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Flint, MI– The Flint City Council was scheduled to question two city officials about the waste contract bid process during the second investigative hearing of the week, but after getting a late start, they were only able to question one.
On March 22, the council was unable to reach a quorum, the minimum number of members required to conduct a meeting, until an hour and a half after the second of what will be three hearings this week was scheduled to begin.
Last year, the council voted to hold hearings investigating the waste collection services contracts 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.
Former Chief Financial Officer Shelbi Frayer, who brought the waste contract issue to the council’s attention last year, was subpoenaed to testify before the council on March 22, for 90 minutes, starting at 3 p.m.
Council President Eric Mays, Councilwoman Ladel Lewis, Councilman Quincy Murphy, Councilwoman Tonya Burns, and Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter were the only members in attendance. Councilwoman Judy Priestley, Councilwoman Allie Herkenroder, Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer, and Councilwoman Eva Worthing did not attend the hearing.
Winfrey-Carter, who said she worked until 4 p.m., arrived at the meeting around 4:20. Since the council was unable to reach a quorum until then, Frayer left without testifying.
“We got here, in fact, about 10 minutes early. We’ve been waiting patiently for the quorum to arrive,” said Frayer’s attorney, John Clark. “The rules that that council adopted required our presence for 90 minutes which would be 4:30. It is now 4:30, so we’ve complied with the subpoena.”
Murphy said it was “concerning” that the hearings were scheduled for 3 p.m. and some council members were unable to attend.
“We needed that testimony today,” Murphy said. “That is important for us in making our decision.”
Winfrey-Carter explained that she works Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and still comes to all of the committee and regular council meetings.
“I’ve decided that I’m not going to do too many extra meetings. Now, this is important. I got here when I could get here,” Winfrey-Carter stated. She warned that she would likely arrive around 4:30 p.m. for Thursday’s hearing as well.
Mays said he’s witnessed “habitual absenteeism” from some members on the council–not including Winfrey-Carter–and wasn’t sure if this incident might push him to adopt rules to compel attendance.
“I’m concerned with other members that seem to have a different record than yours when it comes to absenteeism,” Mays said to Winfrey-Carter.
The council may try to have Frayer return at a later date, and Clark said he would be “happy to have those conversations,” but did not make any agreement to appear again.