Politics
5:15 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Detroit state review team opens its doors--then closes them again

The state review team looking into Detroit’s finances met in public for the first time Tuesday.

But the meeting was short—less than 20 minutes--and revealed almost nothing about the process behind the review.

The team, led by State Treasurer Andy Dillon, briefly reviewed Detroit’s bleak financial picture--without major changes, the city will run out of cash before the end of the fiscal year. There was also a brief public comment period.

Then the team voted to form a subcommittee to “advise the committee of the possible statutory options for its recommendation" to Governor Snyder.

They have three options: they can decide there's no financial emergency (though they've more or less already said there is); they can impose a consent decree, giving city leaders greater powers to alter union contracts and take other drastic steps to right the city's budget; or they can recommend the Governor appoint an emergency manager for Detroit.

Dillon said the sub-committee can meet privately. And that immediately raised the hackles of Robert Davis, the union activist whose Open Meetings Act lawsuit forced a public hearing in the first place.

“For them to try to establish a sub-committee so they can meet in private is absolutely absurd and a slap in the face to every single Detroiter,” Davis said.

Davis says as soon as the sub-committee actually meets, he’ll be back in court to challenge.

"This is a very litigious path the state is headed down," Davis said.

But Dillon insists the Open Meetings Act makes exceptions, and this is one of them. He also says the private meetings aren't really a big deal because the committee is not making any decisions, just recommendations.

“It’s a recommendation to the Governor that he then passes judgment on, on the same information the public will see," Dillon said. "It will really be based on information that’s all publicly available information, for the most part.”

Dillon says the sub-committee will likely meet "night and day, seven days a week" if necessary to speed the review process along.

Last week, the committee sought a month-long extension to the review process. They have a March 28th deadline to make a recommendation to the Governor.