By Tom Travis
Meeting in committee sessions Wednesday night, the Flint City Council’s attempt to get answers from City Hall about the handling of bids and rebids for restoration work following water pipeline replacement in the city ended in a shouting match between First Ward Councilman Eric Mays and the attorney for Mayor Karen Weaver’s chief advisor Aonie Gilcreast.
The council also heard from the Hurley Medical Center board of managers chair, Jason Caya, about the role of the board. He also assured them the city’s public hospital is not for sale.
Hurley Hospital not for sale; board compliance clarified
Seventh Ward Councilperson Monica Galloway asked Caya, who has served on the Hurley board for six years, to briefly explain the role of the board. Caya said the Hurley board serves the best interests of the hospital and the citizens of Flint to guide the hospital administration. He said meetings are held at 6 p.m. on the last Wednesday of each month.
Galloway asked Caya if he was aware the Hurley board is not in compliance with the City’s Charter concerning the number of non-Flint and Flint residents sitting on the board. Caya said he was aware, and assured the council that the board of managers is working to bring recommendations to the City Council for its approval and to bring the board into compliance.
Fourth Ward Councilperson Kate Fields stated there has been a lot of talk about Hurley being sold and privatized. Fields asked Caya if he knew whether the city attorney, the mayor, or city officials have been contacted about selling Hurley.
Caya responded, “I am not aware.”
Galloway asked, “So Hurley is not in jeopardy of being sold?” to which Caya responded, “That’s correct.”
“At one point there was some misunderstanding around an effort to incorporate the hospital under the Municipal Health Facilities Corporation Act that would incorporate the hospital in the sense that the liabilities would be separated from the city–and that seemed to be a positive thing to both the city and the hospital,” Caya explained.
“It did not change the public status of the hospital or the ownership of the hospital,” he stated. He said the Hurley board is not “moving forward” in their discussions concerning this issue. He noted Hurley is the only public hospital in the State of Michigan that is not incorporated under this act.
Caya concluded, “I can say that no member of the board is proposing the sale of Hurley. It requires the approval of the city council and the mayor,” and possibly a vote of the citizens of Flint, he said, though this was not clear. More information about the Hurley board of managers is available here: https://www.hurleymc.com/about-us/leadership.
Gilcreast appearance ends in shouting match between Mays, Kenneth Scott
Next the Council went into session as the Finance Committee. After preliminary agenda adjustments and comments from the city council members, Aonie Gilcreast, Mayor Weaver’s chief advisor, was asked to come to the witness table where he took a seat. He had been subpoenaed to appear; seated next him was city-acquired attorney, Kenneth Scott.
During the questioning Gilcreast did not look any councilperson in the eye, looking either straight ahead or at the floor and sometimes adjusting his shirt sleeve cuff and his chair.
First Ward Councilperson Eric Mays addressed Gilcreast by offering a brief history as to why he was subpoenaed. Mays explained there had been talk that city officials are “boycotting” city council meetings.
Mays and other council members had questions specifically about the bid and re-bidding, documented in several recent EVM stories, of the Goyette Mechanical and W.T. Stevens company bids for restoration of sidewalks, curbs and lawns following pipeline replacement throughout the city.
Mays asked, “Who in the administration is sending a signal to department heads not to come to council meetings?”
“As far as I know they do come,” Gilcreast replied.
Mays then asked, “Have you and the mayor discussed who comes?” Gilcreast began to answer but Attorney Scott leaned over and spoke to Gilcreast, who then did not answer the question.
Scott then addressed Councilperson Mays directly, saying he would answer the question. Scott and Mays became heated and agitated, with Mays at one point telling Scott, “You’re not going to run this meeting.”
Scott collected his papers and addressed Finance Committee Chairperson Galloway by saying, “When you get him [Mays] under control then we will be back.”
By that time Gilcreast had already left his seat and was walking down the center aisle exiting the council chamber. Attorney Scott however came back to the table to get the bag he had left and began addressing Mays.
As Scott and Mays yelled at each other, many guests and city council members took out their phones to video the exchange.
Scott walked up to Mays and the two stood yelling at each other. At one point Attorney Scott said to Mays, “I’ll crack your head.” Mays yelled back, “Get away from me, Get the hell away from me.”
Once Gilcreast and Scott were out of the City Council chamber, Mays made a motion to subpoena Mayor Weaver. After about 10 minutes of discussion the motion was amended to say, rather than subpoena her, “we do all things necessary to have Mayor Weaver come to council and answer questions.”
Mays asserted that if Weaver does not come before the council he will formally subpoena her to appear.
The motion passed five to three, with Sixth Ward Councilperson Herbert Winfrey, Fifth Ward Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter and Second Ward Councilperson Maurice Davis voting no. Fields was not present for the vote.
Banner photo: Broken chairs at City Council Chamber (Photo by Tom Travis)
EVM Staff Writer Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.