A Michigan Lawyers Weekly Unsolved Mystery: Exactly who is the Taylor city attorney?

As reported on The Michigan Lawyer last week, a recent bruhaha erupted in Taylor when newly elected mayor Jeffrey Lamarand tried to unilaterally fire city attorney Edward D. Plato and replace him with Randall Pentiuk, who agreed to work for $60 an hour less than Plato charges the city. Lamarand and the city filed an action in Wayne County Circuit Court to have Plato removed.

Since then, Taylor had a council meeting. While no one called anyone ‘Shrek’, it wasn’t much more dignified (Many thanks to The News Herald for a fantastic account of the meeting):

During the meeting, both attorneys attended and acted as corporation counsel.

Awwwwk-ward! 

Plato sat with the council, despite being told by Council Chairwoman Cheryl Burke that he was not welcome to.

“We removed his chair and he put it back,” she said. “It’s unfortunate he’s behaving that way.”

Yes, because grabbing a chair to sit down where the city attorney is supposed to sit is so immature. And since you brought it up, Ms. Burke, does a person or group that removed the man’s chair have standing to criticize his behavior when he… put it back and sat down?

Meanwhile, Pentiuk sat in the front row of the audience, probably wondering what he’s gotten himself into.

According to the News-Herald story, one of the items on the agenda was the appointment of Pentiuk (and de facto firing of Plato) as city attorney. The measure failed 5-2 as the five holdovers of the previous city council voted against it.

[UPDATE: From the comments:

Correction - four of the council members are "hold overs" one, John Delo ran independent.

Duly noted. Thank you.]

A second resolution was made by a council member to reappoint Plato and to prevent legal fees to be paid to anyone not approved by city council. Council president Cheryl Burke refused to allow a vote on the resolution.

Burke ruled the motion out of order for being illegal and against the charter, and refused to let it be voted on.

Molner suggested making a motion to overrule the council chairwoman, but Burke would not let her.

Molner contested that if two-thirds of the council overruled her, they would have a right to vote on it, but Brandana disagreed.

“You can’t just make any resolution out of the sky just because you have five votes,” she said. “If we were to do that, we’d be able to override the chair on any motions or resolutions that are unlawful.”

Um, don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim to know the Taylor city charter, but if the city council makes a resolution and votes on it, doesn’t that, in fact, make it lawful? And by not allowing a vote on a resolution that has a 71 percent majority, does that not allow the council president to, eh, what’s the word…

“Some members of the council are trying to usurp, or take away, the powers of the mayor,” [Brandana] said.

Yes! That’s the one. Usurp the powers of the mayor. Or council.

This was followed by the requisite accusations of breaking the Open Meetings Act:

“We have some very questionable activity going on on the council right now,” she said.

“(Plato) was handing them papers and documents (Tuesday), and those are violations of the Open Meetings Act. It’s breaking the law; you cannot deliberate or make a decision together (outside the meeting).”

Anyway, so surely that was the end of it, right? Of course not. Remember when Plato had to grab his own chair because the council removed it? He also had to find a microphone to speak into as well.

Plato, after arguing with Burke over which microphone he was allowed use, walked to the public podium to speak.

He said the council should be allowed to make their motions and recommendations, despite what the chair thinks of the legality of them.

“If it’s null and void, fine, let the court decide it,” he said.

Someone cue up “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

Considering that both Plato and Pentiuk were at the meeting to serve the role of city attorney, its conceivable to think that both attorneys were billing for their time.

The matter will (hopefully) be settled on January 15 by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Susan Borman.

[Again, major HT to The News Herald for this story. A+].