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 [email protected]