Emergency Manager Law, Emergency Managers, Flint — May 5, 2015 at 6:31 am

With Flint’s primary election an utter catastrophe, who is to blame? Emergency Manager? His appointed City Admin? Who?


What started out as bad has turned to worse in Flint’s primary election. First, three mayoral candidates (including incumbent mayor Dayne Walling) and two city council candidates all failed to make the ballot after they were all given the wrong date by the City Clerk to submit their nominating petitions. Then yesterday, the only remaining candidate to submit his petitions on time, Eric Mays, was found to be short of the necessary amount of signatures.

Mays’ situation is one of his own making and he clearly doesn’t deserve to be on the ballot for the mayor’s race. However, the other five candidates – including mayoral candidates Walling, businesswoman Karen Weaver, and Councilman Wantwaz Davis – deserve to be on the ballot. They turned in their petitions by April 28th, the date given to them by City Clerk Inez Brown. The correct date, as Brown was informed by director of elections for the state Christopher M. Thomas, was the 21st.

Flint’s city attorney is hopeful the state will grant them a waiver and allow all three (or four?) candidates on the ballot. However, the state is having none of that idea, and Flint may literally have an all-write-in race:

The state has given Brown until noon today to “report what corrective actions you’ve taken to address this unfortunate situation,” but said putting any candidates on the ballot who did not file petitions by April 21 is not an option.

Brown has referred questions about what city officials have called a “clerical error” in her office to City Attorney Peter Bade.

Bade said the city has retained an outside attorney in an effort to keep candidates for mayor and two City Council seats on the ballot. There were four mayoral candidates who turned in at least 900 valid petition signatures by April 28.

Bade said the city will likely ask a Genesee Circuit or federal court judge to allow the primary election to go forward with those four candidates: Walling, Mays, businesswoman Karen Weaver, and Councilman Wantwaz Davis.

When things go right in cities like Flint where an Emergency Manager is in charge, the Emergency Manager gets all the credit. But what about when things go horribly awry like in this situation? Isn’t this, too, something that the Emergency Manager is on the hook for? This is complicated because the current Emergency Manager Jerry Ambrose has only been on the job since January when Darnell Earley abruptly resigned to become the Emergency Manager for Detroit Public Schools.

How about the City Administrator, Natasha Henderson? Isn’t she on the hook for this? If so, it’s worth noting that Henderson was handpicked by Emergency Manager Earley.

This is a complete snafu and if Emergency Managers get the kudos when things go right, they get to take their lumps when things go wrong. I lay the responsibility for this catastrophe directly at the feet of Flint’s Emergency Manager.

But with such a revolving door of people in that position – Ambrose is Flint’s FOURTH Emergency Manager – the question is “Which one?”

[CC Photo credit: Michigan Municipal League (MML) | Flickr]