ATTORNEY GENERAL V CITY OF FLINTAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
December 13, 2005
Ingham Circuit Court
LC No. 04-001113-CZ
CITY OF FLINT and DONALD J.
FLINT CITY COUNCIL, PEGGY R. COOK, ED
TAYLOR, SCOTT KINCAID, JOHNNIE
COLEMAN, CAROLYN SIMS, MARK A.
HORRIGAN, and DARRYL E. BUCHANAN,
Official Reported Version
Before: Hoekstra, P.J., and Neff and Davis, JJ.
Defendants Flint City Council and its individual members1 appeal as of right a grant of
summary disposition to plaintiff. We affirm.
This case arose out of Edward J. Kurtz's July 8, 2002, appointment as emergency
financial manager for the city of Flint. See Flint City Council v Michigan, 253 Mich App 378,
The city of Flint and Flint Mayor Donald J. Williamson were originally named parties, but
summary disposition was independently granted in their favor, and plaintiff has not appealed that
385; 655 NW2d 604 (2002). At that time, compensation for city council members had been
determined by a local officers compensation commission (LOCC) pursuant to MCL 117.5c and
article III of chapter 2 of the Flint Ordinances. During his term, Kurtz reduced the council
members' compensation twice. Just before his term ended, he increased their compensation to
the level set by the LOCC during its December 2003 meeting, thereby fixing the council
members' salaries at approximately 95 percent of what they had been before Kurtz's
appointment. The day after Kurtz's responsibilities terminated, the city council passed a
resolution resolving that the council members "be made whole with respect to their
compensation and benefits." Pursuant to the resolution, the council members apparently
received an aggregate sum of more than $235,000. Plaintiff then filed this suit alleging that the
resolution violated Const 1963, art 11, § 3 by granting or authorizing extra compensation for
previously rendered services. Defendants argued that Kurtz's reduction of their salaries was
either unauthorized or merely a temporary suspension of payment. The trial court granted
summary disposition to plaintiff, and this appeal followed.
We first note that the motion for summary disposition was based on MCR 2.116(C)(9),
failure to state a valid defense, and MCR 2.116(C)(10), no genuine issue of material fact. We
review motions for summary disposition de novo. Maiden v Rozwood, 461 Mich 109, 118; 597
NW2d 817 (1999). However, a motion under MCR 2.116(C)(9) should be decided only on the
pleadings. See Maiden, supra at 119-120. The trial court relied on evidence not included in the
pleadings, so we treat this as a grant of summary disposition pursuant to only MCR
2.116(C)(10). Village of Dimondale v Grable, 240 Mich App 553, 565; 618 NW2d 23 (2000).
We also review de novo issues of statutory interpretation, Miller v Mercy Mem Hosp, 466 Mich
196, 201; 644 NW2d 730 (2002), and constitutional issues, Kampf v Kampf, 237 Mich App 377,
381; 603 NW2d 295 (1999). Our duty is to ascertain and effectuate the intent behind the statute
or constitutional provision from the language used in it.
Defendants first argue that Const 1963, art 11, § 3, which prohibits extra compensation
for public officers, is inapplicable because the compensation was set by the LOCC pursuant to
statute and Kurtz only temporarily suspended it rather than eliminating it, so the resolution
merely paid back the council members' vested salaries. We disagree.
Const 1963, art 11, § 3 states: "Neither the legislature nor any political subdivision of
this state shall grant or authorize extra compensation to any public officer, agent or contractor
after the service has been rendered or the contract entered into." The plain language of this
provision forbids paying, or authorizing payment for, a city council member retroactively for
services the member has already performed. See E C Nolan Co, Inc v Dep't of State Hwys, 45
Mich App 364, 367; 206 NW2d 472 (1973); see also Attorney General v Detroit Bd of Ed, 225
Mich 237, 242; 196 NW 417 (1923) (addressing substantially identical language in Const 1908,
art 16, § 3). Defendants argue that their payment was authorized before the services were
rendered, pursuant to MCL 117.5c(b), which states that an LOCC "shall determine the salary of
each local elected official." However, plaintiff argues that Kurtz's reduction of the members'
salaries was prospective and retroactively authorized by MCL 141.1221(1)(q), which states:
(1) An emergency financial manager may take 1 or more of the following
additional actions with respect to a unit of local government in which a financial
emergency has been determined to exist:
* * *
(q) Reduce, suspend, or eliminate the salary, or other compensation of the
chief administrative officer and members of the governing body of the unit of
local government during the financial emergency. This subdivision does not
authorize an emergency financial manager to impair vested retirement benefits. If
an emergency financial manager has reduced, suspended, or eliminated the salary
or other compensation of the chief administrative officer and members of the
governing body of a unit of local government before the effective date of the
amendatory act that added this subdivision, the reduction, suspension, or
elimination is valid to the same extent had it occurred after the effective date of
the amendatory act that added this subdivision.
The use of the mandatory word "shall" in MCL 117.5c(b) requires the LOCC to determine
council members' salaries. See Roberts v Mecosta Co Gen Hosp, 466 Mich 57, 65; 642 NW2d
663 (2002). However, the plain language of MCL 141.1221(1)(q) also clearly authorizes an
emergency financial manager to reduce the compensation provided to members of the governing
body of a local unit of government, and that authority is plainly retroactive in its application.
When statutory language is unambiguous, "we must presume that the Legislature
intended the meaning it clearly expressed and further construction is neither required nor
permitted." Nastal v Henderson & Assoc Investigations, Inc, 471 Mich 712, 720; 691 NW2d 1
(2005). A more specific statutory provision controls over a more general provision, irrespective
of when the statutes were enacted. Antrim Co Treasurer v Dep't of Treasury, 263 Mich App 474,
484; 688 NW2d 840 (2004). A subsequently enacted statute will also generally control over an
earlier statute. Slater v Ann Arbor Pub Schools Bd of Ed, 250 Mich App 419, 435; 648 NW2d
205 (2002). The grant of authority to emergency financial managers by MCL 141.1221(1)(q) is
a more specific and limited grant than the one given to LOCCs by MCL 117.5c(b). Further,
MCL 141.1221(1)(q) was enacted later in time. As such, the conclusion that the emergency
financial manager's powers in this context prevail over the LOCC's powers is doubly compelling.
Slater, supra at 435.
Moreover, MCL 117.1b explicitly provided that the powers of an emergency financial
manager under the previous version of the Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act, 1988
PA 101, superseded the provisions of the Home Rule City Act. MCL 117.16 contains citations
to sections of the Michigan Compiled Laws repealed by MCL 141.1291 as part of the enactment
of the current Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act, MCL 141.1201 et seq., but the
significant citation is to the act itself. The reference to specific section numbers is to help the
reader locate the referenced authority, which it still does, albeit less efficiently. Legislative
analysis is a "generally unpersuasive tool of statutory construction," Frank W Lynch & Co v Flex
Technologies, Inc, 463 Mich 578, 587; 624 NW2d 180 (2001), but the House legislative analysis
for what became 2003 PA 282 indicated that MCL 141.1221(1)(q) was prompted in part by the
Flint financial crisis and concerns about whether Kurtz could reduce the city council's salary.
House Legislative Analysis, SB 771 (Substitute H-1), December 9, 2003, p 1. An amendment
"enacted soon after controversies arise regarding the meaning of the original act" is regarded as
an interpretation of the original act. Detroit v Walker, 445 Mich 682, 697; 520 NW2d 135
(1994). In the event of a fiscal emergency, the Legislature intended for emergency financial
managers to have the authority, notwithstanding the ordinary operation of the Home Rule City
Act, to take necessary steps "to remedy this emergency situation by requiring prudent fiscal
management." MCL 141.1202.
Therefore, the provisions of MCL 117.5c(b) did not preclude Kurtz from reducing or
suspending the council members' salaries. Defendants argue that Kurtz only suspended the
salaries. Kurtz's directives state exactly how much money the council members "will be paid"
either each month or each meeting day. They contain no indication that additional compensation
would be forthcoming in the future or that they were receiving only a portion of what they were
earning, or any other hint that the members' pay was only suspended. The directives clearly
indicate Kurtz's intent to reduce the council members' level of compensation for work done after
the effective dates of the directives. Those directives set the members' salaries for the relevant
periods, so the resolution awarding additional compensation for those periods violated Const
1963, art 11, § 3.
Defendants also argue that MCL 141.1221(1)(q) is unconstitutional because it allowed
Kurtz to impair the council members' vested property rights in their employment without due
process of law. We disagree.
"A state may not deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process."
Tolksdorf v Griffith, 464 Mich 1, 7; 626 NW2d 163 (2001), citing US Const, Am XIV; see also
Const 1963, art 1, § 17. The retroactive and prospective aspects of economic legislation both
must comport with due process by serving a legitimate purpose through rational means. Gen
Motors Corp v Romein, 503 US 181, 191; 112 S Ct 1105; 117 L Ed 2d 328 (1992); Romein v
Gen Motors Corp, 436 Mich 515, 526-528; 462 NW2d 555 (1990). Defendants do not argue that
MCL 141.1221(1)(q) serves an illegitimate purpose or is an irrational way of achieving a
Defendants argue only that the council members had a vested right to a certain level of
continued compensation that could not be legislatively impaired. Ramey v Pub Service Comm,
296 Mich 449, 461; 296 NW 323 (1941). For a property interest to be protected pursuant to the
Due Process Clause, a claimant must have a '"legitimate claim of entitlement"' to the property
interest and not just a unilateral expectation concerning the property interest. York v Civil
Service Comm, 263 Mich App 694, 702-703; 689 NW2d 533 (2004) (citation omitted). Any
right to compensation the council members had arose from MCL 117.5c(b), which gave the city
the statutory right to have an LOCC set the salaries for local elected officials. "It is the general
rule that that which the legislature gives, it may take away." Lahti v Fosterling, 357 Mich 578,
589; 99 NW2d 490 (1959). A right that arises by statute is valuable, but not vested. Id. In any
event, MCL 141.1221(1)(q) was enacted because the law concerning whether an emergency
financial manager could unilaterally reduce the salaries of city council members was unclear.
House Legislative Analysis, SB 771 (Substitute H-1), p 1. "Reliance on an area of law that is in
a state of flux is not reasonable reliance." Romein, supra, 436 Mich 531. MCL 141.1221(1)(q)
did not unconstitutionally deprive the city council members of a vested property right without
/s/ Alton T. Davis
/s/ Joel P. Hoekstra
/s/ Janet T. Neff