UPDATED: Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris is out, marketing consultant Tony Saunders II in


This will be interesting

As he himself predicted last summer, Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris has been booted. In his place will be Tony Saunders II, a marketing guy from WYLD Marketing Group.

Here’s the Treasury Department notice:

The Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board (ELB) today voted to replace Joe Harris as Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) for the City of Benton Harbor, effective February 1, 2013. The ELB has appointed Tony Saunders II as Successor-Emergency Financial Manager for the city. Saunders has spent the last nine months working with the City of Highland Park in an advisory role on behalf of the Department of Treasury.

Deputy Treasurer Roger Fraser, State Treasurer Andy Dillon’s designee on the ELB, thanked Harris for his work in Benton Harbor.

“Mr. Harris made many difficult but necessary decisions and implemented a number of measures to address the financial crisis in Benton Harbor. We thank him for his work,” said Deputy Treasurer Fraser. “However, while much has been done in an effort to return fiscal stability to Benton Harbor, the city remains in a financial emergency and this is an appropriate time to transition in a new direction for the city. We expect Tony Saunders will work collaboratively with city officials, residents, and others to move the city closer to a return to local control.”

Saunders has most recently provided strategic and financial planning services to the City of Highland Park. Through his involvement, Highland Park has converted a projected $1.3 million General Fund (GF) operating deficit into a GF surplus of approximately $850,000 through spending reductions, departmental restructurings, and proper budget monitoring.

Saunders currently serves as a partner with WYLD Marketing Group, which provides integrated marketing strategies, solutions, and support. Prior to that, he worked as Chief of Staff for Detroit City Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins and Senior Advisor for Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh. Saunders is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

During Friday’s ELB meeting, the board also approved an increase in Flint Emergency Financial Manager Ed Kurtz’s monthly expense allowance from $1,000 to $3,333 per month. Kurtz annual salary as emergency financial manager remains at zero.

Here’ s what Harris said in July of 2012:

Harris said state officials are in the process of forcing him out of office, bending to pressure from a group of high-power political adversaries of his.

Harris said he recently received confirmation of the decision to remove him via the state treasurer’s office, although he still is not sure when he will be required to step down.

Harris said the move was sparked by a group of his adversaries, who convinced the state to remove him for “political” reasons. Although Harris would not disclose the individuals’ identities or provide more detail, he said he has evidence that five individuals had a meeting in January with state officials to discuss the possibility of an emergency manager change in Benton Harbor.

“Knowing what I know, there’s no question that it’s political,” Harris said during an interview on Wednesday with the MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette about the future of the state’s role in governing Benton Harbor.

He repeated this as recently as last month.

Last summer, I said that Joe Harris has an obligation to share with us who is pulling the puppet strings here. Are they elected officials? Are they businesspeople? Who is truly in control over things like this? The people of Michigan deserve to know who is making decisions that affect entire towns in this way.

My guess is it will be a long time, if ever, before we find out.

I’m sure all Benton Harbor needs is a good marketing man. He’ll get it all sorted out, for sure.

UPDATE: I’ll admit that I’m being glib by not referencing Saunders’ history as a financial guy. It just seems a bit odd that his main experience is with the marketing group, WYLD Marketing Group, that he founded after he graduated from University of Michigan. His degree was not in business or finance but in Literature, Science and Arts. He was ousted from his position in the Black Student Union when he was found to be a member of the Michigamua society.

Saunder is 27 years old and was featured in Crain’s Detroit’s “Twenty in the Twenties” series in 2011. His “claim to fame”?

Business owner, social media guru, leader behind the scenes at City Hall pushing for budget reforms…Social media, conflict and pension reform — those are a few of the things Tony Saunders is passionate about.

The WYLD Marketing Group’s “About Us” page describes Saunders this way:

Tony is the Founder & Managing Partner of WYLD Mobile. Before WYLD, Tony served as marketing manager for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions — Ann Arbor Region. Tony is a graduate of the University of Michigan. He currently sits on the Detroit Institute of Arts Founders Junior Council Board of Directors, the Coalition on Temporary Shelter(COTS) Development Committee, the Detroit Athletic Club Technology Committee, and serves as the City of Highland Park Transition Team Co-Chair for Mayor DeAndre Windom.

His LinkedIn page is HERE.