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EM Roberts asserts power over library commission

Roy Roberts

Roy Roberts

Commission says he has no authority

By Mike Sandula
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — “The Detroit Public Library is the last independent city institution in Detroit,” says Russ Bellant, president of the Detroit Library Commission. But Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts seems to be trying to change that.

Roberts had previously asserted financial control over Detroit Public Schools, which appoints DPL commissioners, while the Detroit Board of Education maintained control of academics. Public Act 436, however, gives Roberts full control.

On March 28, under the power of Public Act 436, which went into effect that date, Roberts ordered that the board may meet only once per month with approved stipend payment. Roberts also ordered that commissioner Diane Allen be replaced with Judge Edward Thomas, though Bellant says the switch isn’t final.

“This action will not happen unless a court orders it. For my part, I will not recognize its validity in our meetings until then,” Bellant told the Michigan Citizen.

In an e-mail obtained by the Michigan Citizen, Cynthia Heenan, a civil rights lawyer at Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C., said Roberts is overreaching.

“Judge (Annette) Berry already ruled that EMs did not have the authority to appoint library commissioners under Public Act 72 in light of other state law mandating how library commissioners are appointed and recognizing that the library has no DPS financial implications. As I recall, the language under PA 436 as to appointments like this is the same as PA 72,” Heenan states in the e-mail.

Bellant says the Commission is an independent municipal corporation and therefore Roberts has no authority to control it.

“A long-established state law designates the elected school board with appointment power to the Commission. Detroit Public Schools has no other involvement or oversight other than that one function,” Bellant says. “Roberts keeps ignoring the law for his personal agenda.”

The Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 16 at the Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave., in the Explorer’s Room.

Contact Mike Sandula at


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