Flint, MI– Following a vote for council president and vice president, the Flint City Council agreed to invite two candidates for the city clerk position for interviews and approved a series of grants and budget amendments.

Here’s what happened at Flint City Council’s Nov. 14, 2022, meeting:

Elected a new president and vice president

The city council meeting began with the election of a new president and vice president, part of an annual organizational requirement.

Councilwoman Allie Herkenroder was elected as council president with six votes from council members Ladel Lewis, Quincy Murphy, Dennis Pfeiffer, Judy Priestley, and Herkenroder herself.

Councilwomen Tonya Burns and Jerri Winfrey-Carter both voted for Winfrey-Carter. Councilman Eric Mays voted for Murphy.

Herkenroder replaces Pfeiffer as president of the council.

The council then elected Lewis as its vice president with five votes from Herkenroder, Murphy, Pfeiffer, Worthing, and Lewis herself.

Winfrey-Carter was the next highest vote-getter with two votes from Burns and Mays. Priestley voted for Pfeiffer, and Winfrey-Carter voted for Burns.

After formally calling the city council meeting to order as the new president, Herkenroder requested that all council members who wished to be chair or vice chair of a committee to email her.

She said that she will appoint committee officers as council president, but Mays then motioned for Burns to be appointed as chair of the council’s Finance Committee, a position Burns had been serving in prior to the Nov. 14 vote.

This motion failed 1-6, with only Winfrey-Carter voting yes. Herkenroder abstained, and Mays left his seat before the vote and returned afterward.

No committee chairs or vice chairs were appointed at the Nov. 14 meeting.

Invited city clerk candidates to interviews

Ahead of the organizational vote, council held a Special Affairs committee meeting during which some council members reiterated their concerns about proper procedure for inviting city clerk candidates to interviews.

The committee started by going into a closed session to review the city clerk applications. Flint’s Human Resources Director Eddie Smith had recommended that council review the applications behind closed doors during a Nov. 9 special meeting, as two candidates had wished to remain anonymous to protect their current jobs.

The committee returned to open session following about 45 minutes of deliberation. Murphy then made a motion for the council to invite two candidates—named only as Number 4 and Number 9—to be interviewed in a special council meeting on Dec. 5.

City Attorney William Kim had told the city council on Nov. 9 that the clerk interviews must be held in a public meeting per Michigan’s Open Meetings Act, but that council could review the applications in closed session and assign numbers to candidates prior to the public interviews.

“This is a procedure that’s been used by several other municipalities that I’m familiar with,” Kim said on Nov. 9. “It’s a balancing between making it so that people apply and can be confidential to a certain point, while recognizing that ultimately, we are all public servants here, and so, at a certain point, that has to be made public and the public has to see what’s going on.”

The council ultimately voted 6-2 to invite candidates Number 4 and Number 9 for interviews during a Dec. 5 special meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Council members Herkenroder, Lewis, Murphy, Pfeiffer, Priestley, and Worthing voted yes. Council members Burns and Winfrey-Carter voted no. Councilman Mays was absent for the vote.

Before his absence, Mays said he was not comfortable with the committee reviewing applications for the city clerk position in closed session, a stance he also held during the Nov. 9 meeting. He alleged the committee was conspiring to make the position of city clerk a “political appointment.”

Mays had been absent during the committee’s closed session, along with Burns and Winfrey-Carter. He requested that meeting minutes from the closed session be made public, as well as the list of candidates and the applications reviewed during it.

In response, Attorney Kim cited a section Michigan Compiled Laws saying that the minutes from closed session shall only be disclosed if required by civil action.

“So it’s your belief that it takes a civil action? That’s easy to do. I’m going to see what’s in those minutes,” Mays said. “My position is this: the closed session could have been maybe on two candidates’ request [of confidentiality]. I don’t know what was said or done in there, but I’m going to find out one way or the other.”

Flint City Councilman Eric Mays addresses Eddie Smith, the human resources director for the city of Flint, Mich., regarding the appointment of a new city clerk during Flint City Council’s Special Affairs Committee meeting at Flint City Hall on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

Mays also asked City of Flint Human Relations Director Eddie Smith several times if Davina Donahue was one of the two candidates who was invited for an interview. Donahue has been serving as interim city clerk since Sept. 30 and confirmed during the Nov. 14 meeting that she was interested in the position.

Smith, who had said his department had gathered 25 applications for the clerk position, neither confirmed nor denied whether Donahue was one of the invited candidates during the course of the meeting.

A motion by Mays to amend the resolution to include a specific invitation to Donahue failed by a 3-6 vote. Winfrey-Carter, Burns and Mays voted yes while Herkenroder, Pfeiffer, Worthing, Lewis, Murphy, and Priestley voted no.

Approved city council chamber audiovisual upgrades

The city council authorized a little over $148,000 for city officials to contract with Weinstein Electrical Company for new audio/visual equipment for the council chambers in Flint City Hall.

The equipment includes new microphones, speakers and an 86-inch display, to be mounted in the center of the chamber, with HDMI connectivity and screen-sharing so council members and city staff can give presentations.

At a Finance Committee meeting on Nov. 9, City of Flint Purchasing Manager Lauren Rowley clarified that none of the funding for the audio/visual and electrical upgrades will come from the $500,000 that the city set aside for council chamber renovations in its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation plan.

Awarded almost $12 million for Berston Field House project

The Flint City Council awarded $11.5 million, including a $10 million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and $1.5 million in ARPA funds, for capital improvements at Berston Field House—the storied recreational and community center located at 3300 Saginaw Street in Flint.

Genesee County Commissioner Bryant Nolden, who is also executive director of Berston Field House, had appeared at the council’s Nov. 9 Grants Committee meeting to discuss the overall vision for the facility.

“This master plan that we have for Berston actually started in 2017, and we’ve been quietly working to put all the pieces together around this,” Nolden said. “We’re going to build a 57,000 square foot new building on the back of the existing building. It’s going to have three gymnasiums in it. It’s going to have a walking track up top. It’s going to have a full recreational workout facility.”

Nolden said the project will total around $26 million and also includes the installation of basketball courts, a new handicap-accessible playground, and football/soccer/lacrosse courts. He said the Berston Field House board hopes to start the project in March 2023.

Voted to accept grants, budget amendments, and proclaim November as Flint Rogues month

The Flint City Council approved the council chamber renovations and Berston Field House project as part of a master resolution, which also:

  • Approved changes to the 2023 fiscal year operating budget, including $7,196,647 in amendments to the first quarter budget.
  • Approved a memorandum of understanding for increased discretionary pay for Flint Police Department officers pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement between the City of Flint and the Flint Police Officer’s Association.
  • Accepted a $2,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint to support the Flint Fire Department’s Firefighter Appreciation Day and free smoke detector giveaway, which were held on Oct. 10.
  • Authorized the purchase of a wheel loader with grapple bucket with a little under $92,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Enhancement Grant for Blight Elimination.
  • Authorized a $50,000 change order to a contract with Shelter of Flint for homelessness assistance through the Emergency Solutions Grant program. The new total contract amount is $593,290.
  • Authorized a $43,000 change order to the contract with the Genesee County Youth Corp.—a social service organization that provides services for unhoused youth—through the Emergency Solutions Grant program. The new total contract amount is $456,373.
  • Authorized a change order for the rehabilitation of the McKinley Community Center, adding $131,768.13 for a new total contract amount of $402,206.13.
  • Proclaimed November Flint Rogues Month in recognition of the rugby team’s recent 50th anniversary. Council had also proclaimed November as Homeless Awareness Month at its Oct. 24 meeting.

Zachary Marano is Flint Beat’s local government reporter. Zack is originally from Milford township and returns to southeast Michigan after reporting for a daily newspaper in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula....