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Flint, MI–For the second meeting in a row, three Flint city council members voted not to go into a closed executive session to discuss the status of the state’s $600 million water lawsuit settlement that was announced in August.
At Monday night’s meeting, Councilwoman Monica Galloway, Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter and Councilman Eric Mays voted not to go into the session. They said they did not want to sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding them from talking about the presented information outside of the closed session.
Six votes are needed to go into the executive session, so even those councilmembers who wanted to go into the executive session could not.
Councilwoman Winfrey-Carter said she felt “the whole process should be transparent.”
“First, I think the $600 million is a slap in the face. We need to go back to the table and try to get more,” she said. “Secondly, you know, we were all affected. And I believe that the residents of the city of Flint should be involved in everything that takes place.”
Councilman Mays called the confidentiality agreement a “gag order.”
“I can guarantee you, it comes down to a vote, things have to be talked publicly,” he said. “Guess who can talk about all of it? Ain’t gotta bite their tongue, ain’t gotta worry about violating that. Don’t give me no information, not in no closed session.”
Councilmembers who do not go into executive session will still be able to vote on the subject, but Councilwoman Eva Worthing said it would be “egregious” for a council member to vote on something without receiving all of the information.
“I don’t know any senator or anybody in leadership that would vote on an issue without knowing the facts or what’s going on,” Worthing said.
Councilman Maurice Davis, who voted not to go into executive session at the last meeting, encouraged his colleagues to vote yes this time around.
“I highly suggest us to get some information so when it becomes public, whatever we do, we’re going to be more properly informed to help the constituencies in this community,” Davis said.
Councilwoman Galloway said she doesn’t “have to learn anything in a closed session.”
“Although I understand that that is an important place for it, no decisions are made in closed sessions,” Galloway said. “And so I am more than willing to wait until the documentation becomes public.”
City Attorney Angela Wheeler said the information about how the $600 million will be distributed is public information on the state’s website, and that the executive session would be providing other, private information. As some council members stated their disapproval of the settlement, Wheeler said the city of Flint does not have any authority to amend it.
Council President Kate Fields said she thought there was “confusion among [her] colleagues…and some misconceptions on the part of the public.”
“Going into an executive session does not obligate you to anything in a vote,” Fields said. “It just gives you information in order to make your decision”
Galloway said she wanted the community to know that she was not “misunderstanding anything.”
“I don’t think we are going to be able to change anything with the $600 million. I just know that I am not willing to find out the information that requires me to sign off on the documentation,” she said. “Once the documentation comes to us, which it always does…we usually get our information…and there will be things that I will be able to ask.”
Fields requested that those who did not want to attend the executive session simply sit out instead of voting against it, but that did not happen.
Five members voted to go into the session, three voted not to, and Councilman Santino Guerra had left the meeting before the vote.