Bloomberg News

Michigan Citizens Sue State Governor Over Emergency Powers

June 22, 2011

June 22 (Bloomberg) -- Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was sued today by 28 residents who asked a court to declare unconstitutional a new law granting state-appointed financial managers emergency powers over local governments.

Snyder said the law, signed March 16, would help keep Michigan communities out of bankruptcy. Michigan has emergency managers running the schools in Detroit, as well as the cities of Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor. The law allows emergency managers to terminate employee contracts and suspend collective bargaining.

The law “effectively establishes a new form of local government within the state of Michigan,” the residents said in the lawsuit filed in state court in Lansing. The law allows cities or other municipalities to be “ruled by one unelected official,” they said in the complaint.

The residents said the law violates Michigan’s constitution and asked the court for an injunction barring its implementation. Another challenge to the law was filed in federal court in April by Detroit public employee pension boards.

The earlier lawsuit was “on the effect on pension issues,” said attorney John Philo, who filed today’s complaint, brought by 28 citizens throughout Michigan. “Ours is about the basic constitutional right of all Michigan citizens to have the rights to democratically elected government.”

Contract Rights

The pension board lawsuit also named Snyder as a defendant and claimed the law would “impermissibly modify the Detroit city charter and various collective bargaining agreements between the city of Detroit and its uniformed and non-uniformed workers.” The law authorizes “the modification and termination of constitutionally protected contract rights and the seizure of control of retirement systems,” according to the complaint.

Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for the governor, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment after regular business hours.

The case is Brown v. Snyder, 11-685-CZ, Circuit Court, Ingham County, Michigan (Lansing).

--Editors: Michael Hytha, Stephen Farr

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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