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Emergency manager begins easing out of her role

Emergency Manager Cathy Square is just about ready to leave her post here in Hamtramck.

Emergency Manager Cathy Square is just about ready to leave her post here in Hamtramck.

 

By Charles Sercombe
There is less than a month to go before Emergency Manager Cathy Square leaves Hamtramck.
Square told The Review this week that she is leaving on Dec. 18, and she expects Gov. Rick Snyder to also announce on that date that Hamtramck has emerged from its financial crisis.
“It will be simultaneous,” Square said.
She said she might hold a farewell meeting with city officials.
Square will have been here for 18 months, which is the longest an emergency manager can serve under state law, unless local officials approve an extension. She first arrived on July 1, 2013. There will be only two other Michigan cities under the control of an emergency manager, Flint and Lincoln Park.
Detroit’s emergency manager just left office.
Although Square will not be in direct control of Hamtramck for much longer, she will most likely still play a role. It is expected that Square will be the chairman of a transition advisory board.
It is not known who else will serve on that board.
Under this supervision, local control will remain limited. The city council won’t have the power to form budgets at least for the next two years. Square said she has already drawn up those budgets.
The council also can’t fire the new city manager, who has yet to be appointed. All financial decisions will still ultimately remain with the transition board, but day-to-day management will be left to the city manager.
Square said she is leaving with all of her goals met and then some. When she leaves office Square will release a set of directives the city must complete.
One of those things will be to perform an audit of the police department to determine what the needed staffing level should be. Square said that with six months still to go before the city’s fiscal year ends, the department has spent over 80 percent of its overtime budget.
One thing that Square did not tackle was the habit of some city councilmembers overstepping their charter authority and meddling in city management affairs.
It wasn’t uncommon for some councilmembers to order department heads to do things under an implied threat that they would be fired if directives were ignored.
Square said it wasn’t her job to change Hamtramck’s political culture.
“You can’t legislate behavior,” she said.
As for Square’s achievements, The Review will talk in more detail with Square in the weeks to come.
And as for when local control will be completely restored, Square said that will happen when “the city’s finances remain consistently balanced and the council can show they can govern themselves without state government oversight.”

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