Ann Arbor City Council met on Feb. 21 to discuss a resolution requesting a “legal opinion” on attorney Jennifer Salvatore’s follow-up report on a confidential investigation into former city administrator Tom Crawford released in December 2021. If passed, this resolution would go to a city attorney for legal advice on the investigation.
Crawford was fired in July 2021 after Salvatore’s original report came out alleging Crawford had made discriminatory comments since he took his position in September 2020. Following this report, Salvatore was hired by the city to conduct an investigation following up on issues that arose in the first report that were not covered within the scope of the first report.
Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, who co-sponsored the resolution alongside councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, told The Michigan Daily that she introduced the resolution after she received several questions from private attorneys within the Ann Arbor community over the perceived discrepancies and public confusion.
“I’m not even saying there was anything wrong, but I’m saying that I’m getting feedback from our community,” Griswold said. “And it just felt like it wouldn’t go away. And, so, as a council member, I wanted to have a closed session and work out the differences.”
One such discrepancy Griswold provided during the meeting was that Salvatore determined Crawford had discriminated against Human Resources Director Tom Guajardo by not giving him a severance package in his contract when he was hired, while his colleagues had all been given severance packages. However, these severance packages had not been given until one year of employment, which provides some discrepancies in the conclusions of the report.
Griswold told The Daily this resolution came about because she wanted to go into closed session with the rest of the council to discuss the concerns over the report. According to Griswold, she attempted to go into closed session on this topic but was told they needed an advice memo, or a documented piece of legal advice on the issue, before they could do so. Griswold said she proposed the resolution to get a legal opinion in order to guide the council on this member.
During the meeting, Griswold cited the 2016 Flint Water Crisis in which a lag in refining the amount of lead in the water supply resulted in additional damage to children. Griswold said this example demonstrated the importance of timeliness, especially in this issue, expressing her support for timeliness in this matter.
“I try to advocate not only for truth, but also for quick resolution,” Griswold said.
Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, disagreed with the sentiment Griswold expressed, and said this situation was not as pressing or potentially harmful as the situation in Flint.
“I hope that this is the last discussion we have about this at our table,” Grand said. “It’s been frustrating, especially when we hear this compared to children being poisoned by lead. I’m pretty confident in saying that no children were harmed in the work of this report.”
Furthermore, Grand said this issue did not warrant outside opinions and expressed her support for the council’s attorneys.
“I’m comfortable with taking advice from our own attorneys,” Grand said. “For those in the community that are attorneys that wish to give advice, that’s fine, but they are not our attorneys and I do not intend to treat them as such.”
Griswold then read a portion of the Salvatore invoice into the public record. The invoice detailed several calls with the city attorney, Stephen Postema, about reviewing the report before its final publication. Griswold said this was a clear indication the city attorney, or someone in their office, was involved in the final report.
“I’m just somewhat surprised that our city’s attorney office, given their involvement, didn’t address these errors (the perceived discrepancies) previously, and that they don’t want to address them now,” Griswold said.
Councilmember Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4, said Griswold should read the memo provided by the city attorney’s office and expressed her lack of support for the resolution.
“This is a waste of our time,” Eyer said. “This is not what we should be up here doing. This political theater, let’s just move on.”
Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, said concerns about this report, and others like it, only work to discredit the reports and the council as a whole.
“Anybody who takes the time to read (the reports provided by city council), fact check and look through it with an objective eye will know that these (accusations) lack credibility, consistency and undermine this own body’s credibility,” Ramlawi said. “That’s what you get, taxpayers of Ann Arbor.”
Councilmember Linh Song, D-Ward 2, said she had received little to no concern about the quality of the report from her constituents.
“I have not received a single inquiry in my ward about this issue,” Song said. “If it is really an issue.”
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said he supports the conclusions from the report, and explained the city attorney was in close contact with Salvatore for the duration of the investigation. He also said that while the city attorney may not agree with the conclusions made by the external investigator, the attorney did verify the facts presented in the report.
“It’s my belief that this document is indeed entirely accurate, that there are no discrepancies in it,” Taylor said. “And that stands for the various investigations up and down the line that have been provided to us by Attorney Salvatore.”
Ramlawi said that if the councilmembers who were against the resolution were so confident in the report, they should support the resolution.
“If you’re so sure about the facts, and you’re so sure about the accuracy, then go ahead,” Ramlawi said. “What does this take? A few hours? This is not a big dig, this is not a heavy lift.”
Grand said some of Ramlawi’s comments insinuated councilmembers who were against the resolution had been bought and did not represent their constituents’ best interests. Grand said she found this insulting.
“It’s ridiculous, just have good ideas, we’ll support it,” Grand said. “But stop accusing us of having intentions that are not in the best interest of the people that we represent in this city just because you don’t get your way.”
The council then voted on the resolution. Councilmember Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, councilmember Lisa Disch, D-Ward 1, Ramlawi, Hayner and Griswold voted for the resolution, but it ultimately failed to pass.
In an interview with The Daily, Griswold said she was disappointed at the failure of the resolution.
“Do I think they’re hiding something? Absolutely,” Griswold said. “Do I think the report is completely factual? No, I do not.”
Daily Staff Reporter Riley Hodder can be reached at email@example.com.