Flint, MI–If you took a shot every time a council member yelled “point of order” at the City Council meeting Monday night, you would be dead.
Within the first half of a four-hour meeting, two council members were removed, one received a warning to be removed before removing herself, and two other members removed themselves.
By the time the meeting ended, the council had made no decisions on any of the agenda items, which included appointments to the Ethics and Accountability board and funding for the city’s water pipe replacement program, beyond tabling them to a later meeting.
Councilwoman Kate Fields was the first to be muted in the testy virtual meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, Councilman Eric Mays requested a special order to discuss multi-member bodies and the lack of a meeting with Mayor Sheldon Neeley regarding the Coronavirus pandemic. He said he would take about seven minutes to discuss his points.
About 15 minutes into his special order, Fields made an appeal to stop Mays from talking further, saying she voted to allow his special order under the impression he would only be speaking for seven minutes.
Mays argued that his time speaking was probably only around seven minutes and that Fields included the time it took to read the charter aloud.
Still, the council approved her appeal. Council President Monica Galloway began to move on from the special order, before Fields said she wanted to continue to talk about it–she just didn’t want Mays to, she said.
Fields continued to speak without having the floor, attempting to speak over Galloway.
Galloway then declared her out of order. Fields made the appeal that she was not out of order, but the appeal failed.
Mays called for a point of order after the ruling, and stated that “the rules say she should be removed from that one meeting.”
Upon hearing this, Galloway removed Fields from the meeting. She later said her initial intention was only to declare Fields out of order, not to remove her from the meeting, but that they followed the council rules in doing so.
Fields’ removal prompted Councilwoman Eva Worthing to take “a break for a minute to calm down.”
“I’m at a loss for words. This has never happened before,” Worthing said. “It is your job to follow the rules in a correct manner without a vendetta against other members.”
For speaking out of turn, being “argumentative” and using the term “point of information” to “steal the floor,” Galloway issued Worthing a warning that she was out of order. Worthing challenged that Galloway was the one who was out of order.
“This is wrong,” Worthing said to Galloway. “Mrs. Fields should come back, and you are being unfair. I don’t know what’s wrong with you right now, but it seems like you are very vindictive.”
Worthing appealed the warning against her, but it failed. She stayed in the meeting with a warning against her.
Next to be reprimanded was Councilman Allan Griggs. For calling the question without having the floor, Galloway stated that he, too, was out of order.
Griggs stated he had only been trying to get the meeting moving along since there were people waiting to speak in public comment.
“All I’m asking this council to do is be fair,” Galloway said. “Mr. Griggs was out of order…and he can say that he was trying to move the meeting along, but actually what he did was prolong the meeting.”
“Mr. Griggs may have been out of order, but honestly, nobody gets what’s happening,” Worthing said. “This is just insanity.”
The appeal not to remove Griggs from the meeting failed with a vote of 4-4, as appeals require five votes to pass. He was removed from the meeting.
After Worthing and Councilman Santino Guerra spoke up against the removal of Fields, the council voted on an appeal to give her a special leave to come back to the meeting.
“Because you stated your intention wasn’t to remove her, I’ll be voting to bring her back,” Guerra said to Galloway.
“Welcome to politics,” Mays said. “She’s gone. She should be gone, and no special leave should be given or y’all gonna really look discriminatory.”
The appeal failed, sparking Guerra, Worthing, and Councilman Maurice Davis to remove themselves from the meeting.
With five councilmembers out, the council decided to move the agenda items to a future meeting and proceed to public comment.
Flint resident Barbara Moore called the actions of Galloway “pathetic” during public comment.
“You’re wasting the taxpayers money and time,” she said. “People wasn’t online to say anything because they probably got tired of holding on listening to your bickering back and forth, playing get back. And it don’t make no sense.”
Another resident, Steven Seleri, defended Galloway saying he “had her back” with the call she made on removing the two councilmembers.
“They don’t want the rules to apply to them, they only want the rules to apply to others when it benefits them,” he said. “But when the rules apply to them and they get ejected from meetings, oh, that’s a big problem.”
“We’re paying for you guys to be there and do a job and when you’ve got one person that controls five people and can get them to leave a meeting when there’s business at hand that needs to be addressed to move the city forward…this is ridiculous,” he said. “A bunch of filibusters…I tell everybody to move here. I’m getting ready to move out.”
The four remaining councilmembers decided to move the unresolved action items on the agenda to a special meeting Wednesday evening.