Seventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge F. Kay Behm denied a motion to prevent the hiring of an ombudsperson filed by Linda Pohly, a Flint resident with a complaint before the court alleging that the City of Flint failed to follow the Open Meetings Act, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the Flint City Charter.
Eight people had applied for the ombudsperson positions, but only three applicants were provided by the City’s Human Resources Department to the Ethics and Accountability Board (EAB) for review.
Interviews of candidates Lauren Rowley, Louis Hawkins and Tané Dorsey took place in City Council chambers Aug. 22 with oversight by representatives of the human resources department. A story detailing the EAB’s processes regarding the ombudsperson position over the summer can be found here.
Pohly sought to prevent the hiring of an ombudsperson “until the city allows the Ethics and Accountability Board [EAB] to review all of the resumes and to hold interviews as they choose, as opposed to under the supervision of the human resources department,” she said.
Pohly’s attorney Alec Gibbs argued that the EAB was established to oversee the executive and legislative branches and that allowing the City’s Human Resources department to impede the independent appointment of an ombudsperson was a violation of its role as established by the charter.
City Attorney Angela Wheeler argued that the City has an interest in protecting applicant information as it contains personal information and is performing its role in accordance with the charter.
“We’re at the finish line (in the process of hiring an ombudsperson). To stop the process now would be a harm to the public,” Wheeler said.
Judge Behm said she denied the motion because she did not find that a breach of the charter has happened yet and no irreparable harm would happen by allowing the hiring to take place because there is nothing stopping the Ethics and Accountability Board from asking to review the other five applicants.
According to Behm, the board does not have to allow the Human Resources Department to limit their review of applications or interfere with their questioning of candidates.
The general meeting of the EAB will take place at 5 p.m. tonight, Sept. 10, in council chambers. A town hall to discuss the ombudsperson hiring process and the board’s roles and responsibilities will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 in City Hall.
EVM Staff Writer Melodee Mabbitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.