Benton Harbor, Emergency Financial Managers, Joe Harris — June 5, 2011 at 9:58 am

Benton Harbor EFM continues the disenfranchisement of voters, tightens his power


Note: to find all of my coverage of the Benton Harbor situation, click HERE. The most recent posts are at the top.

Benton Harbor Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) Joseph L. Harris took further steps to reconfigure the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, the group responsible for directing how brownfields, former industrial sites, are developed. Note that there is a great deal of funding through grants and loans for brownfield redevelopment. Also, access to this prime real estate in the shoreline city is very valuable, particularly if it can be obtained for very low-cost and subsidized through federal and state grants.

The order is HERE.

ORDER NO.: 11- 20


I, Joseph L. Harris, the duly appointed Emergency Manager for the City of Benton Harbor, Michigan (the “City”), pursuant to the power and authority granted by Act 4 of the Public Acts of Michigan of 201 1, being MCL 141.1501 et seq (the “Act”), do hereby resolve and order as follows:

WHEREAS, the City has a Brownfield Redevelopment Authority established pursuant to the Brownfield Redevelopment Act, being Act 381 of the Public Acts of 1996, as amended (the “Act 381”); and

WHEREAS, Section 19(fD of the Act authorizes the Emergency Manager to, among other things, remove from, replace and appoint individuals to, any office, board, commission, authority or other entity of the City; and

WHEREAS, it is the intent, of the Emergency Manager to remove and replace current members of the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority; and

WHEREAS, it is further the intent of the Emergency Manager to appoint new members to the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority as set forth herein.


1. The following members of the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority shall be and are hereby removed from office: Sandra Dudley and Debbie Popp.

2. The following individuals shall be and are hereby appointed to the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority for the terms listed, respectively:

Michelle Hart Balance of Sandra Dudley’s Term
Chris Donovan Balance of Debbie Popp’s Term

3. Each new member shall take and subscribe to an oath of office as set forth in Article XI of the State Constitution of 1963.

4. That all prior resolutions, ordinances or acts of any kind of the City in conflict herewith are and the same shall be, to the extent of such conflict, rescinded.

5. This order shall be effective immediately.

City of Benton Harbor
By: Joseph L. Harris (signature) Dated: June 3, 2011
Emergency Manager

This was not the only order signed by Joseph Harris last week. Two others were clear pokes in the eye to the City Commissioners. WSJM reports:

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joseph Harris has issued a couple of orders, apparently designed to reign in actions by the city commission not permitted by Michigan’s EFM legislation.

First, an order from Harris on Friday states that “no City official, employee or agent shall appear, in an official capacity for or on behalf of the City, at any meeting or hearing of the City Commission or any of [the city commission’s] committees without the express written approval of the Emergency Manager, except the City Clerk [who] shall be permitted to attend any City Commission meeting….for the sole purpose of keeping the meeting minutes.” It appears as though this new rule is intended to prevent any department heads or others from reporting to the city commission in an official way, which effectively shuts the elected leadership out of any informational discussions regarding city operations. Additionally, the order from Harris goes on to state that the city clerk must attach language to the minutes of all Benton Harbor Commission meetings stating that any resolution passed by the body has no legal effect.

A second order from Harris on Friday excuses Commissioners James Hightower and Bryan Joseph from attending commission meetings. The orders are effective immediately.

Note that Hightower and Joseph are the only two Commissioners that support Joseph Harris as EFM. They apparently are done taking verbal abuse from Benton Harbor citizens outraged at the stripping away of their right to freely elect their leaders. According to City Commissioner Dennis Knowles, the Benton Harbor City Charter prohibits Commissioners from missing more than five consecutive meetings. This order appears to excuse Hightower and Joseph from that requirement. Also, Commissioner Knowles indicated that Harris issued these orders but didn’t bother to share them with the Commissioners and he was blindsided when asked about them by a reporter from the Herald-Palladium.

In other news, the state has elected not to consider Jackson, Michigan for takeover by an EFM. Probably would help if they had some valuable shorefront property.