- Ask people to storm Council meetings Tues. Nov. 20, 9:30 a.m. & 7 p.m.
- Council Pres. Pugh, Pro-Tem Brown asked judge to sever DWSD from city Nov. 8
By Diane Bukowski
November 19, 2012
DETROIT – Detroit City Council Pres. Charles Pugh and Pres. Pro-tem Gary Brown have asked U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox to completely separate the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department from city control, in order to effectuate the $48 million EMA Group plan to cut 81 percent of the department’s workforce.
The two were among five signers of a “Root Cause Committee” report Nov. 8 which asked Cox to thereby circumvent the Council’s power over the contract. DWSD asked him to approve the committee’s recommendation Nov. 15, but he has not yet taken action.
“If successfully implemented, the organizational optimization will result in a reduction of the number of employee classifications within the Department, leading to a more flexible workforce, with more training, and greater opportunities for career advancement for the staff,” says the document. “Further the Root Cause Committee has reviewed the due diligence materials prepared by the Board of Water Commissioners and acknowledges that EMA’s work has improved compliance efforts in other jurisdictions.” (Click on DWSD Root Cause 11 8 12 re EMA and on DWSD motion to approve Root Cause Cttee report 11 15 12. to read full documents.)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated the 1977 consent agreement under which a federal judge oversees DWSD Clean Water Act (CWA) compliance. It requested Oct. 16 that Cox delay any action on the EMA contract for 45 days. It said DWSD has been in federal compliance with the Act since November of last year.
At Brown’s Public Health and Safety Committee meeting Nov. 19, Detroiters including Councilwoman JoAnn Watson rose up in outrage. They called on people to storm the full Council meeting Nov. 20 at 9:30 a.m., where Brown said he wants the Council to vote the contract “up or down.” Watson said no vote should be held before the Council’s community public meeting that evening, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Mark Twain Elementary School.
Members of the public already flooded Council chambers to oppose the EMA contract at a “public hearing” which Council President Charles Pugh deliberately set at 9 a.m. Nov. 13, flowing out into the hallway. (VOD story on that hearing is still coming.)
DWSD workers conducted a five-day strike at the Wastewater Treatment Plant beginning Sept. 30, with the EMA contract a major issue of the strike.
Despite that hearing and the strike, which had sympathetic news coverage nationally, the Board of Water Commissioners approved a $1,977,000 partial contract with EMA Nov. 13, ducking just under the threshold of $2 million needed for Council approval.
“It is malfeasance to have Council members participate in a Root Cause Committee that recommended the separation of the water department,” said Cecily McClellan of Free Detroit-No Consent Nov. 19. “Our Corporate Counsel needs to be listening very closely. There is not a deficit in DWSD. We don’t need a solution where a problem doesn’t exist. EMA is nothing but an opportunity for outsiders to get rich.”
Under the City Charter, and as confirmed by voters who approved Detroit Proposal C Nov. 6, Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon can bring legal action against city officials and others who violate the city’s Home Rule Charter. McClellan, who is also Vice-President of the Association of Professional and Technical Employees (APTE), told VOD earlier that no EMA “due diligence” documents were presented at a special meeting DWSD held with Council staff and union leaders in October.
“Someone on this Council wants us to approve this contract before Thanksgiving, and bust the unions, but the EPA has said the department is in full compliance,” Councilwoman Watson said. “If it’s not broken, why fix it? This is nothing but a takeover, a power grab for the largest asset the city holds. It would be malfeasance for any elected official to advocate breaking it up, divvying it up. There is no drinking water in the country better than ours. DWSD is a magnificent asset, paid for by the citizens, owned by the citizens, and run by the citizens. This is a disgrace before God!”
Sandra Hines (shown in photo at head of story) added, “This is what a takeover looks like. We have to fire these people that are not working for us, making decisions that are detrimental to our children. Water is gold, there are countries where people wish and pray they had the water we have. You are trying to put us back in slavery in modern-day times. Don’t let these few Black people who don’t understand Black power give up the little power that we have. This is nothing but racism.”
Speakers at the hearing wore vivid “NO EMA” and “NO MILESTONES” ribbons during the meeting.
The last referred to the “Escrow Release Milestones Agreement” Bing and State Treasurer Andy Dillon signed Nov. 13 without Council approval. The document says the state will continue to hold the remainder of Detroit’s $137 million loan from the state hostage unless contracts with the firms of Miller Canfield, Ernst & Young, and Milliman are approved by Council Nov. 20. It sets numerous other requirements, including the outsourcing of the city’s Public Lighting and Transportation departments. (Click on Milestone Agreement.)
Miller Canfield’s attorney Michael McGee was a co-author of the “dictator law” Public Act 4, which was struck down by Michigan voters Nov. 6. Ernst & Young first claimed the city was running out of cash in a secret meeting with Council last November. Their financial report later showed the city paid $597 million on its $16.9 billion debt to the banks in 2011-12.
Milliman has drafted a plan to takeover and gut the city’s $6 billion pension system.
Cox established the “Root Cause Committee” in Feb. 2011, ostensibly to analyze the department’s non-compliance with Clean Water Act and state Department of Environmental Quality department standards. Cox implemented their recommendations Nov. 4, 2011, partially separating DWSD from the city and implementing drastic anti-union measures. (Click on Sean-Cox-DWSD-order-11-4-11).
DWSD unions are still waiting for a decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on their appeal of Cox’s order, in wake of a hearing held in Cincinnati Oct. 9.
Along with Pugh and Brown, other members of the committee who signed the document were DWSD Director Sue McCormick, appointed to head the department at the beginning of 2012, Walter Fausone, chair of the Board of Water Commissioners (BOWC), and Mayor Dave Bing’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Brown.
Channel 7 Action News said Nov. 9 that they had confirmed that Chris Brown had resigned as COO for undisclosed reasons. VOD filed federal complaints in August against Brown, Bing, and former D-DOT Deputy Director Bill Nojay for Hatch Act violations related to Nojay’s run for state office in New York. The case is open and ongoing according to the federal Office of the Special Counsel.
The committee reports to Cox’s Special Master David Ottenwess, an attorney who has specialized in defending health institutions from medical malpractice lawsuits.