Federal Politics

Published — March 29, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

State takeover of Michigan cities slowed by courts

Legal challenges have cast uncertainty on the fate of Michigan's Emergency Manager law, signed last year by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. A March 20 ruling by Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, pictured here, restored Flint's elected officials to office, but only briefly. The state's attorney's appeal reversed the decision, causing confusion amongst Flint residents and leaving the city's $25 million budget gap untended. Al Goldis/AP

Michigan’s emergency manager law runs afoul of open meetings act

Introduction

It’s not clear who is in charge of Flint, Mich., these days.

Earlier this month, a state circuit court judge unseated the city’s emergency manager, Michael Brown, and voided all decisions he’s made since being appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder four months ago.

The ruling found the state violated the Open Meetings Act when appointing Brown in December and is just the latest in a series of legal challenges that could freeze Michigan’s controversial emergency manager law.

As reported by iWatch News, the law inspired by free market think tanks is the GOP-led legislature’s attempt to solve decades of municipal budget woes in Michigan, spurred by the flight of manufacturers and compounded by the housing crash.

Under the law, the governor can appoint one person to run city affairs with expansive powers to fire elected city officials, privatize services, break union contracts, sell public assets and violate city charters.

While court challenges proceed, state elections officials are reviewing 227,000 signatures that opponents to the law delivered to Lansing on Feb. 29. If the state approves 162,000 of them in early May, the law would be frozen until voters decide its fate in a referendum next year.

Flint, Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse, and school districts in Detroit and Highland Park have emergency managers.

Detroit is in the late stages of a financial review that is also under court scrutiny. The state has moved away from appointing an emergency manager and instead is advocating the creation of a financial team with similar powers, which has drawn the ire of city officials and residents alike.

In Flint, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina on March 20 sided with a city public employee union president who brought the open meetings challenge. Mayor Dayne Walling and the city council were returned to office to face Flint’s $25 million deficit.

The state challenged the opinion, and a week later, an appeals court panel reversed Aquilina and put Brown back in office until the case is heard.

“It’s a yo-yo game,” said Brenda Purifoy, one of several former city employees wondering whether she’ll get her job back. The day after Brown took the job, he fired Purifoy from her post as city ombudsman and closed the department, a violation of the city’s charter.

Since her appointment in 2006, Purifoy had fielded thousands of complaints and investigated misconduct in the police, water, and elections departments. After the Aquilina ruling, she received a call from the city attorney telling her where to pick up the keys to access her old office. But until the court case is resolved, Purifoy’s job will remain up in the air.

Meetings regarding Brown’s appointment were not public because the team reviewing the appointment was not a public body, according to Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for state Treasurer’s office.

Walling, Flint’s mayor, disagreed in an email saying “residents deserve the same open financial review process that is being afforded to other Michigan cities.”

An open meetings challenge has also disrupted the work of the state’s 10-member team reviewing Detroit’s finances. Judge William Collette handed down two rulings in the last month halting the review process until the state conducted public meetings — a decision that the state’s attorneys have appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Detroit review team decided not to recommend an emergency manager after months of closed-door deliberations over the city’s future, proposing instead a consent agreement that would allow state and city officials to appoint a nine-member board with powers similar to that of an emergency manager to address Detroit’s $200 million deficit and deteriorating credit.

Mayor Dave Bing called the state’s proposal a de facto takeover that “waives the ability of elected officials to contest any aspect of the agreement.”

Following Collette’s ruling, state appointees restarted their review process of Detroit — this time in public. Proceedings have been marked by protest and angry comments from residents.

“They’ve literally declared war on us, and we are assembling our troops to fight back,” said resident Sandra Hines during public comment.

The first of several public meetings ended with the review team declaring a severe financial emergency in the city, but made no recommendation on how to move forward.

Governor Snyder hosted a town hall meeting in Detroit March 28 to push for a consent agreement by the end of the month. A major sticking point in ongoing talks between Snyder and the city is the degree of power that local officials will retain in budget decisions.

Meanwhile, a challenge to the constitutionality of the law itself is working its way through the courts.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
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jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

thomas alessi
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thomas alessi

I am for Trump

Martin Shellabarger
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J. Stevenson, what are you drinking? Trump has more lobbyists in his administration than probably any other president. Trump is totally “for sale”, and the corporations know it. Grow a brain!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.