Flint, MI — Flint City Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer plans to introduce an ordinance that would prevent city officials involved with non-profits from accepting contributions from groups that do business with the city.

The ordinance wording says that those who hold “directorship positions” in non-profit organizations are prohibited from accepting donations from “entities engaged or attempting to engage in business with the city.”

Pfeiffer wrote the ordinance himself and introduced it on his Facebook Page on Aug. 15, 2023, with the following note:

“While I never thought that our current council would have questions on ethics and potential undue influence over votes, I will be introducing this ordinance to close any loopholes. The public must be able to trust local officials in their roles to make decisions that are the best for the community they serve and not for personal gain, actual or perceived.”

– 8th Ward Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer’s Facebook post on Aug. 15, 2023

Pfeiffer’s ordinance follows an Aug. 14 meeting during which council voted to approve a project with Ashley Capital, a development firm that has given contributions to non-profit organizations that Council Vice President Ladel Lewis and Councilman Quincy Murphy are involved with, as well as a campaign donation to Councilman Eric Mays.

Pfeiffer told Flint Beat that he wrote the ordinance because of the “black cloud” that is over Flint’s City Council following the controversy over the contributions.

“Throughout the nation … there’s a level of distrust and corruption amongst politicians, so I want to make sure that we can mitigate that as much as possible and I think that this ordinance would help in that direction,” he said.

Pfeiffer went on to say that the contributions set a “horrible precedent.”

“We can’t as elected officials keep going down this path,” he said, adding that there’s currently nothing in place to stop contractors or businesses the city works with from doing the same thing as Ashley Capital.

Calling the contributions “questionable,” Pfeiffer requested a legal opinion from the city attorney’s office regarding the contributions at council’s Aug. 9 Governmental Operations Committee meeting.

That opinion was then delivered to councilmembers prior to an Aug. 14 council meeting.

While the opinion shared by City Attorney Bill Kim was confidential and council did not vote to make it public, Councilwoman Tonya Burns said that she’d read the opinion and that it made the charter seem meaningless.

“That legal opinion basically is saying our charter means nothing, and I don’t believe that our charter means nothing because the residents voted on it,” she said at the Aug. 14 meeting.

Council Vice President Ladel Lewis shared more details, saying that the opinion did not put her or Murphy at fault.

“The legal opinion said that there was no violation of campaign finance. No violation at all. No money was given to us. Money was given exclusively to the community,” she said.

Flint Beat requested a copy of the legal opinion from Kim via email but did not receive a response by press time.

Pfeiffer told Flint Beat that his proposed ordinance is currently being reviewed by the city attorney’s office. After the review, he said it will be introduced to council for discussion and amendments during a Legislative Committee meeting.

Council’s next Legislative Committee meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 23 in the Dome Auditorium at Flint City Hall.

Lewis and Councilman Quincy Murphy, both of whom are involved with non-profit organizations that received contributions from Ashley Capital, did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed ordinance by press time.

Sophia is Flint Beat's City Hall reporter. She joins the team after previously reporting for the Livingston Daily and the Lansing State Journal, along with some freelance work with The New York Times....