Confronted with the Detroit City Council's failure to take action toward approval of a $48 million contract with Minneapolis-based consultant EMA, the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners yesterday held a Special Meeting and approved a resolution authorizing Director Sue McCormick to negotiate a stopgap agreement with EMA, for an amount not to exceed $2.0 million.
The term of this agreement will cover the period from November 14, 2012 to June 30, 2013. And because of the dollar amount, this contract will not require City Council approval.
Comment: It is unclear to me why City Council was required to approve EMA's $48 million contract -- it was approved by the Water Board on September 7, 2012 -- after all of the steps taken in the past 12 months by Judge Cox and others to separate DWSD from the rest of the City of Detroit. DWSD now has its own general counsel, HR department and finance. Submitting a contract that comes with an 81% staff reduction, to an elected body for approval, is a suicide mission. The Board of Water Commissioners knows this; Judge Cox must know it too.
This situation probably explains a November 8, 2012 Root Cause Committee Report that requests, in part, that DWSD be allowed to exempt certain contracts from City Council approval. Without the Court giving the Board of Water Commissioners sole authority to approve the entire $48 million EMA contract, it will surely languish with City Council taking no action for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, what are the limits of Judge Cox's authority? Can he effectively divest City Council of its role in reviewing and approving significant contracts? Does enforcement of the Clean Water Act trump these concerns? What do you think?
Update (11/20): Earlier today, the Detroit City Council voted to reject the EMA contract. The Detroit News reports (here) about Council's decision. Now what?
For more about DWSD Update, click here.