By Melodee Mabbitt
Two years after Flint voters elected to fill the position, the City of Flint has a new ombudsperson. Tané Dorsey starts the week of Nov. 4.
Dorsey is a Flint native, a graduate of Flint Northern High School and the University of Michigan. She has years of experience as an Investigator in the U.S. Federal Court system and as the Chief Ombudsman Analyst for the State of Michigan.
The Office of the Ombudsperson will be located in City Hall on the first floor next to the mayor’s office. Office hours are Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Dorsey may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 810-237-2020.
Creation of the ombudsperson position had been mandated by the City of Flint’s new charter, approved by voters 2-1 in August, 2017. The position and the office to support it was enabled by a $250,000 budget. Dorsey will be paid $70,800.
According to the job description, the ombudsperson is to receive and investigate complaints, concerns, reports and issues arising under the ethics provisions of the charter.
Along with the rest of the charter, the first revision of the document in 40 years, the ombudsman’s office was to have taken effect Jan. 1, 2018. East Village Magazine had been documenting the days since the charter was to have been implemented with a monthly box—on Oct. 1, the number had risen to 640.
The ombudsperson was selected by the new Ethics and Accountability Board (EAB)—another facet established through the revised charter—after many delays during which board members said they struggled to work with the City’s Human Resources and Labor Relations Department during the hiring process.
Dorsey was appointed as ombudsperson with a 6 to 4 vote in which Linda Boose, John Daly, Bob Gallagher and Nicholas D’Aigle dissented.
On Oct. 31, board member Daly told EVM in an email that board member Bob Gallagher resigned from the Ethics and Accountability Board, principally due to the search processes used by the City of Flint Human Resources Department in the hiring of the ombudsperson.
EVM has reached out to Gallagher for comment.
Eight people had applied for the ombudsperson position, but only three applications initially were provided by the City’s Human Resources Department to the EAB for review. The matter went to court, through a Freedom of Information/Open Meetings Act case pertaining to implementation of the charter filed by Flint attorney Linda Pohly.
Seventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge F. Kay Behm ruled in Pohly v. Flint that the City’s human resources department did not have to provide all eight applications, but that nothing stopped the EAB for asking for them. Eventually the EAB requested and received the full set.
According to the new charter detailed in an Aug. 7, 2018 EVM article, the main functions of the EAB include appointing the 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.
The City of Flint previously had a series of ombudspersons, but the position has been vacant since 2011 in the city’s emergency manager era, when funding for it was cut.
EVM Contributing Writer Melodee Mabbitt can be reached at email@example.com. EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson contributed to this report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.