Conyers: Proposed Consent Agreement Legally and Fiscally Irresponsible and Unacceptable

March 12th, 2012 | By Michigan Forward, News
Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released the following statement in response to the announcement that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will present a proposed consent agreement to the Detroit City Council and the financial review team tasked with examining the city’s finances.

As an elected representative of the City of Detroit and the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, I strenuously object to the “consent agreement” being proposed by Governor Synder. The agreement essentially asks the City to forfeit its citizens’ rights in exchange for no tangible benefit. Moreover it fails to address the concerns raised under Public Act 4 concerning the violation of voting rights and collective bargaining rights, nor does the agreement provide any sort of mechanism to guard against abuse and mismanagement by appointed overseers.

My concerns include the following:

Waiver of Legal Recourse – The agreement requires the City to abandon its ability to contest any aspect of this appointment, even those inconsistent with the suspension of the EM law; It does not authorize the City to obtain independent legal representation; and could force citizens to lose their legal rights to challenge any unconstitutional provisions.
No Financial Assistance from State – It provides the City with no bridge loan or financing whatsoever, in contrast with the precedent set in all jurisdictions outside of Michigan. The agreement specifically acknowledges that it would impose significant new costs on the City, with no assistance from the State, even though the State owes more than $200 million in foregone revenue sharing proceeds.
No Compliance with the Open Meetings Act – The agreement specifies that the Open Meetings Act applies to meetings of the new Financial Advisory Board, but does not eliminate the legal loophole being used by the State to avoid the law.
Unfettered Authority Granted to State – It grants the Mayor the powers available under the EM Law, but only for such period and such terms as the Snyder Administration determines, and even those powers are subject to the new Financial Review Board. The agreement also seeks to grant these very broad powers to other officials.
Weakens Collective Bargaining – While one provision states the agreement does not grant the Mayor power to negate collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), other provisions give the Mayor legal authority to modify or terminate CBA’s. The proposed agreement also unilaterally terminates the City’s duty to bargain under the Public Employees Retirement Act. Includes “least favored nations” clause effectively forcing unions to negotiate against each others’ interests.
Does Not Protect Against EM Appointment – If at any time the Board is not happy with the manner the elected officials are operating under the consent agreement they can still recommend appointment of an EM or filing for bankruptcy.
Indefinite Operation by Unelected Officials – The agreement’s provisions can continue at the whim of the Board, even if there is no valid financial reason for its continuation. It also requires the City to pay $1 million to Board Members if a court determines their termination is for any reason other than fraud, gross negligence, or willful misconduct. This is unnecessary and gratuitous.
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