Pontiac's City Council challenges city's emergency manager

Aug 14, 2012

The Pontiac City Council is trying to reclaim its authority lost to the state-appointed emergency financial manager.

Louis Schimmel became the cash-strapped city's third emergency manager in 2011.

The Detroit Free Press reports that yesterday, all present council members approved a resolution demanding that authority over all city finances and financial decision-making be restored to the mayor and council.

On Aug 3, The Michigan Supreme Court ordered the referendum on the state’s emergency manager law onto the November ballot. This move reverted the state's Emergency Manager law to previous legislation, allowing Schimmel to continue to serve, but with diminished authority.

The Pontiac City Council voted in opposition of the old emergency financial manager law's reinstatement, saying they do not recognize the reappointment of the emergency manager.

City Councilman Donald Watkins told MLive,

"Our opinion is that Public Act 4 is suspended and there is no Public Act 72. It's our contention that the day-to-day operations are in the hands of the mayor... We're just simply following the rule of law."

Pontaic Mayor Leon Jukowski, however, says he plans to veto the council's resolution.

Jukowski works as an adviser to Schimmel. The emergency manager says he's looking for guidance from the state on how to proceed.

According to the city's website, Pontiac's emergency managers have negotiated new contracts with city unions, hired the Charter Township of Waterford to provide firefighting services for the city, consolidated city worker health care plans. They also sold several city buildings and land parcels.  Schimmel's office says these moves reduced Pontiac's 2011-2012 fiscal year's projected deficit from $12.5 million to $8.4 million.

Michigan voters will get the chance this fall to repeal the state's suspended emergency manager law, Public Act 4.

Last week, Flint's City Council took steps to block its emergency manager, led by Council President Scott Kincaid.

The local governments of Ecorse and Benton Harbor are also currently run under an Emergency Manager, as are the school districts of Muskegon Heights, Highland Park and Detroit.