Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley is using his powers as a state-appointed overseer of the city to appoint two outgoing City Council members rather than permitting a special election as the City’s rules require:
Emergency manager Darnell Earley says he will use his power under state law to appoint replacements for two departing City Council members, rather than allowing their colleagues to take on the task.
Earley said in a news release today, Nov. 13, that he will accept letters of interest, resumes, and references from residents interested in the 3rd and 6th Ward vacancies. […]
Council members have said the state emergency manager law gives Earley the authority to make the council appointments but suggested he allow the council to do so as a part of Flint’s transition to home rule.
Typical procedure for filling the vacancies involves a short-term council appointment, followed by an election in May, city Clerk Inez Brown has said.
Earley’s news release says the council members he selects will serve starting Jan. 1, until the 2015 general election in November and will have the option of seeking election through the normal cycle as an incumbent council member.
As noted, these appoints run through November, bypassing the election in May and abridging the democratic process in favor what Earley thinks is expedient. It’s just one more example among very many of an Emergency Manager deciding that democracy is expendable when it’s inconvenient.
One thing that I have noticed in looking into this matter is that Public Act 436 – Michigan’s anti-democratic Emergency Manager Law – has quietly seen a reinterpretation. The law explicitly states that a city may remove its Emergency Manager after 18 months:
If the emergency manager has served for at least 18 months after his or her appointment under this act, the emergency manager may, by resolution, be removed by a 2/3 vote of the governing body of the local government. If the local government has a strong mayor, the resolution requires strong mayor approval before the emergency manager may be removed. Notwithstanding section 7(4), if the emergency manager is removed under this subsection and the local government has not previously breached a consent agreement under this act, the local government may within 10 days negotiate a consent agreement with the state treasurer. If a consent agreement is not agreed upon within 10 days, the local government shall proceed with the neutral evaluation process pursuant to section 25.
This process is even spelled out in the state government’s description of the Emergency Manager process:
If, at least 18 months after an Emergency Manager is appointed, a local government removes the Emergency Manager and itself from receivership, but the financial emergency continues to exist, the local government is required to proceed under the Neutral Evaluation Process option.
If, at least 18 months after an Emergency Manager is appointed, a local government removes the Emergency Manager, but does not remove itself from receivership, the local government may within 10 days negotiate a consent agreement with the State Treasurer, provided the local government has not previously breached a consent agreement under the Act. If a consent agreement is not reached, the local government is required to proceed under the Neutral Evaluation Process option.
Gov. Snyder himself has said that, after voters overturned Public Act 4, the predecessor to Public Act 436, Republicans understood that to mean that voters wanted some changes made to give municipalities options and that the new law was “modified” accordingly:
Actually, what we did was look at some of the key issues and concerns that were clear about the public vote. That got to the point of how long someone was in the position and did the community have other options to choose. So, we modified the law to take those into account. So, what we did was look at, okay, here are the issues, here are some of the primary criticisms and put that into account of having a new law to go forward.
However, the new interpretation appears to be that, after 18 months, the Governor can simply appoint a new Emergency Manager. Here’s Darnell Earley on the topic:
State officials have laid out a timeline for the departure of Flint’s emergency manager, but Darnell Earley says the City Council still must show “the capacity to govern” before that happens.
“The governor could appoint another emergency manager” next year, Earley said in a news conference Thursday, Aug. 21. “The decision depends on whether or not that capacity (to govern) can be demonstrated.”
Media outlets are portraying the situation in the same way. For example, here’s Michigan Radio’s reporting about it:
[I]f Flint’s financial problems persist, Snyder could appoint another emergency manager to run Flint when Earley’s tenure ends next year.
This new interpretation appears to stem from a judge’s denial of efforts by the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education to remove the DPS Emergency Manager Jack Martin 18 months after an Emergency Manager was imposed under the new law:
A judge this afternoon ruled against the Detroit Public Schools board in its bid to oust the district’s emergency manager.
School board members said they interpret Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk’s decision to mean that emergency managers can be appointed to a municipality or school district in perpetuity.
In perpetuity? No kidding? So Governor Snyder’s statement that our new Emergency Manager law was modified to take into consideration concerns about “how long someone was in the position” was, simply put, a lie.
This is Michigan under Republican domination. Get used to it. We have at least two more years of it to enjoy.
[Photo by Chris Savage | Eclectablog]