Detroit City Council Moves Toward Ousting Mayor

DETROIT (AP) -- The City Council narrowly approved taking the first step Tuesday toward removing Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick over explicit text messages to a former aide, but one council member's possible change of heart could scuttle the measure.

Council members voted 5-4 to begin forfeiture of office proceedings against Kilpatrick, who is charged with perjury and other counts. On a separate 5-4 vote, they approved asking Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to terminate Kilpatrick's hold on the mayor's office.

Council member JoAnn Watson, who voted for both measures, later asked that her vote be reconsidered and the council agreed to reconvene Tuesday afternoon.

A third vote - a nonbinding measure to censure the mayor - passed 7-2.

Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams called the forfeiture vote "another meaningless gesture" by the council.

"They can't remove the mayor. They have no legal authority," Adams said. "This goes well past where they need to be. He was elected by the voters of Detroit, not by the council."

The Wayne County prosecutor's office charged Kilpatrick and former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty with perjury, misconduct in office and obstruction of justice on March 24, less than a week after the council voted 7-1 on a nonbinding resolution asking Kilpatrick to resign.

Excerpts of intimate and sexually explicit text messages between the mayor and Beatty were published in January by the Detroit Free Press. The pair had denied having a romantic relationship in sworn testimony at a civil trial involving police whistle-blowers.

The whistleblowers' lawsuit and another case were settled for $8.4 million, but council members say they were unaware of an agreement Kilpatrick signed that kept references to the text messages secret. Relations between the council and the mayor's office had been strained even before those revelations.

Forfeiture proceedings could end up in court and be costly - presenting yet another burden for a cash-strapped city which is among the nation's leaders in foreclosures and unemployment.

State law allows the governor to remove an elected official from office for a number of reasons, but Granholm has said she wants to allow the criminal case against Kilpatrick to play out. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with a Granholm spokeswoman.

The Kilpatrick case has overshadowed city budget negotiations and the proposed sale of Detroit's half of a busy and lucrative international tunnel linking the city to Canada.

If Kilpatrick is forced from office, council President Ken Cockrel Jr. will assume the mayor's seat and council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers would take over as council president.

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