By Tom Travis
At a Saturday press conference inside the Hasselbring Senior Center in Flint’s north end, the attorney for censured 1st Ward Councilperson Eric Mays, Steve Haney said, “What I’m here for today is not an Eric Mays issue– it’s an issue for 8,000 folks who elected Eric Mays to be their voice. They are being deprived constitutionally of that voice.”
On March 4, City Council had Mays removed from a council meeting for disorderly conduct. Once he was removed, the remaining council unanimously passed a motion to censure Mays and ban him for 30 days for his ongoing disruptive behavior. The terms of the censure were that Mays is allowed to return for the April 8 council meeting.
At a March 9 city council meeting, many Flint residents showed up to voice their concern and disdain for the council’s action of censuring Mays. Many raised concern, as Haney did Saturday, that with Mays out of his 1st Ward council seat the residents in his ward are now without representation at city council meetings.
Mays was asked, at Saturday’s press conference, what he was hoping to accomplish by having the press conference with his attorney. Mays said, “I’m hoping to get credibility back. This has been an embarrassment to me and the people I represent. We’ve got seven good block clubs here–I met with one yesterday. Right now I’m embarrassed. It’s kind of frustrating and humiliating.”
Mays continued, referring to his city council colleagues, “When people don’t listen to you about due process, when they don’t listen to you about equal protection, when they don’t listen to you about discrimination–in other words, they apply the rules differently to me. And we have plenty of video meetings that can prove that.”
Mays specified, “We can see how others have acted who don’t look like me and don’t talk like me in violation of the rules. When you can’t rationalize and communicate and get justice or equal treatment then you turn to somebody who has a reputation and has the legal knowledge to help you do that. (motioning to Haney). I’m not too proud to step back and let someone speak for me. And in these cases it will be Attorney Steve Haney.”
Haney, an attorney based out of Detroit and with offices throughout the state of Michigan, explained, “I’ve been monitoring whats been going on in the city of Flint for several weeks now. And I’m very troubled and I think the city of Flint should be troubled too.
“As Mr. Mays and the 8000 people he represents in the 1st Ward are being deprived of their voice at the city council meetings.On March 4 Mr. Mays was illegally deprived of his right to sit in that city council seat. We intend to take action to get him back in his seat.”
“I’m not here today to threaten,” Haney said. “I’m not here to go to a bar and slap around a senior citizen. I’m not here to pose silly immature messages on Facebook, I’m not here today to say what streets I come from or not come from, I am here today so that 8000 residents in the city of Flint will have their voice back on city council.”
EVM asked Mays if he was paying for the legal fees to Haney. Before Mays could answer Haney said, “I’ll answer that for you. It’s an attorney/client privileged question but I’ll answer it anyway. I’m going to waive his privilege. He hasn’t paid me a penny to come down here. I don’t get out of bed on a Saturday morning. I’ve made a lot of money in my life. I’m down here for these people. And they’ll never pay me a penny.”
Haney announced he has a Monday meeting scheduled with City Attorney Angela Wheeler. Asked if there will be lawsuits, Haney replied, “Hopefully no. Hopefully there can be some reasonable conversation and the childish and immature games. This is all politically motivated.”
Haney said about Wheeler, “I think she’s a tremendously talented lawyer, not that she needs my endorsement.” He explained that Wheeler doesn’t work for the city council but that her obligation is to provide the council with good legal counsel, and to explain to them what might happen to them if they don’t do the right thing.
Haney again retorted, “I’m not here to threaten or grandstand, that’s not what this is about. I hope that Angela Wheeler and I have a positive conversation together on Monday and that we can get Mr Mays back to where he belongs.”
Describing the type of case he anticipates if the matter goes to trial, Haney said, “There have been some civil rights cases that stretch on for years.” He said there was one in Hamtramck and another in Allen Park “where there were very big settlements out of those two municipalities.” Haney said he had some clients that, he said, “were unconstitutionally searched and seized.”
However, Haney explained, “This wouldn’t be that kind of case. This would be a case where we’d be seeking an injunction relief to an order from a federal judge ordering the council to do what they’re supposed to do. We’re not asking for any favors—we’re not asking for any special treatment.”
Haney exhorted, “We want Mr Mays treated just as we’d expect anyone else on the city council to be treated in a similar circumstance.”
A resident asked Haney that if by going to federal court he was saying this is a civil rights violation. Haney replied, “I believe it is. I believe that procedural, due process and constitutional rights have been violated. Like any fight after Monday we’ll see if we can settle this and if we can’t then we put our army together.”
Mays explained how he understands the Charter and council rules in this issue by saying, “The council rules as they’re written now has a procedure for changing and amending. Section 1-801 is a rule making procedure. Our rules only allow for a one day removal not a 30 day removal. If you’re gonna change it to 30 days then you must go to a process.”
Mays further explained that process by saying, “The process is now you give a two-week notice, you post the two week notice, then conduct a public hearing, council debates and vote. Then the vote doesn’t come into effect until after the clerk publishes it. This rule (referring to the council’s 30 day censure of Mays) was just made up on a simple motion.”
Haney explained what he understands about the Charter concerning this issue, “The charter is very ambiguous. I don’t see the language of a 30-day ban in the charter and it doesn’t exist in the rules either. I don’t know what authority they’re relying on.”
“That’s why you litigate cases,” Haney said. “You’re arguing over the interpretation of statutes and laws whether they’re ambiguous—if it’s being applied in an unfair way. Now I don’t think the city of Flint wants that and I don’t’ think Councilman Mays wants that or his constituents want that.”
Haney continued, “We have bigger problems going on right now. All this bickering, childishness and in-fighting with these people. People calling each other names. People threatening each other.”
On Monday, Haney said, he and Wheeler will meet only about the issue of Mays being censured for 30 days by city council.
Haney was asked about a recent incident at Rube’s Bar between Mays and DuVarl Murdock, City of Flint deputy chief of staff. Haney said, “Eric Mays has other issues that I’ll be getting involved with as well.”
Concerning the Murdock and Mays case, Haney said, “I have talked to Eric about the Murdock case. I believe that he has a cause for action for what occurred. I’ve talked to Eric about retaining me for that case. That retainer fee is going to be four new tires for my car. I would stand next to Eric Mays in any litigation.”
Haney praised Mays, saying, “Eric Mays has done great things for the City of Flint. I know he’s a polarizing figure. Some don’t like his delivery. Political discourse is what makes this country great. We can have differences of opinions.”
“But we shouldn’t have people threatening people pointing to their chest, ‘I have a gun,’ pushing people around in bars, telling people they’re from the streets. They can threaten Eric Mays that way but I’m not gonna take those threats well.”
Haney clarified, “I can guarantee you that if Mr. Murdock slapped my client who’s 62 years old and mocked him, made fun of him, ridiculed him, and stepped all over the great things he’s been doing for the city I can promise you I will go after him. Now if my review of that case dosen’t prove to be something that I can establish in a court of law then I won’t. But I’m not there yet.”
A resident asked Mays who constituents in his ward are supposed to call if they need something, since he’s been censured for 30 days. Mays said, “Call me anyway!” And Mays recited his phone number, as he often does, for residents to call him if they need something. Mays’ cell phone number is 810 922 4860.
EVM Assistant Editor and Staff Writer Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.