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Divided Flint city council OKs mayor's picks for police and fire chiefs

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A divided Flint city council approved Mayor Karen Weaver’s picks for the city’s new police and fire chiefs during a raucous meeting tonight. 

Earlier this month, Weaver fired the city’s police and fire chiefs, who were both hired by the city’s former emergency managers.    

An overflow crowd jammed Monday night’s city council meeting. The audience cheered council members who talked of voting for Tim Johnson for police chief and Raymond Barton for fire chief. The crowd booed the council members who spoke out against the picks or the process.

The council was most divided on the mayor’s choice for police chief.

Retired Deputy Chief Timothy Johnson’s nomination was approved on a six to three vote. One of the council members who voted against Johnson questioned his qualifications for the job. Still, he promises to work with the council – even the members who voted against him.

“No animosity, no hard feelings … that’s what they believed and that’s OK,” says Johnson, who felt part of the reason council members voted against him was political. 

Councilwoman Kate Fields vote against both the mayor’s picks for police and fire chief. 

She questions whether the mayor followed the proper procedure to hire the two department heads by not having previously spelled out the qualifications for the jobs.

“If we don’t have a tool of measurement to judge these appointments against how can we appoint someone?” asked Fields. "So, cart before the horse.”

Last night’s vote may be the sharpest disagreement between Mayor Weaver and the city council since her election in November. 

Afterward, Weaver promised to work with the city council.

“I’m going to continue to be professional and respectful. I’m going to stay focused on the goals that have been set in place,” said Weaver. “Hopefully we can make these things happen. We need some changes.”

A state oversight board will have the final say on the hiring of Flint’s new police and fire chiefs.

The Receivership Transition Advisory Board meets next month.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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