Can Flint Ask for Removal of Troubled Elected Officials, Like Caledonia Did? [OPINION]
A controversy over the removal of a newly elected village president in Caledonia sheds light on an interesting option under Michigan law, which I can't believe has yet to be explored as an option in Flint.
Let's start with the story out of Caledonia, Michigan, where voters have just elected Todd Grinage to the office of Village President... despite the fact that he's currently serving a 60 day sentence for his third drunk driving offense. If nothing else, that proves that 2016 was the year where, literally, anyone could win an election, but I digress.
Obviously, there are some folks that are not happy with the election's outcome in the small village, which sits about 25 minutes south of Grand Rapids and has a population just north of 1,500. In an attempt to remove Grinage from office, some residents have written a letter to Governor Rick Snyder pleading their case, but that's probably a long shot, right? Actually, the odds aren't as long as you might think.
"The governor shall remove all village officers chosen by the electors of a village when the governor is satisfied from sufficient evidence submitted to the governor that the officer has been guilty of official misconduct, wilful neglect of duty, extortion, or habitual drunkenness, or has been convicted of being drunk..."
While Governor Snyder has yet to make a decision in that matter, it brings to mind a couple of elected officials that inspired numerous headlines here in Flint.
City Councilman Eric Mays has often been a source of embarrassment for the city and its people, for everything from disrupting city council meetings to serving 22 days in jail earlier this year. The jail sentence stemmed from a guilty verdict in his most notorious incident, which found an intoxicated Mays behind the wheel of his vehicle, facing the wrong way on I-475 with three flat tires.
City Councilman Wantwaz Davis made national headlines after being elected, due to the fact that he served 19 years in prison for murder. Wantwaz has been a strong advocate for Flint during the water crisis, and seems to be a reasonable man. However, he was arrested in September after a vehicle crash also led to his arrest on drunk driving charges. Davis has pleaded not guilty, and is set to appear before a judge on November 22nd to face the charges.
I didn't go to law school, and I'm not sure if the use of the word "village" is meant to specify that the law is only applicable in villages, or is used as an all-encompassing term for any municipality, regardless of its size. I'm also unsure whether they have to be "convicted of being drunk" prior to their election, but if that law is applicable to Flint's leaders -- why hasn't anyone tried to have Mays removed from the city council yet? He is the source of constant disruption and infighting at meetings, and was even heavily rumored to be in line for a payout in the Rizzo garbage debacle. Additionally, the city just had to pay him $4,500 for his removal from a council meeting, a possible violation of a state order.
I understand that it would be tough for anyone from Flint to ask Governor Snyder to get involved on our behalf. Especially since, last time, he forced himself into our business and we ended up with the water crisis. Bad blood aside, it may be in our best interest to go that route in the case of Mays, and possibly, Davis, depending on his verdict. If we expect the people of Flint to ever have faith in our local government again, we need to cut the dead weight using whatever means are available. This city has suffered enough at the hands of incapable politicians.