The mayor in Warren Michigan, is trying to do an end run around voter approved term limits.
From Deadline Detroit:
This story begins in December 2014, in the political slumber between the Christmas and New Year holidays, when Warren City Attorney David Griem issued a dubious legal opinion. He claimed claimed a city charter amendment approved by voters in the 1990s, which limits officials to 12 years in an office (three 4-year terms), is not what the electorate thought it was.
Their logic: At large council seats are different offices than ward council seats and the term limit clock counts separately if you were elected at large or in a ward.
Let’s look at the relevant section of the Warren city charter.
First council and mayor:
Sec. 4.1 – City officers. (a)The elective officers shall be the mayor, the seven council members, the clerk, and treasurer.
Sec. 5.1 – The city council.(a) The council shall consist of seven members, one of whom shall be the mayor pro-tem. There shall be five council districts and one at-large district established in the city. One member shall be elected from each of the five (5) council districts and two members shall be elected at-large. Each candidate for a city council district shall be a resident of the council district he or she seeks to represent. A city council member’s office is vacated if the member moves his or her residence outside of the council district that the member represents.
Next term limits:
Sec. 4.3 – Certain persons ineligible for city office. (d) A person shall not be eligible to hold the office of mayor, city council, city clerk or city treasurer for more than the greater of three (3) complete terms or twelve (12) years in that particular office. This provision shall be applied to commence with the term of office that took effect after the election on November 7, 1995.
Area reporter Chad Selwiski has done a great story on this issue, he writes:
Griem, a formerly prominent criminal defense attorney, claims that the city council operates as a bicameral legislature, similar to the distinct House and Senate chambers in Congress.
Yet, the council never meets or votes in separate sessions based on district council members vs. at-large council members.
“The words (bicameral legislature) are just not there,” the suit claims. “(The charter) repeatedly refers to a single office of city council, and there is nothing – nothing — in the charter to indicate the contrary.”
Read more here.