Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey had a less-than-warm welcome when she returned to work last week after being hospitalized with pneumonia. A few council members reportedly exploded when Mahaffey sent out a March 6 memo proposing that a committee be created to update the orientation manual — which includes instructions on everything from obtaining health-insurance cards to outlining budgets — for new council members.
What apparently set things off was Mahaffey’s decision to appoint Sharon McPhail, who is serving her first term on the council, committee chair. Councilmember Kay Everett, we’re told, went ballistic. To her credit, she publicly apologized for her tirade the following day.
McPhail, who says she volunteered to update the manual, was left shaking her head in amazement.
“You would think I offered to take everyone’s first-born child and put them in the river,” says McPhail.
Why the freak-out over something so seemingly inconsequential? According to Councilmember Sheila Cockrel, a 1995 council rule prevents the president from creating committees without a council vote. Cockrel also says that she and her colleagues are still raw from the feud over council’s new committee structure, which passed earlier this year. Any mention of the word committee can set them on edge, she says.
Mahaffey’s office is going to update the manual on its own now. News Hits suggests that when the council president makes a proposal to her colleagues in the future, she substitute the word “task force” for “committee.”Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. Send comments to [email protected]