Flint, MI–Flint City Councilman Eric Mays made his initial appearance at the 67th District Court of Genesee County on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, after being sued by the City of Flint for disorderly conduct.
After both sides presented their initial arguments, a jury trial date was set for Jan. 12, 2023 at 8:30 a.m.
Mays faces one charge of disorderly conduct and disorderly persons. According to Michigan law, this is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a $500 fine.
District Court Judge Vikki Bayeh-Haley presided over the hearing and the City of Flint was represented by attorney Michael Gildner. Mays chose to represent himself during the proceedings and declined Bayeh-Haley’s offer to provide him with legal counsel at the beginning of the proceedings.
When called by Bayeh-Haley to present their opening arguments, the prosecution and defense offered differing accounts of the events that led the city to take its grievances against Mays to court.
Gildner told Flint Beat that the city is suing Mays for his conduct at a Flint City Council meeting on April 25, 2022 which resulted in him being escorted out of the meeting by Flint Police Department officers.
Gildner said that Mays was removed from the meeting by vote and refused to leave, leading to police intervention.
In the case’s motion filing, Gildner said the city will present evidence Mays had misinvoked Robert’s Rules of Order at four other City Council meetings to “paralyze [meetings] when the political is not going his way” and then “escalate” the meeting when overruled by the council president.
“How is this not propensity?” Bayeh-Haley asked Gildner, referring to a portion of the Michigan Rules of Evidence, which states “evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith.”
Gildner responded, “It’s not that he has a propensity to be disturbing, he disturbs for a purpose.”
Gildner added that he had transcripts of other meetings, as well, and that he thinks all of them share certain characteristics.
“There is a discussion on some topic that is erring in a direction that, obviously, Mr. Mays disagrees with. He then yells out, ‘point of order’ and then repeats it,” Gildner said. “According to [Flint City Council] rules, when there is a point of order, that basically stops all of the conversation, and you have to focus on that question. When you raise a point of order, it’s supposed to be procedural, but long discussion takes place. Then they try to move on. He repeats, ‘Point of order, point of order,’ until finally, the chair basically says, ‘Listen, you’re out of order. We answered your questions and we need to move on.’ That’s when he escalates the meeting to the point that the entire meeting essentially shuts down.”
During his defense presentation, Mays argued that the case was about a different issue altogether.
Mays said the real point of contention was whether or not it was permissible for him to return to the April 25 meeting after being excused by the council president.
“He talks about ‘point of order,’ ‘point of information’–these are well-founded procedural rules. I’ve been on the Council close to 10 years. I don’t know which meetings he’s talking about, but there’s plenty of them,” Mays said.
“This is a simple case dealing with that particular day, that issue,” he continued. “And the issue is: once you are excused out of your seat during the meeting, do you need permission to come back? The answer is going to turn out to be ‘no,’ and it’s going to be ‘no’ from every councilperson you hear from – that’s why we need them as witnesses.”
Mays also said he will attempt to demonstrate to the jury that he was being discriminated against by former Flint City Council President Dennis Pfeiffer and current Council President Allie Herkenroder.
Gildner told Bayeh-Haley that the city plans to call four councilmembers as witnesses in the trial. Per Mays’ request, Gildner agreed to provide the names of these councilmembers to the defense, but their names were not stated during the proceedings.
According to the Nov. 29 outcome, the case will continue at the 67th District Court with an evidentiary hearing on Dec. 20, 2022, at 12 p.m. The pretrial will be held on Jan. 3, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. and jury trial will be on Jan. 12 at 8:30 a.m.
The City’s case against Mays was originally filed on June 15, 2022. Mays is currently released on a $5,000 bond that was set on Oct. 11, 2022.