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Council approves temporary restraining order, subpoenas mayor

Attempt to block dissolution of health department

By Mike Sandula
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Detroit City Council voted unanimously Sept. 18 to seek a temporary restraining order against the dissolution of the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion (DHWP).

The Bing Administration had previously transferred the management and most of the programming of DHWP to the Institute for Population Health (IPH), a nonprofit, without the approval of City Council.

The resolution, drafted by Councilmember Brenda Jones, notes that DHWP will retain its status as a local health department, but “it is doubtful that the diminished DHWP will allow the city to fulfill its statutory mandates” under the Public Health Code.

It also states that having Loretta Davis serve as both president/CEO of IPH and director/health officer of DHWP is a conflict of interest.

“We’re not going to violate the City Charter. The City Council approved the budget that removed the funding from the Department of Health and Wellness Promotion in June,” Mayor Bing said in a statement. “My administration is transitioning the department to a nonprofit agency to ensure our focus on providing core services for our citizens and make sure we improve the support services for Detroiters who need them.”

City Council says the partial dissolution of DHWP, as well as the Department of Workforce Development, is partly why they voted unanimously Sept. 12 to issue a subpoena against Mayor Dave Bing. Council members also cite a general lack of communication and information regarding the Bing Administration’s plans to reorganize the city under the Consent Agreement signed between the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit.

“We’ve been asking for something since April,” Councilmember Saunteel Jenkins said. “You (Mayor Bing) are blatantly violating the Charter, you are blatantly ignoring our requests for information … We’re not being obstructionists — we’re doing our job.”

“The Bing Administration is doing everything they can to comply,” Adam Hollier, Council liaison from the mayor’s office, told Council on Sept. 18.

“My administration is not disputing the City Council’s request for information,” Mayor Bing said in a statement. “We have a concern that their request is unduly burdensome. We’ve requested an immediate meeting with Council representatives to coordinate document delivery. We’re prepared to provide whatever documents Council reasonably needs among the potentially thousands of pages of documents in their initial request.”

Councilmember Ken Cockrel, Jr. said he had “mixed feelings” because he supports the subpoena, but fears that “while (the Bing Administration) say they’re complying, they’re going to do what they want to do anyway.”

David Whitaker, director of City Council’s Research and Analysis Division, noted that a subpoena, as a document, cannot stop the administration from acting; only a court order could do that.

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