Flint, MI— Flint City Council failed to achieve quorum during a Nov. 4, 2022, special meeting to discuss a house fire that claimed the lives of two children over Memorial Day weekend.
The meeting was called Councilwoman Tonya Burns and Councilman Eric Mays with the purpose of following up on hiring an independent firm to investigate a May 28 house fire at 637 W. Pulaski St. that claimed the lives of Lamar Mitchell, age 12, and Zy’Aire Mitchell, age 9.
Council originally approved a motion to hire an independent firm to investigate the fire during an Oct. 19 Governmental Operations Committee meeting. The motion was made by Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer with support of Councilwoman Judy Priestley and passed 5-0 with yes votes from council members Tonya Burns, Eric Mays and Jerri Winfrey Carter.
Council members Dr. Ladel Lewis, Quincy Murphy, Allie Herkenroder, and Eva Worthing were absent during the vote.
The same council members were also absent for the Nov. 4 special meeting, plus Pfeiffer and Priestley.
Despite being unable to take any action due to absences at the special meeting, the three council members who attended—Burns, Mays and Winfrey-Carter—did comment on the incident.
Mays attributed the deaths to the criminal negligence of two firefighters who failed to rescue the children during their initial search of the site.
He claimed that the firefighters were not fired from the department or properly prosecuted because of systemic racism and corruption. He also alleged that current Mayor Sheldon Neeley intervened on the firefighters’ behalf in exchange for an endorsement from the Flint Firefighters Union leading up to the Nov. 8 election.
“We’re going to discuss it and talk on the eve of an election, which is the motivating factor, politically, in this government arena, why the mayor interfered and overturned the (Flint Fire Department) chief’s decision to terminate. You have a union official and you have two white folks i.e. the firefighters,” Mays said. “White folks get prosecuted differently than Black folks.”
Flint Beat reached out for a response from Mayor Neeley’s office and received the following statement attributed to “the City of Flint administration.”
A Flint City Council member and others with political motives have fabricated the allegation that Mayor Neeley influenced the internal investigation of the Pulaski St. fire and resulting disciplinary decisions. There is no truth to this claim whatsoever.
Ordinarily, the City of Flint does not comment on pending litigation. However, as our community grieves for the children lost in the Pulaski St. fire, we are called to provide the highest level of transparency and accountability. The loss of children is the highest level of tragedy that any family can endure, and we continue to mourn their loss. We are dismayed to see this family’s grief exploited for political gain.
The City has complied with its obligations under state and federal law and our collective bargaining agreements. The final recommendation by the Fire Department and the Human Resources Department is reflected in the Loudermill results letter. While litigation is pending, we will continue to follow all legal processes. We continue to lift this family in prayer, and we are sad to see their pain shamefully exploited.– Statement attributed to the City of Flint administration
The statement went on to say that “further allegations about political endorsements are not true,” and “Mayor Neeley has endorsements from many labor organizations, but the firefighters’ union is not one of them.”
Attorney Robert Kenner Jr., one of the counselors for Crystal Cooper, the mother of Lamar and Zy’Aire, also spoke at the Nov. 4 meeting.
Kenner Jr.’s comments followed his and Attorney Todd Flood’s earlier announcement that they plan to file an amended complaint against the city for the children’s deaths.
“I want to commend the council members who have been diligent and earnest in trying to get to the truth and trying to make sure that justice does go blindly, or they don’t adhere to it,” Kenner Jr. said. “We shouldn’t be here. I’ve always wanted to come [to Flint], but never under these circumstances. I just want to thank you guys for putting in the effort and doing what you can to right a wrong.”
Mays closed with a request that Flint’s city attorney and chief of police attend city council’s next Governmental Operations meeting, scheduled for Nov. 9 at 5 p.m., to further discuss the Pulaski Street fire and a possible investigation.