he did not cite a rule that was broken, but Mays argued that it wasn’t and told Fields that she was “phony.”
Fields said she would give Mays a warning if he didn’t restrain himself, and when he continued to speak, calling “point of order,” she had the council clerk mute him (the meeting was held virtually).
Galloway tried to appeal her decision to remove Mays, but Fields said the rules did not allow for appeals on decisions to remove someone for disorderly conduct, and issued her a warning as well.
After the rest of the public hearings, and votes to approve some ordinances for second reading, Galloway asked Fields to let Mays back in. When Fields denied her request, Galloway left the meeting, and announced she was trying to break the quorum. Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter and Councilman Maurice Davis followed suit and left the meeting.
A couple hours into the special meeting the next day, Galloway, said that she thought there should be a motion on the floor to censor the council president.
“The president is not above the council, but this council is not coordinated enough to allow her to not be out of order,” Galloway said. “Consistently last night, the chair refused to hear any valid points of order. It’s unfair and this council should be censoring the president.”
Fields said that it appeared to her that Galloway has been “eager to be vindictive,” ever since Fields became council president.
“All I’ve done is actually follow the rules and stay within the authority I have, and I can’t help it if Mrs. Galloway chooses to interpret things incorrectly. She does it often in my opinion,” Fields said.
The council read their rules with the Assistant City Attorney present at the meeting, William Balcer. Balcer said from his reading of the rules, decisions the chair makes about whether a council person is in order can be appealed by any council member.
“If every time you make a decision, and you refuse to acknowledge our appeals, we have no other forum to get fairness from you,” Galloway said.
Mays said Fields needed to be “punished,” and “taught that these rules and procedures mean something.” Mays himself has been removed from meetings multiple times, and was suspended from attending meetings for 30 days in March of last year.
Fields said she believed there was “a lot of hypocrisy,” coming from certain councilmembers.
“I believe censoring the chair, allowing the chair to come to meetings but not chair, and not being allowed to speak, I just think that’s really ludicrous,” Fields said. “It is a kangaroo court … I try to chair as fairly as I can, but I do try to stop members that start attacking and calling other members names.”
With a vote of 5-2, the council approved the 30-day censor. Fields, and Councilman Allan Griggs voted no. Councilwoman Eva Worthing and Councilman Santino Guerra were not present.