See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Call & no response 

Is the city of Detroit going to file an ethics complaint that, in theory at least, could lead to the ouster of three City Council members?

Inquiring minds want to know. Specifically, the inquiring mind of Michigan ACLU Executive Director Kary Moss would like to know. So far, though, she’s not getting any answers from the city — a situation we here at News Hits are all too familiar with.

Here’s the back story:

In July, Council President Maryann Mahaffey, along with colleagues JoAnn Watson and Sharon McPhail, participated in a council-sponsored town hall meeting attended by municipal employees facing layoffs.

At one point, some in the audience reportedly began calling for the recall of council members Sheila Cockrel and Kay Everett, both of whom supported Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in his decision to lay off workers in an attempt to drain red ink from the city’s budget.

In the wake of that meeting, the city’s Law Department followed up on concerns raised by Cockrel and issued a memorandum stating that the three council members may be subject to “public admonition and removal from office by the governor for official misconduct.”

The issue, according to the memo, centers on allegations that the trio encouraged the workers to organize a general strike against the city.

The council trio asked the ACLU to look at the matter. Moss concluded that there was no wrongdoing. “Both public policy and constitutional considerations preclude the filing of an ethics complaint or taking any other action against these council members for their attendance and participation in the town hall meeting,” she says.

“The public statements of the council members are fully protected by the First Amendment,” Moss contends. “The legal analysis of the Law Department is flawed and any position other than one supporting the First Amendment right of these council members to meet with laid off employees and their union representatives will have a detrimental effect on Detroit residents.”

According to McPhail, the council’s Research and Analysis Division and two private law firms all issued opinions concurring with the ACLU’s.

The question now is whether the Kilpatrick administration is going to take the issue to the next level and file a complaint with either the City Ethics Commission or the State Ethics Board.

Moss says she has tried at least three times to get the Law Department to answer that question, but so far is getting no answer.

We, too, attempted to find out what the administration’s next step will be. We called Kilpatrick spokesman Howard Hughey only to find his voicemail overflowing. (Note to Howard: Delete some of those old messages, pal. It might help you do your job a little better.) We then left a message with a receptionist in the mayor’s office asking Howie to give us a call, but we didn’t hear back from him.

Consequently, we’ll let Moss have the last word:

“We hope to put an end to what appears to be a potentially very divisive situation that the city can’t afford.”

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit