By Tom Travis
Monday’s city council finance committee meeting spiraled into a debacle ending with most of the council members, the mayor, and four administration directors being subpoenaed by various council members. The only council members not subpoenaed were Maurice Davis (2nd Ward), Herb Winfrey (6th Ward) and Monica Galloway (7th Ward).
Subpoenaed City Officials
Here is a list provided by the City Clerk’s office of the 12 individuals subpoenaed in Monday’s meeting: Shelbi Frayer, City of Flint Chief Financial Officer; Clyde Edwards, City Administrator; Councilpersons Eric Mays (1st Ward), Santino Guerra (3rd Ward), Kate Fields (4th Ward), Herbert Winfrey (6th Ward), Allan Griggs (8th Ward), Eva Worthing (9th Ward); Mayor Sheldon Neeley, Suzanne Wilcox, Director of Planning and Development; Amanda Trujillo, City of Flint Treasurer and John Daly, Director of Public Works (transportation division).
According to the agenda, Monday’s Special City Council Finance Committee meeting only had one item to be discussed – “to continue work on the City’s FY2022 and FY2023 biennial budget proposed by Mayor Sheldon Neeley.” The meeting began with council members questioning the City’s Chief Financial Officer Shelbi Frayer.
Frayer’s response to being asked questions by council was that she understood that the meeting would be a “listening session” for the administration and that she had to seek permission from City Administrator Clyde Edwards to respond to council’s questions. Edwards was on the line and began to respond affirming Frayer was correct.
Later in the meeting Edwards explained to council that over the past weeks the City Administration had presented the budget and fielded questions from City Council. These meetings were held on four separate days in April and often spanned several hours while council members and city administration discussed the budget. Edwards said that it was now time for the council to “work together” and make amendments and changes to the budget.
When Frayer was further questioned by council members on responding to their questions she made the statement, “I work at the pleasure of the Mayor.” This caused council members to further question Frayer and Edwards about why the administration wasn’t forth-coming in answering the council’s budget questions.
The rest of the six hour meeting was tempered by the tension created at the beginning by the statements of administration officials and the reactions of the city council members.
Mays suggests adding the $94 million federal stimulus money to the city’s budget
Eric Mays (1st Ward) said he wanted to make a motion for the city’s budget to include the stimulus money that will be coming to Flint within weeks. Both City Attorney Angela Wheeler and CFO Frayer said that the stimulus money could not be included in the budget because they are separate monies from separate sources. Wheeler said that motion would not be legal.
Fields makes motion for only “legal ordinances and resolutions”
Council President Kate Fields (4th Ward) responded by making a motion that the council not vote on any ordinance or resolution unless it is deemed legal by the city attorney. That motion did not pass.
Councilpersons Santino Guerra (3rd Ward), Kate Fields (4th Ward), Allan Griggs (8th Ward) and Eva Worthing (9th Ward) were the only councilmembers that voted yes to pass the resolution. The five remaining council members (Mays, Davis, Winfrey-Carter, Winfrey and Galloway) voted no.
Mays calls for an “investigative hearing” – time to be held is yet to be determined
As Mays continued to question Frayer, Wheeler, and Edwards he stated, “The administration is afraid.” Mays suggested that the administration seems be “afraid” to answer the council’s questions. Mays said, “if the Mayor is telling Finance they can’t work with council on budgets, that is preposterous.” Mays made a motion to have an investigative hearing as it relates to the budget process.
That motion for an investigative hearing passed with a 5 to 4 vote. Voting in the affirmative were Mays, Davis, Winfrey-Carter, Galloway and Griggs. Voting no were Guerra, Fields, Winfrey and Worthing. It was not determined when the investigative hearing will take place.
Added budget money for City Clerk’s office for elections, full-time staff and codification
Mays (1st Ward) made a motion for $60,000 to be moved from the $2.1 million fund balance into the City Clerk’s budget to be used towards elections, an additional full-time staff in the Clerk’s office, and the codification of ordinances. [According to the website American Legal Publishing Corporation, Codifying includes removing repealed or obsolete ordinances and editing for proper grammar, consistency and clarity. Codifying also encompasses formatting the material into user-friendly titles, chapters and sections, and supplementing with new ordinances. The result is one body of current, enforceable law.]
In a follow-up phone call with Council President Fields (4th Ward) she stated that on the City Clerk’s city website ordinances and resolutions only up to Sept 2016 are available to the public. Fields said that she has been asking the City Clerk, Inez Brown, to update the codification of the ordinances and resolutions for the past six years. Fields said the codification is necessary for transparency of laws that are on the books.
Fields further reiterated in Monday’s meeting that in Council’s meeting on May 5 Brown submitted a report stating that funding for an additional Clerk’s office employee is already in the budget and $20,000 is budgeted for the codification process. Fields told her council colleagues that the additional $60,000 was “unnecessary” because the funding was already budgeted.
The motion for additional funds to the Clerk’s office passed with a 5 to 4 vote with Councilpersons Winfrey-Carter, Winfrey, Galloway, Mays, and Davis voting in the affirmative. The motion was for a resolution to be drafted and presented at the next council meeting.
The Meeting ended after six hours. Councilpersons Herb Winfrey (6th Ward), Worthing (9th Ward), Fields (4th Ward) and the Finance Committee Chairperson Santino Guerra (3rd Ward) left the meeting. Galloway, vice-chair of the finance committee, chaired the remainder of the meeting and adjourned.
The next meeting will be committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday, May 19 beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Council President Fields working with Land Bank to demolish “burnout” properties
While the only item on the agenda for Monday’s special finance committee meeting was to discuss the budget other points of discuss came up through the course of the meeting.
Council President Kate Fields noted that she is working with Genesee County Land Bank CEO Michael Freeman to obtain grant funding to demolish some 394 partially or completely burned residential properties in the city. Fields added that part of the demolition needs to be filling in the basement if there is one so that it doesn’t become a dumping area.
According to a spread sheet Fields made available the number of burnout properties in each ward are:
Ward 1 – 40
Ward 2 – 48
Ward 3 – 81 (highest number of burnouts)
Ward 4 – 75
Ward 5 – 51
Ward 6 – 27
Ward 7 – 13 (lowest number of burnouts)
Ward 8 – 36
Ward 9 – 23
Purchasing Director resigned
In the meeting it was stated by various council members and administration that the purchasing director Joyce McClane was no longer working for the city. A city administration confirmed by email to EVM that the city had accepted the resignation of McClane. No other details were given.
How the public can listen to the public budget hearings
The public and members of the press can listen in to the discussions between city council and the City of Flint department heads by calling in at (617) 944-8177 or by listening to the live stream on the City of Flint meetings Youtube channel.
For questions or concerns or for additional information contact the City Council office at (810) 766-7418.
EVM Managing Editor, Tom Travis, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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