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City of Detroit lawyer challenges consent agreement; state vows to "move forward"

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Detroit’s top lawyer is going to court to challenge the city’s consent agreement with the state. But she doesn’t have the full support of Mayor Dave Bing, or some Detroit City Council members.

Corporation counsel Krystal Crittendon wrote a letter to state officials weeks ago.

She called the consent agreement “void and unenforceable” because the state supposedly owes Detroit money—and the city’s charter prevents it from signing contracts with debtors.

Mayor Dave Bing initially made conflicting statements about a legal challenge. He publicly opposed it, but then admitted he supported the “concept” of the letter.

But now Bing says litigation would be a distraction.

“I think the Council and myself are determined to make sure we follow the letter of the law,” Bing said Friday. “But at the same token, that’s something that’s going to sidetrack us and keep us from moving our plan forward.”

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh says this isn’t a position he wants to be in. But he says they’re “stuck” with a problem.

“And so, in order not to violate the charter, we can’t take any action on something that’s not legal,” Pugh said last week. “So we need a judge to now either concur, or disagree with our corporation counsel, in order for us to decide what to do from this point forward.”

But other City Council members don’t support the legal challenge at all.

They note that Crittendon’s argument would also invalidate any number of other agreements between Detroit and the state, including revenue sharing agreements.

They also point out that the city entered into the consent agreement to avoid going broke, and there’s no “Plan B” if the deal is ruled invalid.

State officials have called Crittendon’s legal argument nonsense—and they deny the state owes the city any money.

A spokeswoman for Governor Snyder said the state plans to move ahead with the consent agreement, regardless.


Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio 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.
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