DetroitMayor 6thLd-Writethru 05-13
Detroit City Council moves toward ousting mayor
Eds: Adds comment from city attorney on when forfeiture proceedings could begin.
AP Photo NY107
By COREY WILLIAMS
Associated Press Writer
DETROIT (AP) — The City Council narrowly approved taking the first step Tuesday toward removing Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is charged with perjury over explicit text messages sent to a former aide.
Council members voted 5-4 to begin forfeiture of office proceedings against Kilpatrick. On a separate 5-4 vote, they approved asking Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to remove Kilpatrick from office — a step the governor has said she is unwilling to take while the criminal case proceeds.
A third vote — a nonbinding measure to censure the mayor — passed 7-2.
Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams called the forfeiture vote "another meaningless gesture" by the council.
"They can’t remove the mayor. They have no legal authority," Adams said. "This goes well past where they need to be. He was elected by the voters of Detroit, not by the council."
Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said the group simply did what many residents have been asking them to do.
"There are a lot of people whose position to me has been whatever it takes, we need to get the city moving forward," Sheila Cockrel said. "In order to do that, as tragic as it is, this enormously talented, gifted, charismatic politician, who cannot accept responsibility and will not operate within the frame of the rule of law, has got to go."
The Wayne County prosecutor’s office charged Kilpatrick and former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty with perjury, misconduct in office and obstruction of justice on March 24, less than a week after the council voted 7-1 on a nonbinding resolution asking Kilpatrick to resign.
Excerpts of intimate and sexually explicit text messages between the mayor and Beatty were published in January by the Detroit Free Press. The pair had denied having a romantic relationship in sworn testimony at a civil trial involving police whistleblowers.
The whistleblowers’ lawsuit and another case were settled for $8.4 million, but council members say they were unaware of an agreement Kilpatrick signed that kept references to the text messages secret. Relations between the council and the mayor’s office had been strained even before those revelations.
Council attorney William Goodman said forfeiture proceedings could begin as early as next month. They could end up in court and be costly — presenting yet another burden for a cash-strapped city which is among the nation’s leaders in foreclosures and unemployment.
State law allows the governor to remove an elected official from office for a number of reasons, but Granholm has said she wants to allow the legal process to play out.
Granholm’s office declined to comment on the council’s actions.
"Because the law prescribes a potential role for the governor, we are not going to comment on the council’s actions today," spokeswoman Liz Boyd said. "We do not want to compromise the process."
Tuesday’s 5-4 votes seemed in doubt briefly after a council member who had supported removing Kilpatrick asked that her votes be reconsidered. The council agreed to reconvene but JoAnn Watson instead withdrew her motion to change the vote.
A very nervous Watson later explained to reporters that she was given a note that led her to believe Kilpatrick may have been considering an earlier request she personally made asking him to step down.
Dan Webb, one of Kilpatrick’s attorneys, later said the mayor has no intention of voluntarily leaving the office he’s held for the past six years.
The Kilpatrick case has overshadowed city budget negotiations and the proposed sale of Detroit’s half of a busy and lucrative international tunnel linking the city to Canada.
If Kilpatrick is forced from office, council President Ken Cockrel Jr. will assume the mayor’s seat and council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers would take over as council president.