muckraker report

Exclusive: State privately pressured Detroit City Council to fire top attorney Crittendon

Just a month ago, Detroit City Council members hailed the city’s top attorney, Krystal Crittendon, as a hero who courageously defended the city against a state takeover.

Then on Tuesday, a majority of the council voted to fire Crittendon – to her surprise – without cause on the recommendation of Mayor Dave Bing.

So what happened between then and now?

State officials, including Treasurer Andy Dillon, have been meeting privately with council members – possibly in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act – to forge a massive budget-cutting plan, two council members told the Motor City Muckraker on condition of anonymity. The hope, they said, is to avoid the politically explosive appointment of an emergency manager.

During those meetings, the state threatened to appoint an emergency manager unless council members met certain conditions, including the removal of Crittendon. The state and mayor viewed Crittendon as an impediment to correcting the city’s budget because of her opposition to a consent agreement, the step before the appointment of an emergency manager.

At risk of losing their authority and salaries, council members buckled under pressure, as they have in the past.

The three council members who opposed the firing of Crittendon – JoAnn Watson, Brenda Jones and Kwame Kenyatta – expressed outrage over the termination.

“It’s a disgrace to this city,” Jones said.

Added Councilman Kwame Kenyatta: “It’s clear that leadership is out of control. Maybe it’s time for bankruptcy.”

Council President Charles Pugh insisted Crittendon was fired only out of respect for the mayor’s right to appoint a new corporation counsel – a reversal of his position in the autumn, when he said Crittendon should not be penalized for defending the law.

Crittendon responded Tuesday with shock, saying she was pushed out of the city by state officials who manipulated the city council.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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  • Tim

    Crittendon and the entire law department are incompetent. When was the last time they won a lawsuit on the city’s behalf? Sometimes they don’t even
    show up at court.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dowlingpatricia Patricia Dowling

    There was a clear violation of the Open Meetings Act. The vote to fire Krystal Crittendon was the result of flagrant illegal activity. The vote to fire her was therefore illegal & should not stand. Charges should be filed, the decision should be reversed and an investigation should ensue. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were actual cash payments, there were probably promises at least. And file bankruptcy!

  • http://gravatar.com/cattgirl0813 cattgirl0813

    (Said in my best Claude Rains imitation…ahem….) “Gov. Snyder influenced the firing of Ms. Crittendon? I’m shocked! Shocked I tell you….”

    Next you’ll tell me he’s behind the recent secret meetings of the council members and the mayor. My heart won’t be able to take that strain….

  • Billy-Bob

    When it came down to her or them (already irrelevant clowncil members), it was an easy choice. Besides, the checks kept coming.

  • bebow

    It’s every dawg for himself now, with the big ones eating the little ones. Just a minute ago, certain council members struck staunch poses for the media, stood firmly atop matters of principle, and backed Ms. Crittendon’s actions with what seemed an everlasting resolve. The state’s players outflanked council members with a flourish Charles Pugh himself might admire. Council members caved in the face of the state’s demands, and they were simultaneously exposed as self-serving, posturing opportunists. There it is as plain as it gets.

    • jaymar

      Bebow- you seem to hit the nail on the head every time