Flint, MI—Flint City Council voted to approve one appointment and a series of purchases, grants and senior center upgrades, but the body notably didn’t vote on any of the items the public came to speak on.
Before adjourning its Feb. 13, 2023 meeting due to lack of quorum, Council failed to take action on amending its rules, for which it held a public hearing, nor on a resolution of support for the repeal of Public Act 436 of 2012, which provides for the appointment and authority of Emergency Managers.
“This council needs to pass the resolution to abolish the emergency manager law,” Claire McClinton, a Flint resident representing the Democracy Defense League, said at the outset of the more than six-hour meeting. “This resolution represents a pushback on the long, treacherous and unpleasant experience of emergency management in Flint.”
McClinton noted that emergency management precipitated the Flint Water Crisis and that residents are “still on the battlefield for clean, affordable water here in the city.”
But whatever action Council might’ve taken on McClinton’s and other favorable public comments on the repeal resolution, members never even got to consider the resolution before adjourning at 11:31 p.m.
That’s roughly when Councilmembers Eric Mays and Tonya Burns, and Jerri-Winfrey Carter left their seats, resulting in a loss of a quorum. Councilwoman Judy Priestley had gotten up but left her belongings at her seat, and Councilwoman Eva Worthing was absent.
Here’s what else happened at Flint City Council yesterday night:
Approved one appointment and made a résumé request for another
Flint City Council voted unanimously to approve the appointment of Martin Banks to the Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors. Banks’ six-year appointment will begin immediately and expire March 16, 2029.
Council also voted to send a Downtown Development Authority appointment back to the Government Operations committee as the appointee, Melinda Wilson, aka “Mama Sol,” had submitted a biography instead of a résumé for consideration.
“Maybe our clerk can help us with this,” said Winfrey-Carter. “I thought that we always get a résumé for the appointments, and I don’t see a résumé for this appointment.”
Flint City Clerk Davina Donahue responded, “This has come up before. There is, formally, there’s nothing in the rules that say that Council has to have a résumé. It’s been done just as the precedent, and we have gotten bios, not that often, but we do sometimes get a bio for the people.”
Donahue also noted that she adds items to Council’s agenda “as they are submitted from the administration” and that she checks to see that the appointee is a registered voter though nothing says that the person has to be a registered voter, either.
Councilman Quincy Murphy said he was fine with considering Wilson for the post without a résumé, stating that he believed she’d already done “so much great work in the community” and that he believed she’d “bring value to the DDA.”
Mays took issue with Murphy’s willingness to approve the appointment without a résumé, saying, “These folks, some of them including him, don’t care nothing about rules, law and procedure.”
After another clarification, this time by City Attorney Bill Kim, that the bio was not a “violation of the rules and policies” around voting for the DDA appointment, Council ultimately voted 6-2 to send the appointment back to Government Operations. Worthing was absent, and Murphy and Council Vice President Ladel Lewis voted against the motion.
In explanation of her vote, Lewis cited that it was Council’s job to be “consistent,” and if the body wants to require a resume for appointments, it’s incumbent upon councilmembers to create that process.
“Instead of talking about what’s customary, let’s get it in writing. What should be the protocol in order to nominate someone for an appointment? What should we do?” Lewis said to the body. “So how about instead of just guessing—instead of saying, ‘This is how we usually go,’—let’s go ahead and make this official.”
Approved equipment purchases, grants, senior center upgrades
While councilmembers separated resolutions dealing with their rules and emergency manager policy, among others, they did vote to approve the following under a master resolution before adjournment:
- Acceptance of a $15,000 “Healthy Babies Bright Futures Grant,” to be added to the city’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY2023) budget. The resolution notes the funding will be used for outreach, events and education regarding lead service line replacement and lead remediation services.
- Acceptance of a $2,500,000 “National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant” from the U.S. Department of Justice, to be added to the city’s FY2023 budget. The funding, per resolution language, is meant for the Flint Police Department to “provide an investigative response to the results” of sexual assault kits. The funding is to be used over a three-year period, beginning Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2025.
- Authorized a purchase order of $70,000 for “WSC Clamps” from ETNA Supply Company.
- Authorized a purchase order for firefighter turnout gear, or personal protection equipment used by firefighters, from Municipal Emergency Services, Inc. in an amount not-to-exceed $113,800.
- Authorized a contract with Sonitrol Great Lakes for “the installation and monitoring of new outdoor cameras installed during FY2023 at City Hall.” The project amount is not-to-exceed $123,361.45 for FY2023. According to the resolution language, the city’s police and clerk’s office “have utilized the service of Sonitrol for many years for security-related cameras” and the new cameras and server will expand on an existing network.
- Authorized a $125,258 purchase order to William E. Walter for HVAC upgrades at Brennan and Hasselbring Senior Centers, with $78,605 going to Brennan and $46,653 going to Hasselbring. The change-order brings the FY2023 grand total for the projects to $333,426 thus far.
- Authorized the purchase of “various qualified electrician services” to Weinstein Electric in an amount not-to-exceed $384,832.
- Authorized a purchase order to Lake Star Construction, Inc. for lead abatement contractors for the city’s Lead Based Paint Hazard Program through the Office of Public Health. The amount approved is not-to-exceed $431,467 for FY2023.
- Authorized the purchase of 15 vehicles for the Flint Police Department Detective Bureau in an amount not-to-exceed $449,990.
Council President Allie Herkenroder, Lewis, Murphy, Priestley, Winfrey-Carter, Burns, and Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer voted in favor of the master resolution.
Mays abstained saying, “I abstain on this vote in the master resolution because of my lack of trust for council people, the administration, the importance of the business, not being able to discuss and getting ruled out of order—for those reasons as a conglomerate, doing this important city business, I abstain. This is getting to be a little much.”
Both Mays and Winfrey-Carter had been issued warnings over the course of discussions on the master resolution and its separations.
Failed to vote on multiple resolutions
Aside from the resolutions to change Council’s meeting rules and support the repeal of Public Act 436 of 2012, Council also failed to vote on several other anticipated resolutions yesterday evening.
The body did not vote on bidding out lease agreements for two local golf courses; a settlement agreement regarding a sexual harassment and workplace discrimination lawsuit involving the Flint Police Department (Flint PD); a towing service agreement for Flint PD; a witness protection services agreement with the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office; and a process attempting to redirect informational forms that some residents have taken to be applications for American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The Council also failed to vote on a collective bargaining agreement with the Flint Police Officers’ Association (FPOA), which has since prompted a Feb. 14 press release from Mayor Sheldon Neeley.
“As a result of loss of quorum when wards’ 1, 5, and 6 councilpersons departed last night’s meeting, the Flint City Council failed to act on business integral to public safety inside the city of Flint,” it reads.
The agreement, according to the release, includes an immediate wage increase, and additional increase on Jan. 1, 2024. Officers who were at the top of the wage scale when the previous agreement expired will receive a $2,500 bonus, and all other police officers will receive a $1,500 bonus, effective 30 days from Council approval.
All items not voted on at last night’s Council meeting should appear on Council’s next regular meeting agenda on Feb. 27, though the city clerk did not confirm if that would be the case by press time.