Photo by James Mitchell
Mayor Thomas Karnes (center) reads the ruling issued by Gov. Rick Snyder during Wednesday’s special meeting. City Attorney Ed Zelenak (left) and City Clerk Donna Breeding await a final decision this week on whether Lincoln Park will fall under a state-appointed emergency manager.
By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK — A special meeting Wednesday of the Lincoln Park City Council held few surprises for elected officials. As expected, Gov. Rick Snyder had on Monday agreed with a state review team’s assessment.
City Attorney Ed Zelenak began the meeting with a summary of Snyder’s decision. “A local government financial emergency exists in Lincoln Park,” Zelenak said.
Under state law, city officials had until tomorrow to challenge that ruling, but were advised Wednesday by Zelenak not to exercise that option.
“It would be an exercise in futility,” Zelenak said.
Council members may, he said, take issue with certain aspects of the report, but the bottom line would remain the same.
“The facts cannot be set aside,” Zelenak said. “There’s not going to be a gift from the Easter Bunny in which the governor changes his mind.”
Council members had expressed concerns with portions of the report not being accurately reported, including the city’s attempts several years ago to consolidate public safety services.
“I don’t agree with the whole report,” Councilman Mark Kandes said. “But I do agree that an emergency exists.”
While some details may have been debatable the bottom line remained the same: In the past three years the city depleted what had been a $4.5 million General Fund balance; annual expenses have exceeded income by more than $2.3 million; and the fiscal year ending in June is expected to reveal a $1 million shortfall.
Zelenak advised the council to take no action Wednesday and instead wait for Monday’s expected affirmation of the ruling by Snyder. Once that happens, Zelenak said the city will have to decide which path to take from among limited options: Accept a state-appointed emergency manager who would administer city finances; enter into a consent agreement under which the state would oversee and approve financial decisions made by city officials; begin a neutral evaluation process; or declare bankruptcy.
A review of city finances had been requested last fall, and in February a state-appointed panel began an investigation of city finances and internal management. Earlier this month the team submitted their findings to Snyder and reported: “A substantial majority of the City and union officials with whom the Review Team met indicated that, in their view, a financial emergency exists.”
Discussion of the city’s options and final decision are expected at Monday’s regular council meeting.
The review team’s report is available to the public at www.lincolnpark.govoffice.com.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)