(This story has been updated to reflect that DuVarl Murdock was not escorted out of the Flint City Council’s investigative hearing on March 24, 2022.)
Flint, MI– The Flint City Council’s third waste contract investigative hearing of the week resulted in police escorting a council member out of the chambers.
The council held three hearings this week to question six city officials about why the city’s waste collection services contracts were scrapped and rebid, and how the final contract came to be awarded.
The council voted to hold the investigative hearings last year after administration officials said the bid process was done in private the first time around—a violation of the city’s charter—and therefore had to be redone.
When Mayor Sheldon Neeley took the stand on March 24, the council asked him questions about the bid process, but also campaign contributions, alleged hostile work environments, and nepotism.
“Is DuVarl Murdock a relative of yours?” Councilwoman Tonya Burns asked Neeley.
Murdock, the city’s former deputy chief of staff, was on the six-member evaluation committee of the first waste contract bid process per DPW Director Mike Brown’s testimony on Tuesday, March 22.
Brown said that Murdock was added to the committee at the request of the administration.
In Neeley’s prepared statement to the council, he said that he requested Murdock to be part of the committee as he was the head of the blight division at the time. Neeley said he had “no involvement either directly or indirectly in the evaluation team’s work.”
As far as being a relative, Neeley said Murdock was “not a blood relative.”
“He was married at one time to my stepsister that passed away 12 years ago. … They were in a relationship. Whether they were actually man and wife–,” Neeley started to say before being interrupted by an audience member.
Murdock was sitting in the council chambers and began to call out when Neeley said this.
Council President Eric Mays told Murdock he was out of order and asked the police to come.
“It ain’t going to be no mess up here,” Mays said. “Now, somebody call the Flint police.”
After things settled down, Burns asked the question again. Neeley answered that Murdock was not a blood relative but was married to his stepsister who passed away 12 years ago.
Burns asked if Neeley felt that there was a conflict of interest in selecting Murdock to be on the evaluation committee for the trash contracts.
“No, not at all,” Neeley said.
About 15 minutes later, the hearing was interrupted again. This time, by Councilman Quincy Murphy.
“I’m not going to be up in no city council meeting where every time somebody, our council president, gets into an altercation with someone and then calls the police and then the police come up in here like we are some kind of criminals,” Murphy said. “It is a disrespect to this community.”
He went on to say he was upset the council wanted to talk about “who is some kin to somebody and all of that.”
“I’m getting up out of here. … Y’all all knew who he had brought in as his appointees downstairs. Now you want to ask him if he’s some kin to somebody,” Murphy said. “How dare y’all. I’m up out of here.”
As Murphy got up, he continued to yell, telling the council that this hearing didn’t make sense, that it was political, a disgrace, and a shame.
Burns told Murphy she did not know Murdock was in the audience when she asked those questions. Mays said Murphy was out of order and asked him to leave.
“We just had a problem at the school board. If you get up out of your seat here it’s going to be different from the school board,” Mays said, referring to an alleged altercation between two Flint Board of Education members. “We got police.”
Murphy continued to yell for about five minutes. Mays asked him to leave quietly, and then asked police to escort him out.
“They better not put their hands on me. I’m leaving on my own,” Murphy yelled. Police followed him out of the council chambers.
After Murphy left, Councilwoman Judy Priestley, who hadn’t asked Neeley any questions yet, requested the floor to make a statement about how the hearings have been going.
“You know, we do have rules of decorum for this committee. … I’ve listened to some of our witnesses being berated for information that they weren’t even present, they weren’t even hired,” Priestley said.
She said she has been seeing “no results” from these hearings, and said she would stay to maintain a quorum for the council, but would not participate.
Earlier this week, the council’s lack of a quorum resulted in one witness leaving without testifying.
The hearing for Neeley continued for another 30 minutes, but there is still no clear answer on whether or not the first bid process for the city’s waste collection services contracts was done incorrectly.
The council said they may try to reissue subpoenas for some of the witnesses, and question them again to get more clarity into the issue.