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Michigan Court Blocks Bid to Remove Detroit School Chief

Michigan’s Court of Appeals today denied a request by officials with a union representing city employees to have the emergency manager of Detroit’s public schools removed.

State voters on Nov. 6 voided a 2011 law that gave state emergency managers broad powers to cut spending and avoid bankruptcy for stricken cities and school districts.

The referendum repealed Public Act 4, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature at the urging of Republican Governor Rick Snyder, which allowed the state to intervene more quickly to prevent insolvencies and have more power to reverse financial collapse.

The three-judge panel found that the emergency manager of Detroit’s schools, Roy Roberts, was appointed under a 1990 statute that remained in effect because the section of Public Act 4 that repealed the earlier law didn’t survive the referendum, according to a one-page ruling written by Presiding Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly.

The union’s reliance on a state statute that prevents older laws from being revived if newer ones are repealed is “unavailing” as the statute “includes no reference to statutes that have been rejected by referendum,” Kelly wrote.

“Even if the rejection of PA 4 is deemed to operate as a repeal” under the so-called anti-revival law, “the voters rejected PA 4 in its entirety by way of the referendum,” Kelly said.

The ruling will be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, said Andrew Paterson, an attorney for plaintiff Robert Davis, who is a staff representative with Council 25 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Public Act 4 replaced a 1990 statute that gave emergency managers less authority. It allowed managers to assume the powers of mayors, city councils and school boards, as well as to fire employees, sell assets and cancel union contracts. After the measure to void it was placed on the ballot, Michigan reverted to the earlier law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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