Detroit council OKs process to fill vacant seat

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The City Council approved a resolution Wednesday that will govern its process for appointing a new member to fill a vacancy created with the resignation of Saunteel Jenkins.

Jenkins announced last month she would be leaving her elected post to become the CEO of a Detroit nonprofit.

The second-term, at-large council woman’s last day at City Hall came on the same day that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes confirmed the city’s plan to shed $7 billion in debt and reinvest $1.7 billion into service improvements over the next 10 years.

The 7-1 vote comes after members spent more than two hours Monday debating details of the process, which will require all candidates to submit a resume and affidavit to the Detroit City Clerk’s Office.

Councilman Andre Spivey said he’s confident the process will go cleanly and smoothly.

“The selection falls on council. It is not a selection that’s voted by the people, it’s on us,” Spivey said after the meeting.

Following a public notice, the opening date for applications would be Nov. 19 and run through 4 p.m. Dec. 5.

The clerk’s office will then verify that each applicant meets the qualifications for elective office as laid out in Detroit’s City Charter. The eligible candidates’ resumes will be provided to the council.

The process would allow each council member to nominate up to three candidates for interviews, with a maximum of 25 interviews being conducted in 30-minute increments.

President Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. cast the “no” vote, expressing concerns over the time frame set for applicants.

“I’m trying to make sure that we don’t restrict ourselves from somebody that might be excellent,” he stressed to colleagues.

But others, including President Brenda Jones, noted the majority of members held an in-depth discussion on the process before recommending the guidelines.

Earlier in the week, another source of debate centered on the number of candidates the panel would interview.

Jones and member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez advocated for a process that would call for interviewing all candidates. But others, including Spivey and member James Tate, argued the process would be too tedious and recommended the limitations.

Once the interviews conclude, the council shall implement a run-off voting system to narrow the pool of candidates to three.

The system shall require members to vote for three candidates, assigning each with a rank from third to first choice. The three candidates receiving the top three scores, including ties, shall be considered further for appointment.

The body shall then vote to appoint a candidate from the three or more remaining candidates, by a two-thirds majority vote.

Members have said they hope to begin interviews in January.