By Meghan Christian
The new Ethics and Accountability Board (EAB), an overseeing body required by the City of Flint’s new charter, held its first meeting Aug. 2.
Board members began with organizational tasks, appointing John Daly from the Eighth Ward as interim chairperson and Pastor Allen Gilbert of the Seventh Ward as vice-chairperson. They also opened up discussion on the position of ombudsperson, another element required by the charter. The ombudsperson is to be appointed by the EAB.
Approximately 20 residents, including First Ward Councilperson Eric Mays, attended.
In addition to Daly and Gilbert, members of the EAB are Joseph King, Second Ward; Linda Boose, Third Ward; Nicholas D’aigle, Fourth Ward; Andrietta Dicks, Fifth Ward; Delores Langston, Sixth Ward; and Eric Roebuck, Ninth Ward; and Loyce Driskell and Art Evans, members-at-large. Art Evans was absent from the first meeting.
The EAB is a requirement of the new charter adopted by voters in August, 2017 by a 2-1 vote and which was to have taken effect in January. The charter calls for 11 members, comprised of one member from each ward and two members appointed by the mayor. Terms on the board are staggered, meaning each of the 11 members serve a different number of years, to ensure that there is always someone on the board with experience.
The board’s main functions include appointing an ombudsperson and hearing resident concerns. The board is empowered to hold public servants accountable per the ethical standards outlined in the charter. This power manifests in various ways, outlined in the charter, from calling hearings to subpoena powers, should it be necessary.
Ten members of the 11-member EAB had been appointed at a Flint City Council (FCC) meeting June 25 (read more about them here). The First Ward seat is still vacant since Mays has still not appointed someone from his ward to the position.
“I purposefully have not appointed a member… The council should have had a budgeted plan in place, some other things, and ordinances in place,” Mays explained during the public speaking portion of the meeting, adding that by this time next year he hopes to have a charter amendment proposed to address his own issues with the EAB structure as opposed to the Standards of Conduct Board that existed under the old charter.
Cleora Magee, who had chaired the charter review commission, thanked the EAB members for their service to the City and cautioned them, “This will not be an easy task. But listening to each of you speak, I think you’re going to do a great job,” she said.
Other residents addressed the EAB, including former Charter Review Commisson member and resident Quincy Murphy. “We’re going to hold y’all to high standards,” Murphy said to the board. “Take your positions seriously.”
Daly was appointed interim chairperson by a vote of six in favor and three choosing other candidates. Fifth Ward member Dr. Delores Langston voted for Third Ward member Linda Boose, Daly voted for Second Ward member Joseph King, and member-at-large Loyce Driskell voted for Boose.
Those who voted in favor of Daly cited his many years of experience serving on other boards as one of the reasons why he would be a good fit for interim chairperson. “Based on what I heard today, the person with the most experience with board activity would probably be John Daly,” Boose said.
Gilbert was appointed as interim vice-chairperson by a vote of eight in favor and one choosing another candidate. Gilbert voted in favor of Driskell for the seat. “I want to say thank you for your vote of confidence to my colleagues,” Gilbert said.
According to Daly, both appointments are temporary – for approximately two months – after which the board will hold another vote.
Once chairing the meeting, Daly suggested the board set up a few interim committees and begin discussions on the position of ombudsperson. The three interim committees suggested were by-laws, finance, and complaints. Like the appointments for chair and vice-chair, these would be interim committees and then the rest of the EAB would add or remove committees as needed.
“We need to work to have a process,” Daly said. “That means we are going to have to work very hard at the beginning and with the discussions that I’ve had with individual board members, everyone recognizes particularly at the beginning we’ll be meeting once a week,” he added.
Some members, however, said they did not feel that this first organizational meeting was best to begin discussions on committees and the ombudsperson. “I think that we probably need to have some discusson on…what we think is important…as a board,” Langston said.
“I think we first need to get ourselves established,” she added, expressing that the EAB has to set its meeting schedule and address other organizational issues before they would be able to appoint an ombudsperson.
“We’re here to serve. We’re public servants – let’s not forget that,” Gilbert reminded the rest of the board, adding that they took an oath to follow the city charter which includes appointing an ombudsperson and doing what they can to serve the residents of Flint.
The next meeting of the EAB has been set for 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Aug 9.
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.