“Knuckleheads” comment sparks rancor, debate among city council

By Tom Travis

No action was taken by design at Wednesday’s five-hour plus meeting of the Flint City Council . But the night was filled with verbal sparks flying and contentious moments as many council members sparred and jabbed each other with “point of order” and “point of information.”

The epithet “knuckleheads,” directed from Council President Eric Mays to the rest of the council, provoked the evening’s predominant drama.

Wednesday’s confab was a  Council Committee meeting. Council Committee meetings are held every other Wednesday and include: Finance, Legislative, Governmental Operations and Grants committees. Special Affairs Committee meets on Monday nights immediately prior to the regular City Council meeting.

In committee meetings no action is taken. Resolutions and ordinances are not voted on. They are designed for discussion among council members, city officials and/or individuals or organizations and companies concerning actionable items to be voted on in official Council meetings.


Council President Eric Mays chairing a council meeting in January 2022. (Photo by Tom Travis)

During the Finance Committee portion, Council President Eric Mays (Ward 1) called his fellow council members “knuckleheads” for not understanding council rules.

Finance Chairperson Tonya Burns (Ward 6) warned Mays, calling him out of order for referring to his colleagues as “knuckleheads.” Mays appealed her ruling calling him out of order. If a council member is called out of order an additional time the chairperson has the option to ask the attending police officer to remove the person from the meeting.

Council members listen during public speaking. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Councilpersons Judy Priestley (Ward 4), Quincy Murphy (Ward 3), Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Ward 5) and Burns (Ward 6) voted with Burns to deny  Mays’ appeal.

Mays was out of his seat pacing around the room at the time of the vote. Councilperson Dennis Pfeiffer voted to support Mays’ appeal. Councilpersons Eva Worthing had left the meeting and Ladel Lewis (Ward 2) was absent.

Mays loudly contended he’s allowed to call people what he wants to call them.

The City of Flint Charter points out, “As representatives of the citizens of the City of Flint, City Council members are expected to conduct themselves with appropriate decorum, act respectfully with constituents, each other, and other public servants…” [Section 3-104 of the Flint City Charter]. The Charter can be accessed on the link below or on the city’s website.

Flint City Charter

Ernst & Young compliance firm $1.1 million contract begins “today”

In addition to the name calling,  some productive moments occurred,  including discussion about the recently approved $1.1 million compliance firm contract.

Brian Jarzynski, executive director of  Ernst & Young, answered questions from councilmembers. Ernst & Young has been contracted by the City of Flint for $1,350,650 for the disbursement of the $94 million American Rescue Plan (ARP) stimulus money.

City of Flint Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Robert Widigan (left) and compliance firm Ernst & Young Executive Director Brian Jarzynski field questions from city council at Wednesday’s meeting. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Councilmember Allie Herkenroder (Ward 7) asked when the contract with Ernst & Young is effective. Robert Widigan, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the city said it became effective “today.”

A resolution for the new one-year contract has not been voted on yet by council. In last week’s council meeting the council was able to come to an agreement drawing down a five year $3.9 million contract initially presented for Ernst & Young to a one year $1.1 million contract.

In last week’s meeting council decided to offer a series of four listening sessions over the next year to “educate” the council and public on how Ernst & Young are progressing with the ARPA compliance and to answer any questions from the council and the public.

The “listening sessions” were not in the original contract offered by Ernst & Young but the city council added that feature to part of the contract. In last night’s meeting Jarzynski assured the council that Ernst & Young would happy to comply to that requirement.

Councilperson Dennis Pfeiffer (Ward 8) asked Jarzynski and Widigan how the interest earned from the $94 million ARPA funds will be allocated. Widigan explained that usually interest earned from grant money is required to be returned but for ARPA funds the City will be allowed to keep those funds.

Jarzynski clarified that while the City can keep the interest funds those amounts must be allocated to ARPA related spending categories.

City budget public hearing

A Thursday, Jan. 20 Special City Council Public Hearing is set for 5 p.m.  in-person in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 1101 S. Saginaw Street, Flint. The purpose of the special public hearing is called by Mayor Sheldon Neeley to present the 2022-2023 preliminary budget.

That  meeting and recordings of previous meetings can be found at the City of Flint Meetings Youtube page at this link.

EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com

Author: Tom Travis

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