By Tom Travis
This article has been updated to include a press release from Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley warning of a potential city government shutdown due to the city council’s failure to pass a budget. – EVM Editor
For a second time in one week the city council failed to adopt a budget. At this time there is no other special council meeting scheduled.
The resolution to adopt the budget was presented first through a “motion to reconsider” and also as an “add-on resolution.”
The lack of action means that the City of Flint’s ability to spend money ends June 30.
In a phone call with EVM today, Council President Kate Fields (4th Ward) said, “As of July 1 we need new spending authority.”
The Uniform Budgeting and Accounting Act of 1968 establish procedures for local governments to have an adopted budget. The Act states in part, “no money shall be disbursed from a local unit except pursuant to the [budget] adopted by the legislative body.”
On Friday, Mayor Sheldon Neeley released a statement notifying residents of a potential city government shutdown due the council not adopting a budget.
The Mayor’s press release stated:
“This unprecedented failure to pass a budget is putting hundreds of City of Flint employees’ livelihoods in jeopardy. Our team, their families and our community deserve better than the ongoing petty politics and continuous dysfunction that is being portrayed by some City Council members,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley said. “We hope and pray that a budget is passed, but, at this point, the City must begin preparing for a potential shutdown in case a majority of the Council continues to fail to uphold their oaths of office and to fail to do their jobs.”
The press release continued:
“Mayor Neeley presented his proposed budget to the City Council on March 1. The City Council has had more than three months and more than 20 meetings to consider the proposed budget. Per City Charter, the City Council was required to adopt a budget no later than June 7, 2021.
“Per the requirements of several union contracts, the City’s Department of Human Resources today notified all city employees that a potential government shutdown would require mass layoffs. The City is working to ensure that essential services such as public safety would continue to operate even during a shutdown.”
Because the resolution to adopt the budget was presented on the agenda as a “motion to reconsider” it required six votes. Fields said council members knew there were only five votes, not enough to approve.
According to Fields, the council is working with the city administration and the city clerk’s office to see how the budget resolution can be brought to council for a vote as soon as possible. The next scheduled council meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 14.
Investigative hearing established in waste collection bid process
Councilperson Monica Galloway (7th Ward) requested time to question the City’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Shelbi Frayer about the waste collection bid process with Republic Services that was discussed at Monday’s meeting. Galloway questioned Frayer about the timing of what she knew and when she knew it concerning errors in the bid process.
In Monday’s meeting, Frayer said she discovered in mid-May 2021 the bid process protocols were not followed correctly. Galloway presented an inter-office memo from DPW Director Michael Brown to Frayer in April with details she believed showed Frayer knew sooner than mid-May.
Frayer maintained that she did not know that the bid opening protocols were not followed properly until mid-May.
Both Galloway and Councilperson Eric Mays (1st Ward) were not satisfied with Frayer’s response about the bid process protocols, prompting Mays to make a motion to establish an investigative hearing.
The investigative hearing was approved with a 5-4 vote. Voting yes were Eric Mays (1st Ward), Maurice Davis (2nd Ward), Jerri Winfrey-Carter (5th Ward), Herb Winfrey (6th Ward) and Monica Galloway (7th Ward).
Commenting during the meeting, before the vote, Councilperson Herb Winfrey (6th Ward) said, “I’ll be voting in the affirmative. I don’t believe any of the speakers that have spoken tonight (referring to city administration officials CFO Shelbi Frayer, City Attorney Angela Wheeler, DPW director Michael Brown and City Administrator Clyde Edwards) have anything to hide.”
Council President Fields commented in a phone call Thursday, “This is another witch-hunt by Mays and Galloway. It’s a futile witch-hunt that will take away residents tax dollars. It has no point and no purpose. Just like his lawsuits that he lost twice that cost the city’s tax payers $50,000. There are no indications that anything going on was improper.”
City Attorney Angela Wheeler is responsible for establishing “outside counsel” to conduct the hearing. Asked by Mays how long it would take for her to establish the hearing she said it could be done by next month.
The city’s contract with Republic Services ends June 30, 2021. Because the bid process has to be redone Frayer told the council at Monday’s meeting that the city is in negotiations with Republic for a 90-day contract extension. EVM has reached out to Frayer and other city officials to see how those negotiations are going, they have yet to respond.
City Staff say they are “harassed” and “demeaned” by Councilperson Eric Mays
In one of the many contentious moments of the meeting, Fields called Mays out of order for what she described as “harassing the city staff”. Mays appealed Fields’ ruling and the appeal was successful. Mays proceeded to ask some of the city administration staff if they felt harassed by him.
Frayer said yes, she did feel harassed at times. When asked by Mays if she felt harassed, City Attorney Wheeler said she felt “demeaned.” Wheeler added that she suffers from “secondary trauma” through witnessing the mistreatment of others in the meetings, as she described.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.