Union activist files new court challenge to Detroit's Emergency Manager over private meetings

DETROIT (WXYZ) - A local activist who's been fighting to unseat Detroit's emergency manager is heading back to court again.

This time Robert Davis filed an emergency motion claiming state officials violated the open meetings act in their selection of Kevyn Orr. His latest move claims that part of the selection process for Orr was done behind closed doors.

"Because you want to paint this eerie picture of the finances of the City of Detroit does not mean you have to violate the law in order to appoint an EFM for the city of Detroit," Orr told 7 Action News.

Davis is asking an Ingham County judge for the names of emergency manager applicants who might have been secretly interviewed by Governor Rick Snyder, state Treasurer Andy Dillon and Snyder consultant Richard Baird. Baird was asked by Snyder to search for and recommend candidates for the Emergency Loan Board that ultimately made the appointment.

Davis has produced two documents that he says prove Baird gave conflicting accounts while under oath. In a sworn Affidavit, Baird said "None of the loan Board members were present" during candidate interviews. But under oath, in a deposition Baird said "There was a single time when Mr. Dillon and I talked to an individual at the same time for purposes of determining his interest in the job".

That meeting, held behind closed doors, Davis contends, would have been a violation of State Law which could have significant consequences.

"If the court finds that it was very egregious violations of the Open Meetings Act, the actions including the appointment of Mr. Orr can be voided," Davis said.

Davis' lawsuit also uncovered emails showing Mayor Dave Bing first met with Kevin Orr on February 25 of this year, a little more than two weeks before Orr was appointed. The emails, written by Baird and Orr, indicate Bing and Orr had breakfast, were "impressed" with one another and that Bing was "enthusiastic about a working relationship".

One email from Baird suggests they use Bings private email account, saying "For the reasons we all understand, we wish to stay below the radar for a few weeks on Detroit planning".

Robert Davis is an employee of ASCME, the union representing state, county and municipal employees. He is now awaiting trial in federal court for allegedly stealing money from the Highland park schools while a member of the school board.  He has denied those charges.

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Treasury said he couldn't comment on the specifics of Davis' latest court filing. But Caleb Buhs said everything that was done with the appointment of Kevyn Orr was done in full purview the law and this court challenge does nothing but slow down the process.

"It's time for everybody to work together to solve the problems that are plaguing Detroit," Buhs said.

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