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City Council elects Jenkins as president, Spivey as pro tem

Saunteel Jenkins

Saunteel Jenkins

By Amanda Benjamin
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Detroit City Council elected Saunteel Jenkins as president and Andre Spivey as president pro tem, in a process that spurred debate among council members. The Council debated on whether its leadership should be selected using the new or old charter.

According to Councilmember JoAnn Watson, the new charter states that City Council will elect its leadership in 2014, so they should go by the old charter in the interim.

“You can’t change half the rules midway,” said Councilmember Watson. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

The old charter states the next highest vote getters would be appointed to the president and pro tem positions, which would be Saunteel Jenkins and Ken Cockrel Jr., respectively.

However, Councilmember Cockrel told the Council that he is not interested in either the president or pro tem position because he is reaching the end of his term.

Cockrel said he cannot guarantee to be part of City Council until the end of the year because he has already started applying to other positions.

The next highest vote getter after Cockrel was Councilmember Brenda Jones.

Councilmember James Tate expressed his support to elect Council leadership, utilizing the new charter.

Looking at the new charter, Lewis Smith, legislative liaison for the City of Detroit Law Department, said the council must first elect a pro tem, who succeeds to president, and then elect a pro tem after.

Councilmember Watson said to Jenkins, “Voting for a president is absurd, you are the president.” She said she is not voting because the Council is not supposed to vote for its leadership until 2014.

Smith said that Watson is required to vote by the charter, which states that council members can only abstain if there is a proprietary interest. Jenkins told Watson that she should vote for those who would have been appointed by succession.

However, Watson and Jones abstained to vote for president. The Council decided to move on since there was a majority vote.

Councilmembers Jenkins, Cockrel, Spivey and Tate voted for Jenkins for president and Spivey for pro tem. Councilmembers Watson and Jones voted for Jones for pro tem. The term for these positions ends Jan. 1, 2013, at 12 p.m.

The three vacancies by former councilmembers Charles Pugh, president; Gary Brown, pro tem; and Kwame Kenyatta were not filled.

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr issued an order the day before the Council vote July 8, prescribing that the two vacancies on City Council will remain open until filled by the electorate in the Nov. 5 general election.

Order No. 10 states:

“Notwithstanding Section 3-105 of the Detroit City Charter, the Detroit City council shall no fill any vacancies that now exist or that may arise on the Council. Such vacancies shall be filled by duly elected and qualified individuals through the November 2013 election process.”

The whereabouts of Councilmember Pugh were still unknown at the time of press.

Pugh was relieved of his pay and duties two weeks ago when Orr did not approve a request for medical leave from the council member.

Pugh disappeared recently after allegations emerged of inappropriate contact with an 18-year-old student at Frederick Douglass Academy, where Pugh operated a mentoring program.

One media report placed Pugh in Seattle, Wash. The former council president has not issued any statement about his whereabouts or allegations against him, which are now under investigation by the Madison Heights Police Department.

Brown resigned his position on Council to take a $225,000 a year position with the EM’s office. Councilmember Kwame Kenyatta also resigned last month for health reasons.

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