Detroit Mayor Dave Bing today removed from office the city's controversial top city lawyer and won six votes on the council to back the move, a major reversal for council members who earlier stood behind her as a defender of Detroit's city charter.
City officials said Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon would be immediately removed as corporation counsel but would likely keep a job in the city's law department. She could revert to a lawyer position within the department.
Council members Brenda Jones, JoAnn Watson and Kwame Kenyatta voted against the termination.
"Congratulations, Mr. Mayor," Kenyatta said to Bing just after the vote.
"All appointees are at will," Bing told the council of his decision, which he said was not for a specific cause except that "I wanted my own person appointed, and that's what I intend to do."
Crittendon led a controversial challenge to the city's consent agreement and brushed up against Bing's efforts to reform the city. She also riled state officials who questioned her motives.
Council President Charles Pugh said there was no change in opinion among a majority of council members, and he said he still considers her a capable, intelligent person. He said there was no pressure from the state to remove her from office.
But Crittendon told the Free Press this afternoon that she believes Bing and the state orchestrated her removal in retaliation for her actions and made her firing a unofficial part of a group of reform milestones that the city had to meet in order for Detroit to continue to receive bond funds now held in escrow by the state.
"From what I hear, I was a secret milestone," Crittendon said. "They don't want anyone there who's going to require them to follow the law."
She noted that she was first appointed by then-Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. and reappointed twice by Bing.
"The role of a city lawyer is to make sure that the law is being followed and the city's interests are being protected," Crittendon said. "I'm really concerned for the city of Detroit, in that if a corporation counsel can be removed for doing her job, it's going to have a chilling effect on future corporation counsels. I think the next corporation counsel would think twice before giving legal advice that the mayor or the council might not want to follow."
Her lawsuit -- twice tossed out by an Ingham County judge -- contended that the city's fiscal stability agreement with the state violated the city charter's prohibitions against Detroit entering into contracts with entities in default to it. She cited a $224-million debt she and some council members contend the state owes in back revenue sharing in a 1990s-era deal for Detroit to receive extra state money in exchange for lowering its city income taxes.
Councilwoman Jones called Crittendon's firing revenge against a lawyer who "has spoken up for the city, has called wrong when it was wrong.
"It's a disgrace to this city," Jones said.
Kenyatta said he believed Crittendon's termination is a sign that Bing's "leadership is out of control, and maybe it is time for someone to come in and right this ship."
"I do think it's a miscarriage of justice," Kenyatta said. "It's a hell of a way to start off this year."
Bing was to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. today to discuss Crittendon's firing and other reform measures approved by the council. They include four contracts with outside firms that will help restructure city government and find additional savings in health care and pension costs.
The council also set up public hearings for next week on measures to allow furloughs for nonunion employees of the executive and legislative branches of city government and a one-year pension freeze for workers under the city's General Retirement System.
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