City council members rejected the $300,000 contract with Miller Canfield primarily because it presented a conflict of interest, as the firm was hired by the state to write the agreement that the city is now tasked to follow. Some members also criticized Bing for suggesting the city will go bankrupt by the end of the year and said that they deserved more time to seek other bids.
During Tuesday’s meeting, council member Kwame Kenyatta described the contract as “a violation of morals,” according to the Detroit News Wednesday. “I don’t see how any member at this table in good conscience on behalf of the people of the city can vote for this,” Mr. Kenyatta said.
Council President Charles Pugh also blasted the mayor, telling WXYZ-TV, the local ABC television affiliate, that the law firm “was shoved down our throat, and we felt like we were being forced into accepting one particular law firm."
"The city of Detroit should not go broke due to one law firm," he added. "If that’s the stance he’s taking, then I think he needs to sit down and rethink his position as mayor.”
Most of the city’s most powerful unions took the city council’s side. A representative for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees told the council that a criminal inquiry into the selection of Miller Canfield was needed. Late Tuesday, the union released a statement calling for a federal and state investigation.
Political scientist Vincent Hutchings at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor says that it isn’t shocking that the city and state continue to wrestle over procedural issues over how to regain financial stability in Detroit. Besides an obvious political party split – Detroit has long leaned for Democrats while the state legislative majority is Republican – there is also a racial divide, which is “always a subtext in Detroit-Lansing relations,” Mr. Hutchings says.