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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Op/Ed: Questions of Governor Rick Snyder's Public Office Ethics, in light of revealing emails plotting Detroit's Bankruptcy

English: Rick Snyder, 48th Governor of Michiga...
English: Rick Snyder, 48th Governor of Michigan, takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly on the steps of the Capitol at his inauguration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IU News & Talk Op/Ed
by Monica RW - An Elected Local Government Official in Michigan

In times long-past, a individual worked for a company, organization or governmental entity anywhere from 10 up to 35 years with an expectation of receiving a guaranteed annuity or pension benefit.

Today, millions of workers are relying on a 401K ponzi scheme for retirement where any future earned benefit payments are subject to stock market highs and lows, along with a rigging the system for temporary monetary games --- in as the U.S. Housing Market and World Economic Crash of 2007.

The City of Detroit, its' workers and citizens have been victims of a slightly different ponzi scheme.

During Michigan's Housing Market bust starting in 2007 and beyond, homeowners where told to leave their property by many of the same financial institutions who were bailed out by our Federal Government with 2009's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Many pension plans in Detroit tied to interest gains received by mortgaged properties met a cruel fate as the "returns on investments" dipped to an all-time low.

Yet, the City moved on with less residents --- from a estimated high of 1.9 million citizens in 1990 to 701,475 according to 2012 US Census. As Detroit's citizenry fled a equal causation of taxable revenue declined. Neighborhoods were destroyed, the school system suffered and jobs became less plentiful in a City where an estimated 21.9% of residents depend on unreliable public transportation due a redlining of automobile insurance rates.

The average Detroit resident annual income, managing to stay in Michigan's Largest City and the World's Automobile Capital was just $27,862 from 2007-2011, compared with $48,669 for other workers in the state as a whole. Unfortunately, figures cited in the previous sentence fail to adequately include an estimated 53,000 fast food workers in Detroit averaging $7.25 - $9.40 per hour wage, or between $15,080 to $19,552 annually before taxes.  

As dire the situation is in Detroit, the leadership of Republican Governor Rick Snyder has not assisted in anyway, to even-keel the City's slide into bankruptcy.

In 2011, Snyder signed into law a cut of Michigan's Earned Income Tax credit --a once a year economic boost for the State's poorest households-- once averaging $600 annually to $50. Unemployment benefit claimant weeks were slashed from 26 to 20 weeks along with rules tighten to keep Michigan's and by way of geography Detroit's job seeking residents from sliding into the rabbit hole.

Child care assistance for single mothers and children were slit to the point low-cost home care and relative providers bucked at their $2.15 per hour average rate to take care of Michigan's future leaders and workers.

If the single parent with two youngsters received a raise at her job to $10.50 per hour/  $21,840 annually/totaling $1,820 a monthly before taxes at an place of employment; the mother was "on her own" in Detroit. A unreliable Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) token cost the mother $1.50 each way plus if necessary a $.10 cent transfer rate just for arriving to and from work. Dropping off the kids to day care in addition to paying for the necessary service for young children, quick nipped away at whatever monetary raise received.

State food assistance was not spared from the wrath of Governor Rick Snyder's draconian cuts. Detroit's and Michigan poorest citizens embarking on a quest to receive additional education lost food assistance as up to 30,000 college student state residents, were removed from the last line of defense nutritional program in 2011.

Many citizens across the World continue to be in complete awe regarding Detroit's present fate.

Yet, Governor Rick Snyder continues to move full speed ahead with destroying whatever is left --minus the downtown area-- of the "Motorcity". So much so that Governor Snyder embarked on plans for months and shared by email with others, how drive a stake though the heartbeat of Detroit.

A groundbreaking article by Southeastern Michigan's Independent News Resource, the Michigan Citizen, revealed today Snyder --who took the Oath of Office to fully service all residents of the Great Lakes state irregardless of annual income earned--- conspired by email communications non-profit NERD Fund employee - Rich Baird, Emergency Manager to be Kevyn Orr, and Mayor Dave Bing on a course of inaction seeking to end at a Federal Bankruptcy Courthouse.

"The e-mails, beginning in January 2013, highlight detailed conversations between Mayor Dave Bing’s office, the Snyder administration, Kevyn Orr and Jones Day regarding bankruptcy, the emergency manager appointment and the Jones Day contract. 
According to the Snyder administration, at a Feb. 18, 2013, meeting, Orr would act as “agent of the state.” This was before the Detroit City Council approved the Jones Day contract or the RFPs were sent to law firms to bid on Detroit’s restructuring. Jones Day may have had access to information other bidders were not privy to, which undermines the integrity of the process and creates credibility issues for the governor and emergency manager. 
The e-mails also reveal the new emergency manager law, Public Act 436 — passed in a December 2012 lame-duck session — follows the steps for a Chapter 9 filing. In a statewide vote, November 2012, over two million Michigan voters defeated the former emergency manager law, Public Act 4. When PA 436 was rushed through the legislature, without hearings, many saw it as a calculated move by the Snyder administration to pave the way for an EM-led bankruptcy filing. 
On Jan. 31, Orr himself called PA 436 a “clear end-around the prior initiative that was rejected by voters in November.” 
Orr also wrote: “(PA 436) is essentially a redo of the prior rejected law and appears to merely adopt the conditions necessary for a Chapter 9 filing.” 
The e-mails also reveal an 11-point Summary of Partnership was developed between Mayor Bing, Snyder’s Chief Transformation Officer Rich Baird and Orr in February 2013,  before law firms were invited to submit proposals. 
Snyder did not declare a financial emergency in Detroit until March 1, 2013. At that time, he said he was still considering candidates for the emergency manager position.
The story in its' entirely can be read at "The Michigan Citizen".

The revelations of these conversations led at Governor Rick Snyder's behalf, raise questions of ethics and Michigan's Public Officers Oath of Office discussed earlier in this article. Each elected official in Michigan whether it be in state, county, local or school board levels of government, take what is normally called a "Oath of Office" which reads as follows:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of .......... according to the best of my ability.."
Governor Snyder on January 1, 2011 on the People's Lansing Capitol steps took the above mentioned Oath as required in Article XI "Public Officers and Employment" of Michigan's Constitution of 1963.

Additional standard of public service duties were draft and signed into law by former Michigan Governor William Milliken (R) in Act 196 of 1973, "Standards of Conduct for Public Officers and Employees".

Sections of the law, reads as follows:

(5) A public officer or employee shall not engage in a business transaction in which the public officer or employee may profit from his or her official position or authority or benefit financially from confidential information which the public officer or employee has obtained or may obtain by reason of that position or authority. Instruction which is not done during regularly scheduled working hours except for annual leave or vacation time shall not be considered a business transaction pursuant to this subsection if the instructor does not have any direct dealing with or influence on the employing or contracting facility associated with his or her course of employment with this state. 
(6) Except as provided in section 2a, a public officer or employee shall not engage in or accept employment or render services for a private or public interest when that employment or service is incompatible or in conflict with the discharge of the officer or employee's official duties or when that employment may tend to impair his or her independence of judgment or action in the performance of official duties.
(7) Except as provided in section 2a, a public officer or employee shall not participate in the negotiation or execution of contracts, making of loans, granting of subsidies, fixing of rates, issuance of permits or certificates, or other regulation or supervision relating to a business entity in which the public officer or employee has a financial or personal interest.
An updated part of this Act in sections "15.342a Sections 15.301 to 15.310 and §§ 15.321 to 15.330" speaks specifically on the validity of contract in violation of act; voting on, making, or participating in governmental decisions in M.S.A. 4.1700(72a).
(2) This act is intended as a code of ethics for public officers and employees and not as a rule of law for public contracts. A contract in respect to which a public officer or employee acts in violation of this act, shall not be considered to be void or voidable unless the contract is a violation of another statute which specifically provides for the remedy.
Governor Rick Snyder is a public officer whom sole purpose is servicing the will of People in Michigan. All of Michigan, including the City of Detroit.

As mentioned earlier in this article, a series of State Mandated cuts to essential services for the very poor and lower working class citizens of Michigan, penetrated just enough to cause Detroit residents "on the edge" to "fall over the cliff".

The economic and housing crisis of 2007 and beyond resulted in a mass exodus of middle class citizens out of Detroit into suburban areas. Property values directly interlinked to taxable value any Michigan city, township, village or county receives plunged all over the State but especially in Detroit were homes could be purchased in 2010 for as little as $500.

Crime spiraled out of control as cuts to line officers, led to a direct increase in murders -- 414 in 2012 alone and over 2,137 violent crimes in per 100,000 residents (Detroit has over 700K residents) in 2012.  

While all of the above distributing and tragic occurrences happened in Detroit, Governor Rick Snyder instead of finding creative ways to fix the obvious problems, enacted P.A. 436 in December of 2012 over the will of State residents repealing a earlier version of this law P.A. 4 of 2011 just three weeks earlier.

Next, Governor Snyder engaged in plotting ways by email to move Detroit on a course to bankruptcy led by a non-appointed and then unannounced emergency manager Kevyn Orr, NERD Fund employee Rich Baird along with elected Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and a majority of its' residents into the abyss; continuing on January 31, 2013 -- as described communications revealed by AFSCME Council 25 Attorney Robert Davis to the Michigan Citizen.

We have a problem in Michigan.

The problem is not Detroit's City Employees, retirees or a majority of its' residents. Specifically, the problem is those who are more than ready, willing and able to collude in plans centered around plotting Detroit's downfall for enrichment of themselves, associates, business partners, wall-street investors or under-the-table deals yet to be revealed for future riches gained.

Questions of Ethics must be raised when citizens livelihood are flippantly moved around similar to pieces in a game of chess. The open inquisition during months ahead throughout Michigan and in the City of Detroit will be are we willing to fight for Democracy for All, or Plutocracy for just a lucky few.

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