Corporation counsel is obstructing Detroit’s reform agenda; she must go now
Detroit’s progress toward meeting the consent agreement with the state to restructure its finances is stalled by an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat. Mayor Dave Bing needs to knock down that obstacle.
Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon has established herself as an opposition force to Bing and the Detroit City Council, filing challenges to the cost-saving measures the city’s political leaders want to put in place.
She can do this because the abysmal new City Charter voters approved last year seems to expand her powers and autonomy, and makes it more difficult to give her the boot.
But Bing still has to try.
Crittendon as been a pain in the backside of reform from the beginning. She filed suit against the consent agreement that was reached last spring between Gov. Rick Snyder, Bing and the council, holding up its formal adoption for weeks.
Now she’s challenging an effort to reduce staffing at the bloated Water and Sewerage Department, which, according to a report by an outside agency, has 80 percent more city employees than it needs.
And she has blocked Bing from contracting with Miller Canfield for his own legal advice, something he obviously needs given the adversarial relationship between the mayor and the corporation counsel.
The city cannot do what it needs to do in the face of such internal obstructionism.
Unfortunately, to fire Crittendon without cause requires six votes from the City Council. Bing couldn’t get six votes from that council on a proposal for free pancakes and sausages for everyone.
So he either has to find a cause — and obstructing her boss’s agenda ought to be cause enough — or buy her out.
To avoid yet another costly and prolonged lawsuit, the mayor should sit down with Crittendon and figure out what dollar amount it would take to get her to leave voluntarily, and then cut that check.
Detroit can’t drag the dead weight of a stubborn corporation counsel behind it as it tries to progress toward a more stable fiscal position. The city is again running up against a cash flow crisis that if left unaddressed will lead to payless paydays.
The state has said it will not continue to allow Detroit to draw from an $80 million bond fund unless it sees significant progress on the consent agreement reforms. It can’t make that progress as long as Crittendon keeps slapping down lawsuits.
She’s got to go. She’s not acting in good faith on behalf of her client. Getting rid of her, one way or the other, would be a decisive move by the mayor that would go a long way toward demonstrating he is willing to do what is necessary to meet the terms of the consent agreement.
By the end of this week, workers should be removing Krystal Crittendon’s name from the door of the corporation counsel’s office.