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Detroit lawyers: We'll probably take consent agreement to court

Detroit skyline
user Bernt Rostad
creative commons
Detroit skyline

Officials with Detroit’s law departmentthey’ll most likely challenge the city’s consent agreement with the state.

Last week, Detroit’s corporation counsel issued a letter suggesting the agreement was illegal because the state owes the city money.

State officials say that premise is all wrong, and the opinion has no legal merit.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing declined to comment specifically on the legal challenge.

Some City Council members oppose taking the issue to court, calling it pointless and counterproductive.

Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown says given that the city entered the consent agreement because it was about to run out of cash, it’s a bad idea.

“What’s the end game in going to court?” Brown asked Tuesday. “Bankruptcy? If in fact the judge is to rule that this is illegal, there’s no plan B attached to going to court.”

But Council member Kwame Kenyatta took the opposite view. He says if city lawyers are right and the agreement violates the city charter, that’s a serious problem.

“If the corporation counsel’s office has determined that there is a violation… then I think this body either respects its charter and respects its corporation counsel, or it doesn’t,” Kenyatta said.

The Council put off until Thursday a vote on whether to approve members of a new financial advisory board.

That nine-member board is an important requirement of the consent agreement. It’s supposed to have a major say in the city’s budget process, and make sure the city doesn’t spend more than it takes in.

But Council has delayed approving the Board. And now, some members suggest the city should now wait for a judge’s opinion on the consent agreement before doing that.

In the meantime, Council members must also approve Detroit’s city budget for the next fiscal year on Thursday.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.