By Tom Travis
[This article has been updated to reflect that the council did take action on 15 out of the 19 resolutions. EVM Editorial Staff.]
The Flint City council met for an eight-hour meeting Monday night, with two hours spent discussing the council’s behavior and two resolutions.
The sum of the 19 resolutions and ordinances on Monday’s agenda totaled more than $7.5 million in city business. The council did vote and pass 15 resolutions on the agenda.
Most of the council’s discussion focused on two resolutions that have repeatedly appeared on council agendas over the past few months, with no action taken.
For two hours the council discussed a letter drafted by The Ethics and Accountability Board (EAB) addressed to the City Council. Councilperson Quincy Murphy asked for the letter to be discussed. Council President asked EAB chair Allen Gilbert to come to the podium to discuss the letter.
Mays explained that the letter dealt with, “behavior and the lack of the council getting the city business done.”
EAB President Gilbert explained, “The reason that we decided to write the letter first of all is that we have the right under the charter to weigh in on the legislative body. Our reason is we have witnessed, the public has witnessed and members of the EAB have witnessed the actions and in-actions, the decorum and misconduct [of city council] in our view and that entails a great deal.
“It entails how the president acts, how he treats his colleagues and his colleagues respond and how you work collectively as a body. Because that is what the people want to see. The people are demanding that you do what you were elected to do,”Gilbert said. “To govern, to do it together — and it’s okay vigorous debate is part of democracy and it’s okay to disagree.”
Gilbert continued, “The board is saying to the city council that no matter what your decision is if you’re not going to do what you were elected to do that is going to cause a problem for the city. As a unit, your actions, your misconduct, your behavior and under that there will be due process. You will have the right to come before us and we will let you know what our thoughts are. Let me say this — we’re not after anybody.
“We want the best for the best. That’s what we’re after. The citizens have let us know, there are complaints coming. The public is asking for your pay to be put in escrow until you take care of the business of the people. So I’m here to admonish you to take care of business, do your own punishment, you have that right. But you were all sworn under oath to take care of the business of the city.
“Your code of conduct, as according to the charter, is unacceptable, plain and simple, all of you, every last one of you. As the citizens of Flint we are demanding better of you.”
The EAB is requesting each council member to respond to the letter by April 11, 2022. The EAB meets every second Tuesday of the month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the dome conference room behind City Hall.
When EVM contacted the EAB office requesting a copy of the letter sent from the EAB to the city council we were told the letter would be released once responses from all the council was received. Later councilperson Herkenroder shared the letter with EVM.
Council members raise concerns about the EAB letter
Councilperson Eva Worthing (Ward 9) called into question why the EAB would look at attendance by the city council members during council meetings. “Meetings last until mid-night or 2 a.m. at times. And we all have personal lives and other jobs. I myself have two children. Meetings should not have to last that long.”
Worthing called for specifics from the EAB, “such as, meetings shouldn’t last until mid-night. The treatment of staff…it seems the council gets lumped all into one for one person’s behavior and that’s not fair. To compare someone berating staff, screaming, calling colleagues stupid or [saying], “let me teach you,” those are threats and intimidation.
“To compare that to leaving a meeting because you’re upset or you cannot mentally handle that for eight to ten hours doesn’t cut it. It needs to be specific. There are people on the EAB that support Mr. Mays’ behavior and that concerns me.”
Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Ward 6) drew attention to errors in the letter. She noted that the letter was dated Feb 17, 2021. In the letter the EAB referenced a city council meeting on Feb 28, 2020, rather than Feb 28, 2022. Gilbert acknowledged the errors.
Winfrey-Carter requested a new, corrected letter before she would respond.
Council Vice-President Allie Herkenroder (Ward 7) added, “A lot of things have happened to me in the way that I’ve been spoken to over the phone by a certain member of this body and the way that I’ve been spoken to in my office and in the presence of clerks that the public does not see. That adds to a hostile work environment. There are lot of things that happen behind the scenes that the public does not see and will never see that adds to this hostile work environment.
“I’ve been called stupid because I’m young. Which is incredibly inappropriate and it doesn’t reflect my individual smarts and it’s disrespectful to the Seventh Ward who voted for me.
“We’re all neighbors. We all choose to live here for a reason. And we want it to be the best it can be. We want the future of Flint to be strong and to be hopeful for our kids and grandkids….I look forward to working with the EAB.”
Council President Eric Mays (Ward 1) said, “I’ve heard them [council members] say a ‘hostile work environment.’ I’ve heard certain people say I treat women a certain way. You’ve got six women on a political body. The charter say you don’t discriminate. But women is a certain way.
“There are certain women on here that can talk nastier to me in front of the scenes and behind the scenes. Outright cussing, these are facts. It happened from the old council to the new council.”
Councilperson Tonya Burns (Ward 5) called for the EAB letter to speak “specifically to the issues. We talk about decorum and attendance. But in order to keep attendance we have to keep decorum.
“And when we don’t have decorum, civility and respect you don’t have a proper meeting. According to Robert’s Rules we are not to attack any member’s motives for speaking to or against.
“Are we always going to agree? No, because we’re all different individuals. But the one thing we should do at our core base is respect each other, have decorum and there should be civility,” Burns said.
Flint resident Lorraine Thompson spoke during public comments , saying that she came to the meeting to discuss and give her concerns about how the council interacts with each other. “All I’m seeing as a priority is yourselves, is me, ‘they talk to me like this.'”
“This is not a tea party. You’re not on the playground. This is serious city business. You were all elected to, if not one of, the most important positions in the city of Flint.
“I’m so dumbfounded. You were voted here to represent thousands of people in your wards…all I’m hearing is your feelings are hurt. Put on your big boy and big girl drawers and get the stuff done, do our business,” Thompson said. “You can’t get the business done because you’re too worried about changing this man’s style (pointing towards Council President Eric Mays).
“You not his mama, you not his wife, you not the husband, you’re not at your house at your dining room table where you can say ‘leave my house.’ He only has one vote and as far as I know he only has five minutes.
“I have sit and watched you all literally vote against the rules and the charter…I’m so glad the Ethics and Accountability Board is involved. You’re so busy trying to grow this man (again, motioning towards Council President Eric Mays). This man is grown.”
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org