By Tom Travis
The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to not meet again until the regularly scheduled city council meeting on May 10. All committee meetings and council meetings are cancelled until then. If there is an urgent need to meet, the council agreed to have an electronic meeting.
With Governor Whitmer’s “stay in place” executive order less than 24 hours old, the city council met in Council Chambers. The electronic meeting was allowed by Governor Whitmer to allow municipalities to meet if necessary.
Governor Whitmer had to make an executive order to allow municipalities to meet due to the Open Meetings Act of Michigan which requires members of the public to be present and to be able to speak . In this special case, members of the public were allowed to email or call in to speak to the council by phone. In Monday’s meeting there were four call-in public speakers.
Eight of the nine council members were present. Eric Mays (1st Ward) was not present because he has been censured by the Council for 30 days. Mays can return to council meeting April 8. Since the council meetings have been cancelled until May, he will be able to be part of the May 10 meeting or any other special meeting that may be called after April 8.
The eight council members sat in a different-than-usual arrangement, obeying the social distancing guidelines. An extra two tables were set up in front of the council seating area so that Councilpersons Kate Fields (4th ward), Jerri Winfrey-Carter (5th ward) and Herb Winfrey (6th ward) could sit an appropriate social distance away from each other. Allen Griggs (8th Ward), Eva Worthing (9th Ward), Santino Guerra (3rd Ward), and Maurice Davis (2nd Ward) sat at the usual council tables behind the other council members. Also present were Council President Monica Galloway (7th ward) who sat in the chairperson’s seat. City Clerk Inez Brown and City Attorney Angela Wheeler sat down in front of Galloway.
Some budget amendment resolutions were voted on, including a payment to Tyree Walker who has worked as a consultant in the city’s human resources department since the beginning of the Neeley administration in November 2019. Tyree is vice president of human resources at Hurley Hospital and has been working for the City of Flint temporarily.
Walker would be “on loan” to the city from Hurley while Walker navigated the new administration through establishing new contracts and HR issues. The original compensation agreement was for Walker was to be $128/hour for a 28 hour work week for 60 days.
As the council discussed the resolution, City Administrator Clyde Edwards chimed in via conference call from the 1st floor of City Hall. Edwards explained that when the Neeley administration came in they were in need of a qualified human resources person to help them navigate through HR needs in City Hall. Edwards said, “a serious, qualified person was needed, he [Tyree Walker] went from 0 to 100 in one week.”
He understood what needed to be done. He helped contracts to be negotiated. I’m asking the council to move forward and accept this. The man worked over and above. We had an HR emergency and he took care of it.”
Galloway responded, “I respect what you’re saying. But we operate with contracts and memorandums of understanding. We only have one for $32K.”
“Where are the contracts and memorandums with the additional $61K?” Edwards said, “I’m going to stand by what I’ve said. We inherited this HR crisis.” Before the vote Galloway commented that this is not about Walker getting paid or not. It’s about contracts and memorandums of understanding being followed.
In Monday’s meeting the resolution for Walkers compensation was passed in a vote of 7 yes, 1 no, with Galloway dissenting. The resolution was to amend the original budget amount to $61,000 in compensation for Walker’s work.
In closing comments, many of the council members and City Clerk Inez Brown took time to thank the IT team and Paul Herring who is contracted by City Council to video and post to YouTube each council and committee meeting.
Brown said, ‘I think it’s important to acknowledge that our technology team and Paul Herring. They’ve spent three days working to make this possible.”
It was also announced by City Attorney Angela Wheeler that assistant City Attorney Reed Eriksson is leaving the city of Flint legal department. His last day will be April 17.
EVM Assistant Editor and Staff Writer Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.