Cityscape

Detroit charter commission sinks to new low with unfounded assault claim


July 08, 2019, 12:42 PM by  Violet Ikonomova

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Charter commission Vice Chair Nicole Small, right, addresses media after commission Chair Carol Weaver accused her of assault. (Photo: Violet Ikonomova)

Two months ago, when the cops were called to a rowdy meeting of the Detroit Charter Revision Commission, it marked a new low for the divided group tasked with revising the city’s guiding document. But things have gotten even worse since, with a tug-of-war over a microphone prompting Detroit police to investigate a commissioner for assault in a case closed without charges.

If you’re just tuning in — nine elected commissioners have been meeting to revise the city charter, which was reopened last November in somewhat of a fluke. The subsequent proceedings have been plagued by bitter infighting between two factions: A minority that says it represents Detroiters, and a majority it accuses of representing the interests of Mayor Mike Duggan and corporate leaders like Dan Gilbert. At stake is the distribution of power in government — and ultimately, how much say residents will have.

The head of the latter faction, commission Chair Carol Weaver, told police in late June that commission Vice Chair Nicole Small grabbed her wrist while trying to take hold of a microphone during a tense exchange. WDIV reported an officer “stated he saw redness on Weaver’s wrist."

On Monday, Small convened a news conference outside the 10th Police Precinct to clear her name.

She read from copy of a detective’s statement, which said that “After careful video review of the incident, interviews of both parties and review of the police report in this matter, no probable cause has been established to support an assault.”

The fruitless investigation is reflective of the commission proceedings thus far: Public resources are being spent, and nothing is getting done. There has been no voting on matters of substance; much of the squabbling over the past six months has pertained to things like bylaws and potential hires. 

Weaver’s “corporatist” faction has blamed Small’s for the breakdown — painting the group as obstructionist. Small’s group, meanwhile, has accused Weaver of circumventing the will of the people through various maneuvers. The commission has been sued by citizens for allegedly violating the Open Meetings Act.

There’s been little talk of bridging the divide, and Weaver has refused calls to step down. At Monday's news conference, Small and some of the two dozen Detroiters gathered around her spent most of their time assailing the commission chair.

“We call her 'Call the Cops Carol,' or 'Barbecue Becky,'” said resident Brenda Hill, who attends the meetings. “[She’s] called the police [multiple times, on commissioners and to a meeting.]"

Hill said the calls present a danger to the people in attendance, equating it with "attempted murder."

"When black folks come in contact with the police it sometimes goes wrong,” she said.

Weaver did not reply to a request for comment.

The charter revision process is supposed to last another two years and could cost up to $1.5 millon.

Asked Monday whether she felt things could be salvaged, Small said, “As long as the rules are followed, as long as we have leadership that not only treats all of the commissioners with dignity and respect, but the people of the city of Detroit, then we absolutely can move forward.”

The commission will give it another go Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

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