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Detroit Financial Review Team To Meet In Public

Detroit Financial Review

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 02/27/2012 12:47 pm Updated: 02/27/2012 1:15 pm

The 10-member body examining Detroit's finances will meet for the first time in public Tuesday, thanks to a successful lawsuit that charged the group was subject to Michigan's Open Meetings Act.

Detroit's financial review team was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in December after the city failed a preliminary state review. Under Michigan's emergency manager law, the board is tasked with determining whether or not Detroit faces a financial emergency dire enough to require state intervention.

On Friday, the review team requested and was granted a 30-day extension to complete its investigation.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said there wasn't "anything in particular" that affected the governor's decision to grant the extension, but that he wished to "try and accommodate based on the review team's needs."

She added the governor considered recent developments in the city's financial situation -- including tentative labor agreements with city workers to extract significant concessions -- left some leeway to allow the review team more time.

Despite Mayor Dave Bing touting progress, the Detroit News reports Monday that Detroit still faces an imminent cash shortfall:

The cash flow numbers as of Jan. 27 also show the city would be $46.8 million in the hole at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The city would officially run out of cash in mid-to-late April, the figures posted on the city's website predict, a fiscal reality that first prompted the governor to consider sending in an emergency manager.

But Detroit's financial review team hasn't even met since January, according to Treasury Department spokesman Terry Stanton.

That may be because an Ingaham County Circuit Court Judge ruled the body must meet in public, rather than behind closed doors. The ruling was seen as a victory for those opposed to Michigan's emergency manager law; while it doesn't stop the financial review or emergency manager process from moving forward, it does ensure a greater degree of public scrutiny and accountability.

Stanton said the judge's Feb. 15 decision did not affect the review team's process or stall its meetings.

"It's not that any [meetings] were canceled in face of or as a result of the judge's decision," he said. "There simply were none scheduled."

The team is set to meet at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, in Room L-150, 1st Floor of Cadillac Place, 3044 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

Its first public meeting comes as opponents of the emergency manager law are set to turn in a petition with more 200,000 signatures to the Secretary of State to freeze the law pending a November referendum. If the petition drive is successful, the emergency managers currently in place in five Michigan municipalities and school districts would lose their authority.

Emergency managers have unilateral power to oversee municipal bodies and can fire elected officials, sell public assets and break contracts. Opponents, including Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) have asserted Michigan's emergency manager law is unconstitutional.

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