City dispute likely to be aired in court

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — The ongoing conflicts involving the city council, mayor and Fire Department went as many expected last week. Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand June 22 vetoed a council resolution insisting that a grant be accepted that could have rehired more than 30 firefighters; the council met in special session Tuesday and voted to override the veto.

Both sides said they expected the matter will be taken up in court.

Lamarand and City Attorney John Martin said the resolution and override exceed the council’s authority as stipulated in the city charter. The council also approved a resolution to hire Ypsilanti lawyer John Barr to legally force Lamarand to accept the grant.

At issue is an $8 million Staffing for Adequare Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration that would allow the Fire Department to rehire more than 30 firefighters who were laid off last year.

Lamarand said that the grant has yet to be formally rejected, but that the funding comes with hidden costs including benefits that the city cannot sustain.

Both the resolution and hiring of legal counsel was approved by a 5-2 council vote, with Councilors Cheryl Burke and Jill Brandana dissenting. The council debated at length the addition of a question regarding the hiring of an attorney, which was not posted as being on the agenda for the special meeting.

“We’re going against the charter by doing this,” Brandana said of the question to hire an attorney.

“Are we going to sit here again and rewrite the charter to the majority of the council’s wishes, and not the public?” Burke asked. “I can’t consent to an attorney whose name I’ve never heard before.”

Delo and others argued that the hiring of an attorney was part of any action taken with regards the resolution, and therefore proper notification was provided.

Debate over the special meeting agenda and motions to override Lamarand’s veto and hire an attorney lasted for nearly 40 minutes before a recess was taken to further discuss whether hiring an attorney exceeded the guidelines of the meeting.

“The city is running in red ink for the next four years,” Burke said. “Where are we going to get the money to pay for another attorney?”

The deadline for the city to accept the SAFER grant is July 8, although Lamarand said that cutoff date can be extended while city administrators consider the terms of the grant.

“The council passed a resolution which does not consider the financial implications,” Lamarand said, “or what is in the best interests of the residents.”

Lamarand said that the city’s public safety staffing improved in recent months with the addition of law enforcement officers, employment made possible

“Through labor agreement revisions and funding source re-allocation, my office is looking to achieve similar successes within the fire department,” he said.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

Tags: