Flint, MI—Following an update to the city of Flint’s website in mid-July, multiple officials have raised concerns about missing information and city compliance with state and local law.
Flint City Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer sent a letter to City Attorney William Kim on Aug. 11, 2022, alleging that the city was likely in violation of its own charter and Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.
“We don’t even get minutes of our own meetings,” Pfeiffer said. “Since we got elected in November, we haven’t seen them. Not one minutes document.”
In the letter, Pfeiffer asked Kim to address his concern, saying that Flint may be in violation of Section 15.269 of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.
The referenced law outlines that a public body is required to correct and approve its meeting minutes; make its proposed minutes available to the public within eight business days of the meeting to which they refer, and make its approved minutes available for public inspection within five business days after the meeting at which they were approved.
According to Pfeiffer, none of those things have been happening since he took office in November 2021.
“There has been zero meeting minutes produced for any council meeting of this [current council],” he said. “So nobody—unless you are able to attend every single meeting—you have no idea what’s going on. And obviously, that’s frustrating.”
Pfeiffer said the issue was underscored by the recent website update, which served to highlight another probable legal violation by the city.
In his letter, Pfeiffer argues that city council meeting minutes should be available on Flint’s website according to the city charter.
The cited section of the charter states: “…draft minutes shall be available for public inspection and on the city of Flint’s website. Once the draft minutes are approved, they shall be filed with the Clerk’s Office within five (5) business days and posted on the City’s website.”
As of Aug. 18, 2022, a search for “city council minutes” or “city council meeting minutes” returns no results on the city’s website.
A search for “minutes” brings up a link to “City Council Committee Agendas and Minutes (7-22-2021)” however, clicking that link takes the user to a PDF document that lists unclickable links to Flint City Council agendas from June and July of 2021.
And the problem goes beyond Flint City Council.
While the Flint Planning Commission had been posting its public notices, meeting agendas and approved minutes with regularity, the body saw many of those documents disappear after the city’s website update.
“As far as I’m aware of, our agenda was not posted on the website today,” said Commissioner Carol-Anne Blower at an Aug. 9 Flint Planning Commission meeting. “Nor are some of the forms that are requested of us quite often.”
Blower asked what was being done about the issue, as she had started telling residents to contact Planning Department officials directly for information to which she could previously link them.
Suzanne Wilcox, director of the city’s planning department, said she had set up a meeting with the website designer to address Commissioner Blower’s concerns.
“It really lies with the website designer,” Wilcox said. “And I realize there are things that need to be put on the website immediately, but there are multiple issues of missing information.”
Wilcox did not state the date of that meeting.
As of Aug. 18, 2022, the only Planning Commission agenda posted to the city’s website from 2022 was for a special meeting on Aug. 17, despite the body meeting twice a month every month this year.
Flint Beat did not receive a response from the city as to where previously-available Planning Commission documents could be found on the updated website.
When Flint Beat reached out to City Attorney William Kim for a response to Pfeiffer’s allegations, Kim deferred to Flint City Clerk Inez Brown.
Brown did not respond by press time.
In the most recent City Charter Compliance Report available on the city’s website, former city attorney Angela Wheeler states the city is in ongoing compliance with the Open Meetings Act and the city charter regarding Council meeting minutes. The links provided in proof of that action open to Flint City Council’s landing page. No minutes can be found on that page.
Pfeiffer said in his letter, the lack of required public information is hindering residents’ ability to participate in Flint’s democracy.
“The public electors, and citizens in general of our great city, rely on up-to-date information that our website is required to provide,” Pfeiffer wrote. “They use this portal to get information on services, contact info, and how to participate on matters of interest through the democracy of our multimember bodies.”
Pfeiffer concluded the paragraph with a Thomas Jefferson quote, “A properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate.”