Council's grape expectations
Despite mischaracterizations, Detroit City Council mostly just is doing its job
Published: November 28, 2012
So Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder apparently want to cut her out of the loop when it comes to providing legal advice to the mayor.
According to Pugh, there's probably a 5-vote majority on the council to let the mayor spend taxpayer dollars on an outside firm.
Just not Miller Canfield.
Anytime a law firm is hired, it should be with the entirely reasonable expectation that its sole concern is looking out for the interests of that client, and that client alone.
What the City Council said in essence last week was that it had no confidence Miller Canfield's primary allegiance would be to the city.
That's because, as was alleged during the council meeting, there are some extraordinary conflicts of interest at play here.
Those concerns were highlighted Monday when AFSME Council 25 issued a press release saying it was calling on the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Michigan Attorney General, the Attorney Grievance Commission and the city of Detroit's Board of Ethics to investigate the firm and its actions.
Here's what critics of the deal say is the problem:
Miller Canfield played a key role in drafting Public Act 4, which allows the state to appoint emergency managers to take complete control of financially distressed municipalities and school districts.
Moreover, as pointed out in the AFSME press release, "When the state began negotiations with the city over the consent agreement, under Public Act 4, the city was told to hire the Miller Canfield law firm. That same law firm was being used by the state — in the same negotiations."
"That is like the husband in a divorce proceeding dispatching his divorce lawyer to his ex-wife," union attorney Richard Mack noted in the release. "The end result is what we see in the Consent Agreement, which is slanted heavily in favor of the state and against the city."
It gets even more twisted.
"The Miller Canfield law firm negotiated a Milestones Agreement that was signed by city and state officials. Again, the city did not have its own attorney in the negotiation. As a result, the Miller Canfield law firm wrote into the Milestone Agreement a contract which will result in millions of dollars to that firm. Now the city is being forced to award that contract to Miller Canfield ... at the risk of losing receipt of its own bond money from the state Treasurer."
Oh, yeah — about that deal with the state and Michigan Finance Authority regarding control of that bond money (which the city is paying interest on while it sits in escrow):
Miller Canfield was in on those negotiations as well.
So, is it really just the City Council erecting roadblocks to reform for no reason at all other than appeasing constituents who fear that the man is looking to come in and rob the city of its jewels, from Belle Isle to the Department of Water & Sewerage?
Or are they, dare we say, being the responsible ones in all this, refusing to blink even when the state threatens to send the city swirling into insolvency because council won't hire a law firm that is clearly serving the interests of the sate?
Call that being obstructionists if you want. We'd say, as with the Hantz Farm vote, it looks more like common sense being employed.
The Miller Canfield contract is of such vital importance that the mayor called upon the council to come in from recess and reconsider the issue on Monday.
The council showed up. The mayor didn't, sending a surrogate instead.
That didn't sit too well with the council, but it didn't really matter. Turns out that the administration, which called for the emergency meeting, didn't make certain that it was properly announced according to the state's Open Meetings Act. As a result, no action could take place.
The whole thing has been a fiasco. That much is undeniable.
For the future of the city to be riding on the approval of one stinking contract, is truly crazy. Just keep in mind that it wasn't the City Council that put Detroit in a predicament this insane.
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