Jan. 25 2016 10:15 AM

Former mayoral chief of staff, Flint emergency manager quits Financial Health Team

MONDAY. Jan. 24 — A key voice in the city of Lansing’s Financial Health Team has resigned his volunteer position with the group over concerns about his role in the Flint water crisis.

Jerry Ambrose, who served as Mayor Virg Bernero’s chief of staff and finance director from 2006 to 2011, tendered his resignation this morning, which Bernero accepted.

A press release from the mayor’s office said that Ambrose indicated “his resignation is not a comment on the Flint water controversy or his role in it, but as a measure taken to not distract from the important work of the FHT. Mayor Bernero accepted his resignation and thanked him for his service to the city, noting that his contributions to the work of the FHT going forward will be missed.”

Earlier, former mayor David Hollister, who heads the Financial Health Team, said Ambrose quit after he told Ambrose that City Pulse was inquiring about whether his role in Flint affected his position on the Financial Health Team. Half of the members of City Council had told City Pulse they believed he should quit.

As the chief financial officer for Flint, Ambrose signed off on resolutions and spending deals related to the water situation. As the city’s fourth and final emergency manager from January through April of last year, he defended the decision to switch from Detroit water to using the Flint River as a water source — assuring residents repeatedly that the water was safe.

“It’s a distraction,” said Judi Brown Clarke, president of Lansing City Council, regarding Ambrose’s role in the Flint crisis and its impact on his ability to serve. “I would like him to step aside and give Flint his full attention.”

Brown Clarke was joined by At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, Third Ward member Adam Hussain and First Ward member Jody Washington, who represents the First Ward in calling on Ambrose to step down .

Wood said Ambrose’s resignation “was the right thing to do.”

“Until we fully understand who knew what, and when, in the Flint water crisis, it makes it difficult to fully trust the information coming from Mr. Ambrose,” said Carol Wood, a Lansing City Council member at large. Her comment was made before his resignation

Ambrose left Lansing to serve as the chief financial officer of Flint when it was taken over by the state of Michigan under the controversial emergency manager law. That law allows the state to seize control of local government if it is determined it has a financial emergency. The governor then appoints an emergency manager who has the power to run the city and eliminate debt. The emergency manager’s decisions are not subject to input from the community being served, which has resulted in the law being called anti-democratic.

The press release from City Hall also said: "

Jerry was appointed to the FHT by Mayor Bernero when it was formed in late 2012 and has served since that time as a member of the group. He participated in the development of the FHT’s 2013 report to the mayor, as well as FHT workgroups related to the city’s short-term budget strategies and solutions to the city’s long-term unfunded liabilities.
“Mayor Bernero appointed Jerry to the FHT in recognition of his decades of exceptional and highly-respected service in the public sector, including as Ingham County controller and as the finance director, executive assistant and chief of staff in our administration from 2006 to 2011. Jerry’s expertise on local government finances and his specific knowledge of Lansing city government finances and operations has allowed him to make important contributions to the work of the FHT.”

For more on this story, see this week’s print edition of City Pulse.

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