Who really paid for Ypsilanti city officials to visit China?

While I suspect there’s still more to come out, it would appear as though the trip to China that Ypsilanti’s Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, Police Chief and Economic Development Director are currently on, may not have been paid for by the Wayne State University Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA), as we had been told, but by the Chinese government. Whether or not this constitutes a violation of City statute remains to be seen, but, given how this all went down, it certainly doesn’t look good for any of the parties involved.

Here, based largely on social medias posts, what I picked up during the last City Council meeting, and reporting by Tom Perkins for the Detroit Metro Times, is my understanding of how we got to where we are today, and the situation as it currently stands.

1. At some point this past fall, Troy-based, Chinese-American developer Amy Xue Foster, after making a formal bid to purchase Ypsilanti’s 38-acre Water Street property, offered to take a local delegation to China, ostensibly to discuss Chinese architecture, help sell the idea of an Ypsilanti development to Chinese investors, and meet the other members of the Xue Foster’s team that would be working to help bring her 1,600 unit “International Village” concept to reality. This offer, according to a May 24 email by City Attorney John Barr, as reported by the Detroit Metro Times, would have been both unethical and illegal under city statue. “Members of city council have traveled overseas in the past, but only at their own cost,” Barr’s email said. “If a city employee or mayor or council member wanted to go to China, it would be OK if they paid for it themselves, but if the developer paid, it would be unethical and illegal under the city code.” Council Member Dan Vogt, according to the Metro Times, then wrote in response, “I agree it would not be ethical if they or someone on their behalf paid. I also am not clear why it would be useful.”

2. Fortunately for the developer, and the four individuals who would be taking the trip to China, though, an alternate source of funding emerged. On September 11, Ypsilanti Economic Development Director Beth Ernat sent an email to members of City Council, alerting them to the fact that the Wayne State University Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA) had come forward with the funds necessary to send the entire Ypsilanti delegation to China. This, as you might imagine, raised some questions, as it didn’t seem to make much sense that a student group would have that kind of money, or, for that matter, an interest in a Ypsilanti real estate, but the trip was booked. And, now, as I’m writing this, Mayor Amanda Edmonds, Mayor Pro Tem Nicole Brown, Police Chief Tony DeGiusti, and Economic Development Director Beth Ernat are in Beijing. [They left on September 21, and are scheduled to return October 2.]

3. Today, the Metro Times published a story in which a representative of the the Wayne State University Chinese Student and Scholar Association, through a WSU press officer, confirmed that the money used to fund the trip wasn’t theirs, but had been given to them by a representative of Amy Xue Foster’s International Village, LLC. This, if true, would indicate, of course, that the developer, perhaps with the knowledge of Ypsilanti officials, deliberately misled the public in order to circumvent the ethics rules noted above… As it turns out, though, things may not be that cut and dry. According to Ypsilanti City Council Member Pete Murdock, the money given to the Wayne State student group by representatives of International Village, LLC, may not have been the development group’s money after all, but money secured from the Chinese government through the Chinese consulate in Chicago. And, if that’s the case, I’m not certain what the legal implications might be. If I had to guess, I’d say that a trip like this, if funded by a foreign government, wouldn’t look as bad as a trip funded by the developer, who, in this case, would have a great deal to gain from wining and dining those members of City Council who would later be voting to sell the property and sign-off on the development plans, but I’m no lawyer. Either way, though, I think we’d probably all agree that it doesn’t look good.

All I can say is that, I hope, for the sake of my friends in Ypsi city government, that they were unaware of how all of this came to pass, and really believed that their tickets for China, accommodations, food and drink, etc, had been purchased by the Wayne State student group, as they told us at that late-night City Council meeting just before they left for Beijing. If not, I’m afraid this might not just kill the International Village development, but severely damage the City’s credibility with its citizens, and possibly even cut short a few careers.

Regardless of who knew, and when they knew it, can we all agree that this doesn’t look good for the developer, who clearly made the decision to deceive the public about the source of the funds, instead of just coming forward and saying that they had been secured from the Chinese consulate?

OK, so let’s assume that members of our City Council didn’t know that this Chinese student group was just being used as a front organization to pass funds though to the City in hopes of skirting ethics laws. I mean, I suppose it’s possible that they suspected something wasn’t right, and just chose to ignore the warning signs, as they didn’t want to offend the developer, and possibly jeopardize the project, but I can’t believe that they would have gone on the trip if they’d known for certain, especially considering that the Metro Times was already asking questions about the source of the funds before the plane even took off for China. So, assuming that they didn’t know, is it likely that anyone on City Council would now agree to move forward with this project, knowing that they’d been purposefully misled? As I said a few weeks ago, when we first discussed the possibility that we could have been lied to about the source of these funds, I’m thinking that “(this should) be enough to kill the deal outright.” I mean, I can’t imagine anyone on Council could cast their vote for the project after this, right?

OK, so that’s where we are as of right now… According to Tom Perkins, he’s reached out to the developer, and our city leaders currently in China, but none of them have yet come forward with comments. Let’s hope that, when they do, this doesn’t get even worse.

Here, for those of you who might still want more, is the Facebook post just shared by Pete Murdock.

And, here is a clip from the Metro Times about how they tracked down the finances of the Wayne State student group.

…That prompted a Sept. 18 email from Metro Times to WSU press officer Matt Lockwood. It inquired about the CSSA’s status and how it receives funds. Lockwood says that the CSSA is a university-sanctioned group, and it has two bank accounts, both of which are and have been nearly empty for several years.

During a Sept. 20 phone call, David Strauss, WSU’s dean of students, confirmed that the CSSA had no money in its accounts.

“We checked both accounts for this organization. They do not have the funds that they would have to have to pay for this kind of travel. Historically… there wasn’t a big deposit, or withdrawal, either,” he told Metro Times.

Strauss adds that student groups aren’t required to keep all funds in university accounts, and the university doesn’t closely monitor groups’ financial activities…

Metro Times then asked Lockwood to connect us with the student group because there is no contact information for it on WSU’s website or elsewhere. He wrote in a Sept. 22 email to Metro Times that a representative of the CSSA explained to him that the CSSA “was approached by International Village, LLC to help with a cultural exchange.”

“The student group agreed to purchase airline tickets for the trip with money from the company, and assist in providing some volunteers to help with the cultural exchange because the group’s goal is to teach people about Chinese culture,” Lockwood wrote in the email. “He said at the time they were approached that they were not aware of the [International Village] project in Ypsilanti.”…

And, if you still want more, you can check out my post from last week, where I laid out my major concerns about the International Village development.

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  1. Amber Fellows from Facebook 1
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    ACTION: call the city of Ypsi contracted attorney, Barr Anhut and associates to ask what steps they will take to investigate the city official’s violation of city charter. I called and let them know to expect a high call volume: 734-481-1234

  2. Amber Fellows from Facebook 2
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Got a call back and john Barr said they learned about this “yesterday” and are looking into it, and will report to the city manager and city council since they are contracted to represent council. When I asked about representing the people of Ypsilanti and how it seems a conflict to for Barr to be reporting to the folks that are under investigation, he said he reps the city via city council. I then stated it seems like the people of Ypsilanti may have to find outside representation and he said, “How are you going to pay for that?”

  3. Taco Farts
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    When the options are “ignorant or liar,” is one really better than the other when it comes to maintaining credibility?

  4. Posted September 27, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    At the very least, I’d say that this is just one more piece of evidence, regardless of whether or not any laws were actually broken, that this entire process needs to slow down.

  5. Councilwoman Beth Bashert by proxy
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    OK, we just got some disturbing reporting of the International Village trip to China that Mayor Edmonds, Mayor Pro-tem Brown, Chief DeGuisti, and Economic Developer Ernat are taking at this time.

    Our City Attorney is current conducting an investigation and I look forward to getting more information. Until then, I am holding off on judgement.

    There are several issues that I will be worried about related this regardless of what the investigation results are. Council was not given complete information about this trip, or the funding trajectory. These are indications of some potential issues that need to be addressed.

    If the investigation show that either ethical or negligence are an issue in any way related to this development or the trip to China, I will be strong in my response. Until then, I am waiting to learn more.

    Please let the attorney do his work, let’s get more information. Until then, I urge calm and patience. I assure you, I will personally follow up any problems that we uncover as much as necessary.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    The leadership and staff that swallowed the bait and got caught by the hook. They could be responsible for killing the only chance that Ypsi could have for a very long time to get a serious development on Water Street.

    Time for a regime change?

  7. Anonymous
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    “When the options are “ignorant or liar,” is one really better than the other when it comes to maintaining credibility?”

    Taco Farts hits the nail on the head

  8. Frank Underwood
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps it’s some deep House of Cards shit; an inside job, with someone getting the Chinese government to pay for it, knowing that they could then use it to get rid of the Edmonds administration. The question is, “Who’s our Frank Underwood?”

  9. K
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Our Frank Underwood is Steve Pierce. He’s not nearly as competent, though, judging from all of his failed campaigns.

  10. X
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Mark, can you text Tony and ask him to tape the conversation between Beth and Amanda right now?

  11. Lynne
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I have to say that this doesn’t inspire confidence in the developers of this project at the very least. I am inclined to give city officials the benefit of the doubt and go with ignorance, which I do consider to be MUCH better than lying. But dang. Government officials have to be extra careful about accepting gifts or trips!

  12. Anon
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Ypsi lives for this shit. Their masturbatory fantasy of eating their own before the facts are in is legend.

  13. Questions
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    What was the procedure to accept the trip in the first place? Sounds like a lack of due diligence on the parties who accepted this whether council or city manager or lawyers?

  14. Posted September 27, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Thus Far:
    * The Trip should have been paid for out of personal funds or no trip took at all.
    *This Development is likely as a result of the above not being done, as in will never happen.

    Regards of how everything else shakes out in the end.

  15. questions too electric boogaloo
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    If I had to guess, I’d say Beth and Amanda were so desperate to make this happen, and they felt so pushed by the artificial time constraints imposed by the developer, that they didn’t ask any questions when they were told that a student group had offered the money. My hunch is that they knew it didn’t add up, but they wanted to keep the project moving. As someone above said, the swallowed the bait and got the hook.

  16. Posted September 27, 2017 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Is anyone making the documentary yet? This is str8 outta Hollywood tho!

  17. wobblie
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    It seems like no problem since the Chinese Government paid for the trip. I am all in favor of our city being bought by the Chinese. China is awash in dollars. The rich have to recycle them some how. They have the money, the interest and evidently the need. They in fact seem to be the leading edge of the 21 century. Perhaps the Village could be solar for example, or have other hi-tech features that upper class Chinese have grown to expect, as well as a decent restaurant (since Hidden Dragon closed we only have mediocre).

    This is a non-scandal. I do appreciate the update. We have had so little local news recently

  18. JM
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    As a general supporter (still) of the International Village, the city needs to recognize it is so in over its head regarding this development and needs to contract outside legal counsel and support if they are to pursue further.

    Some small rate (no offense) local Ypsi lawyers on the city’s behalf, part-time council members who aren’t full-time politicians, and know-nothing when it comes to international development “Director of Economic Development” in Beth Ernat are so insanely in over their heads with this project.

    We’ve got a freshman squad playing against the varsity in the developers. We’ve already seen some surprises that should’ve been expected/avoided – like the sudden proposal of possible Brownfield credits, a lack of basic knowledge regarding the EB-5 visa program, etc. – with experienced help. Make their reimbursement part of the purchase agreement.

  19. ChrisG
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    And why in the hell is the POLICE CHIEF on this trip?

  20. Jean Henry
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I suggest the DAY folks contact the National Lawyers Guild to see if they can find pro-bono representation. I don’t know what the legal requirements are for City reps to do due diligence on funding for such trips, but my guess is it would be hard to prove fore-knowledge. Many people were asking how A student association could afford to pay for such a trip. I’m wondering who got the information about the true source and how. On WEMU I recall that they reported the city attorney reported the conflict. I also would like clarity on the proper role of the city attorney in such situations. Maybe Murph knows???
    This is bad. Period.

  21. Jean Henry
    Posted September 27, 2017 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Ack! I read your piece too quickly. Mark, You did good reporting on the source of the new information. Disregard above post except the lawyer part. Kudos to the metro times. Thank goodness there’s some decent local press coverage still.

  22. Dan
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I know lots of student groups from non-local universities that are willing to fund international trips.

    lol at anyone naive enough to believe that Amanda et al. didnt know what was going on.

  23. Jean Henry
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    There’s also the issue of Native American remains on the site. The city agreement with the developer states all work will stop ifvrenains are found. It doesn’t state what happens afterwards. I can’t imagine there’s much incentive for the developer to report any bodies uncovered. It’s not a question of if they are there. It seems they are there. Some plan should be in place and an agreement with the local tribe– Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi


  24. Citywatch
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Calm down people. There is already enough faux info and unverified information to go around just with the Village, let alone this trip. Robert Mueller is busy right now so let’s hold off on a layperson’s judgement at least until all of the parties concerned can assemble and try to put the pieces together.

  25. nick
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    international village, it’s a bad idea folks.

  26. Richard Murphy
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    The current proposal is financially better for the city than any other proposal ever put forward for the site, even the original plans.

    Imagine an alternative scenario – let’s say that, despite years of the community demanding the city get water street developed, the city let this potential opportunity fall through because nobody would travel to meet with the investors. There would be massive outcry at their negligence in declining to run down this opportunity.

    Obviously, the developer should not be paying for the trip, but that doesn’t mean no trip should have happened.

    (I will note that “financially better” does not necessarily mean I think this is the best proposal for the property and community – but I think there are many for whom financially best does mean best best)

  27. [anoynmous]
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Certain members of council are playing a game behind the scenes, and feeding information to the Metrotimes in hopes of either killing this deal or hurting the mayor politically. Regardless, this does not look good. As I understand it, everyone on council knew that the money was from the consulate and chose not to tell the pubic. If true, there should be consequences, regardless of whether or not it turns out to have been legal.

  28. [anonymous]
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    As they said, “It’s not the crime. It’s the coverup.”

  29. kjc
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    “Obviously, the developer should not be paying for the trip, but that doesn’t mean no trip should have happened.”

    the issue of transparency is kinda lost in here isn’t it? if no one can trust council to find out what they don’t know about this China trip, how can the community feel confident they’re doing due diligence regarding the development as a whole? i’d rather see humility than doubling down (or preaching patience to the people who uncovered the truth!). they need help.

  30. facebook stalker
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Con someone verify this?

    “The city attorney has hired a private investigator who is a retired state police detective”

  31. Sara
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    “the issue of transparency is kinda lost in here isn’t it? if no one can trust council to find out what they don’t know about this China trip, how can the community feel confident they’re doing due diligence regarding the development as a whole? i’d rather see humility than doubling down (or preaching patience to the people who uncovered the truth!). they need help.”

    EXACTLY, kjc. they should have gotten out in front of this by releasing a statement on the trip, its purpose, and why it was essential to go — regardless of confusion over the source of funding. from my perspective, the optics suggest that they’ve spent far more time listening to the developers than their own constituents. very disappointing.

  32. Jean Henry
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I agree with kjc. The city reps clearly feel a sense of urgency (which I understand given the very serious financial predicament of the city) to develop the property. It seems that to push it through within the allotted timeline, they both tried to limit public discourse AND failed to properly vet the project and the related trip on many levels. They have placed the entire project at risk by rushing it through. They have validated the fears of the resistance. I support IV (from a distance, and in large part from worry about what the financial consequences of not developing the property will be to the city and so, by extension, its most vulnerable residents.) but this stinks.

    I find myself (unusually) at odds with Murph on this one. I don’t think they should have gone on the trip. In fact I am not clear on why the trip was deemed necessary, funding or not. And I certainly think those going can reasonably be expected to do due diligence on the source of funding before going. That’s their ethical, if not legal, obligation as city reps. It’s absolutely right for the citizenry to demand a real explanation, point by point, action by action, about how this went down.

  33. Jean Henry
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I (maybe naively) expected Ypsi to be better than this. I care about Ypsi because I feel we lost Ann Arbor. And I feel Ann Arbor is responsible for the increasing demand and prices of housing in Ypsi. Many facets of Ypsi remind me of Ann Arbor 30 years ago, but, critically, the public conversation about affordability is on the front burner. What I want for Ypsi is thoughtful decision making that embraces economic reality AND listens to the voices of all stakeholders, especially those most vulnerable. I appreciate all the voices present. They all have been useful in providing dimension to the fears, realities and choices Ypsi faces. I’m rooting for your city.

    One of those stupid fb memory posts from a few years ago came up. In it I said “all the businesses with diverse ownership in Ann Arbor are being replaced with businesses with mission statements on diversity and inclusion.” Don’t become THAT place. Good intentions aren’t enough.

  34. Bob
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    We lost Ann Arbor? I don’t think Ann Arbor looked all that much like Ypsi. Even thirty years ago.

  35. Pete Murdock
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Facebook Stalker – Your statement was in quotes. What was the source.
    “The city attorney has hired a private investigator who is a retired state police detective”

  36. Jean Henry
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Bob– I said ‘many facets of Ypsi remind me of Ann Arbor 30 years ago.’ I could expand upon that but then you would complain about my boring, lengthy posts. Most of my friends and co-workers from Ann Arbor at that time through the present have become Ypsi residents. But that’s only a small piece of it.

  37. kjc
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    part of the problem is all these people are friends. so then they’re vouching for people based on their personal relationships. it’s all cliquish and annoying (and leaves people out). meanwhile, i’m reading this post, from our self-described “ypsi real estate guy”, who as far as i know DIDN’T GROW UP HERE. This is the kind of dumb shit people are up against in this town:

    “Hey Ypsi,

    Here are my feelings on all the “need more affordable housing” and “gentrification” talk.

    These voices are not of the people of Ypsilanti and simply dont speak for us.

    If these indviduals want to become “us” then you actually have to know “us” and this requires time, effort, intention and commitment.

    And until you become “us” then please dont speak for “us” if you want the right to speak for “us” with any amount of creditably that requires that you humble yourself and be a servant and a listener.

    Looking at statistics and basing your voice on your individual experience and some numbers you see on a website is simply insulting.

    So I for one just want to say “speak for yourself” when it comes to these subjects. You can speak for “us” when you show your commitment and ability to be a servant and an listener, until then shhhhhhhhhh”

    here, he’ll simplify:

    “What I am saying is simply this, in order to gain a true perspective on any issue it requires you to truly understand the issue beyond numbers, and beyond your individual experience. This is true for all things, this is why many universities exist just to do research. To understand anything and give a voice to it requires commitment and understanding anything besides that can only be seen as ones “opinion”, and to broadcast your option and a whole truth is really risky behavior, do you agree?

    if you still don’t get it:

    “I guess what I am saying is simply this, what is the motive, if the motive was based on stories of people that have lived here for a long time, contributed to the fabric of the community and en masse were suddenly losing housing and having to move away that would be one thing. The way I interpret the messages however is that the motivating factor of the articles were some lower middle class 20 somethings rents going up a bit. Maybe I am wrong, but I dont think that I am. And if one were to be truly advocating for the previous contingency then the stories.”

    typos preserved to complement his shitty ass thinking. he should just give up and write promotional material for Defend Affordable Ypsilanti.

  38. kjc
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    truly some pathological shit. if you’re going to do business in this community, and co-opt it with your own self-serving moniker, then you better not start talking about who is “us” and who isn’t.

  39. kjc
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    i also happen to know that someone from the Native community has emailed Amanda about the potential desecration and removal of remains from this site and is waiting to hear back. That issue won’t go under the rug either. (This person doesn’t personally know Amanda or any of the others involved, so i don’t know if she counts as one of ‘us” but i guess we’ll see.)

  40. Quinn Phillips
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Pete: I spoke to the city attorney Mr. Barr by phone today. He told me that he hired a private investigator who is a retired Michigan state police detective to look into the matter. He could not tell me more about the investigator due to confidentiality. Mr. Barr could not or would not clarify if it was the Chinese government who funded the trip directly or if the developers behind international Village were involved in handling the money. The person who posted above was quoting me.

  41. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Ypsi will be fine. Ypsi just needs to somehow find a negotiated midpoint between real financial collapse and the ideal ethical community,as it is imagined, in pure thought, by the beautiful souls of the community.

  42. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    hip+ ethical+ (E.T. phone home) +imagined + community= hipeth(e.t.)ical community


  43. Tommy
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Jeezus this thread is getting out of control. Taking this trip is – at best – unethical. Believing that this trip was paid for by a student group is – at best – idiotic.

    Still doesn’t mean that developing this cursed piece of land (toxic dump with possible Native American remains that is bankrupting the city – did I miss something) and potentially getting some money flowing into the city’s tax rolls is wrong.

    After the Chinese use it as their front operation for fast tracking obtaining ‘green cards’, I am sure that the citizens and those that represent them can find some use for this gem.

    From the outside looking in – I believe that this is your last best chance of polishing this turd.

  44. Lynne
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Yeah. FF is right. We will be ok and we will find the midpoint between fiscal reality and idealism.

    I find the issue of who “us” is to be interesting. Wouldn’t everyone who lives in Ypsilanti be considered “us” in terms of this discussion?

  45. Dave Strenski
    Posted September 28, 2017 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    So let’s say they come back and agree to pay for the trip. Would they reemburse the student group for the trip?

  46. wambulance
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Here come the concern trolls. “OMG I CANNOT WITH THIS THREAD!”

    Tommy, I’d argue that a lot of the “agitators” agree with you that we’ve got to do something with this land. Fact of the matter is, a development of this size warrants our attention — and an aim to get some community benefits out of it. But for the Mayor and City Council to have gone on this trip without thinking that perhaps it looked a little unethical — can you blame anyone for being a little miffed, and curious if that kind of poor judgment makes them qualified to pull this entire thing off?

  47. Deep City
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Here’s what I think they’ll say… 1. We knew the money was being passed through the student group, so we looked into it. 2. We discovered that it came from the Chinese consulate. 3. We ran it by our city attorney. 4. He said it was legal. 5. So we went on the trip. 5. In retrospect we should have told the public, but nothing illegal happened. 6. This is only an issue because Pete and Brian, working through Tom Perkins, are making it an issue.

  48. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    The actuality of one group’s poor judgment hinges upon whether or not another group of people are a “little miffed” and “curious” about the first group’s judgment?

  49. Jcp2
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Maybe the lesson being learned here is that small cities with limited resources don’t have the talent and resources to be successful at large scale real estate development on their own. Water Street, res ipsa loquitur.

  50. Deep City
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The current population of Ypsilanti is estimated at about 21,000, and the IV development would add 1,600 units, which would, at capacity, probably house close to 2,000 people. Has any forecasting been done by the city to show how this increase might effect traffic or public services?

  51. Quinn Phillips
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Deep City: if the city attorney told them it was legal he would not be hiring a private investigator to look into it. Unless he’s trying to cover his own ass

  52. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Are you sure “the matter” being looked into is the trip to China and not the can of peas Morgan Freeman may or may not have stolen from Miss Daisy?

    Sorry. It sounds crazy to me. Maybe I am stupid.

    Seriously though, do you think that someone may have been hired to investigate other aspects of a proposed project and not the trip?

  53. Quinn Phillips
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Frosted Flakes: I spoke to the city attorney and he explicitly said the investigation was related to the funding of the trip to China. He told council in an email (before WSU supposedly offered to pay) that if the investors paid for the trip directly it would be unethical and illegal. The email has been made public.

  54. Quinn Phillips
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Let me be clear, while I am deeply opposed to the international village proposal, my interest in any perceived scandal is that citizens have been calling for transparency and fighting to have public meetings on the issue. To have some apparent proof that we had reasons to be skeptical about this China trip feels vindicating, but it’s not personal animosity towards city government employees. I feel like people personalize small-town politics in a way that makes criticism seem like attacks on individuals.

  55. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink


    If we assume the developer is the ultimate source of the funds but that the representatives were not aware of the source, then wouldn’t everyone still be supportive of the taking of the trip? A potential opportunity needs to be investigated by the representatives of Ypsi. Need a trip. Got a trip.

    The *urgency* of wanting to know the true source of the funds seems odd. I wonder what is behind the urgency.

  56. kjc
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    it seems odd you ask questions already answered in the Metro Times article. like duh ethical considerations.

    “City officials considered accepting the trip, but city attorney Barr wrote in a May 24 email obtained by Metro Times that accepting the trip would be unethical and illegal.

    “Members of city council have traveled overseas in the past, but only at their own cost,” Barr wrote. “If a city employee or mayor or council member wanted to go to China, it would be OK if they paid for it themselves, but if the developer paid, it would be unethical and illegal under the city code.”

    The city code to which Barr referred – Sec. 46-75. Offering gifts, loans, contributions, etc., for influence – was included in the memo.

    Council Member Dan Vogt, who is a private attorney (though he does not practice municipal law), wrote in response, “I agree it would not be ethical if they or someone on their behalf paid. I also am not clear why it would be useful.”

    but you’re just trolling i realize.

  57. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I get that.

    One of us is missing something.

    If the representatives didn’t know the true source of the funds, and the source proves to be from the developers ultimately, then you would still be against the trip, KJC?

    There are people in Ypsi (decided and undecided on the development) who want the trip to gather info, no?

    You are against the development, yes?


  58. wobblie
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Why does everyone assume the money came from the Developers rather than the Chinese Government? The Developers may only have been a conduit for the Government. Just as our Government goes out of its way to help our rich and powerful, why wouldn’t the Chinese? When Boeing wants to sell planes in a foreign country our Government wines and dines the prospective customer and does all it can to help facilitate the deal. Why do folks thing it is any different with other more successful capitalist countries?

  59. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Maybe your mayor felt like this was a trip that *must* be taken because of the doomsday financial realities that have been looming over your town for over a decade? I mean, is it unreasonable to assume that the feeling was the trip *must* be taken– to preserve the chance of a potentially “town saving” deal–the only real chance that has been presented to post water street Ypsi ever? And if something *must* be done, then don’t you figure out a way to do that thing–even if it means, as it might mean here, turning a blind eye to the legal loophole you are walking through?

    As many respectable posters have pointed out: The deal is weird. I wish it was more straightforward and clearcut for you guys but it just isn’t. Your Mayor either did something illegal or not. The only thing seemingly transparent in this whole thing, to me, is the people (who also seem to be acting in accord with their personal agendas) scurring like rats squeaking about “ethical considerations” like it should be considered the end of the world.

    Yeah, it is great to give a minor critique on the way the mayor handled the explanation of the trip to the people. It was not handled right but I don’t get the sense that this is about a minor critique of your mayor. I get the sense that this is about a group of people or groups of people who just want to get their way (power) which is to kill any chance of a deal they don’t like (power).

    Am I wrong? I really don’t know. I am on the outside and yet it still seems kind of obvious….I might very well be wrong though…..

  60. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 7:58 pm | Permalink


    I am not sure the facts matter here. People seem to be seizing real power by way of rumor and innuendo disguised as “ethical considerations” for the purposes of gaining power for themselves and their buddies. That is my feeling, but I might be totally wrong, I am really an outsider looking in and I am very late to the issue.

  61. NormalScott
    Posted September 30, 2017 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    I agree with you and complete it with this thought: your comment reminds of me of what people have told me about what Ann Arbor had become 20 years ago.

    I believe Michigan, and specifically my dear Ypsilanti and the Michigan Avenue Coridor, are facing a very real opportunity here, a crossroads.
    Many significant/staggering decisions are being deliberated and made that will affect effect Ypsi for the foreseeable future and beyond. I do agree that the need for patience and perspective is vital now. I also believe that sprinting to train for a marathon is unwise. I hope all opinions and decisions are based out of heart and not just our wallets.

    No one wants Ypsi to be more successful than me. I ate at the Spaghetti Bender with my parents, remember where you can catch a Grey Hound, have called her home for 24 years, and graduated from Eastern.

    This article has inspired a lot of assumption and hindsight. I believe that all of us have the best interest of our town at heart, and I hope we ALL remember that when we listen to others.

    I plan on dying here, and that’s gonna be a while. I wanna make sure we leave Ypsi a little better than we found it.

  62. kjc
    Posted September 30, 2017 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    FF yeah you seem really wrong. But most people commenting on what they admittedly know nothing about would probably sound that way. Maybe when you “get the sense” you should question it.

    Or not. Idle speculation is fun for non-stake-holders. Beth admits above that council was not given complete information. Somebody misrepresented something. I’m glad we willl find out who and what. Seems kind of important to know who to trust.

  63. kjc
    Posted September 30, 2017 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Not that a developer’s business practices should be considered.


  64. Sad
    Posted September 30, 2017 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I’m confused by this.

    Aren’t the Mayor etc. in China to convince the investors to invest in the city? Aren’t they in China to represent and promote the city? Shouldn’t the city be paying for their trip? Who pays for all of Snyders trips to China?

    Or are the investors trying to bribe the city representatives into voting yes? Are they wining and dining them, housing them in luxury hotels and showing them the time of their lives in hope of winning their support?

    Which is it?

  65. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 30, 2017 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Keeping packard square in mind is a good thing! People close to Packard Square predicted (actually guarenteed) that was going to happen years ago, based upon real knowledge of the parties involved years ago,before the project was proposed years ago, as ground was broke, and after the bull shit shell of a building story was erected behind all the fantasyland designed signs attached to the fense along Packard. Reasons were being spoke.

    Are you prepared to say the same kind of things about your mayor that people were saying about people behind that project 5 years ago? Because I can tell you this I wasn’t hearing things like I am hearing now: “oh dear heavens ethical improprieties may have potentially occurred”.

    Of course you guys should try to figure out if the mayor broke the law. What hinges on that discovery? I like the fallback strategy how she must have poor judgment, and not trusted with the project, because a person with good judgment would have known how this must look even if it is not discovered to be illegal. “How this must look”? Oh dear heavens.

    Just a stab in the dark from someone who is always wrong: KJC does not like the project. Yes or no?

  66. ypsidoodledandy
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm. This is really interesting.

    The City apparently contracts out the City staff attorney function—does this mean the contracted attorney has all the same rights and responsibilities an actual staff attorney would have? And what rights and responsibilities would a staff attorney have?

    In particular, would a staff attorney have the right, and/or the responsibility, to investigate the conduct of elected officials of the city and/or their staff? THAT would be awesome. I have two other instances of potential misconduct I would like investigated:

    –Did the Mayor violate any open records laws or city rules by her effort to keep secret a letter to the City from a state agency (the MHSDA I think it was). The letter was about pollution at Water Street and the impact of that on development opportunities, so not a trivial matter—the Mayor, you’ll recall, hand-delivered copies to each Council member at their homes—we don’t know with what instructions (the letter was subsequently leaked). Her intent seemed to be to keep this letter out of the normal internal stream of City business, which would presumably have prevented the letter from being subject to FOIA type requests.

    –Did the City abuse the taxing authority they employed to put in the LED streetlights? I don’t know the legalities, but broadly speaking, that authority seems to require—before—implementation, that a discernable financial benefit to the citizens be identified, and since the City did not know what rate it would be paying for LED electricity from DTE, I don’t see how the City could prove they had such a benefit identified prior to implementing this tax.

  67. ypsidoodledandy
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    As far as the merits of the China trip, it seems if the trip had a legitimate public purpose—to benefit the City—it should have been paid for by the City—after proper vetting and approvals. And if it couldn’t stand that scrutiny, it should not have happened.

    I understand deadlines and pressure, etc., but that is where good judgement is required of the City leaders.

    It is hard to evaluate, whether the trip would meet the “benefit the City proportionate to the cost” test, since I can’t tell, what the stated goals of the trip were, or what activities they engaged in while there. It is certainly possible they went to try to secure more funding, or perhaps Chinese business customs require that already commited funders be met in person, etc.

    Why the police chief would go I don’t know—other than perhaps a perk doled out by the mayor to strengthen her relationship with the chief?

    The cost of the trip is not the only cost we are paying—we are also paying salaries etc. for that time period for the two city employees, and we pay $125 per week to the elected officials, 52 weeks a year. Perhaps the chief should be required to use vacation time for his 10 days or so away from the job.

  68. Sad
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Now that the opposition to the project and DAY are raising money it will be interesting to see how transparent they are with who is funding them. The plot thickens.

  69. Jen
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the thorough updates as always! This is… Interesting, to say the least.

  70. uptown funk
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    No doubt the city folk will kill the only chance we have of getting water Street developed. The group that wants to get rid of it will use this as an excuse to do so. Pete and Brian will use this as a political tool, Lois will join in. We will lose out again as taxpayers. Water Street will never have affordable on it as MISDA has already said they will not put our most vulnerable people on that polluted piece of shit so people need to get over that one .

    Who cares who paid for the trip as long as the city didn’t. This trip needed to happen so that this group could report back to the citizens on what this project is really about. The entire city Council knew the trip was happening and did nothing to investigate it further. I have a feeling that one councilmember contacted Tom Perkins to do a story and investigate it after they have left for the trip. How convenient and how political. This smells like Hillary’s emails. Much to do about nothing. Let the mud slinging begin

  71. Ypsi city manager Darwin McClary by proxy
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    “I have authorized the City Attorney to engage the services of Plato Law Firm of Farmington Hills, Michigan, to serve as special counsel to complete an investigation into the China trip in accordance with the firm’s proposal and as directed by council on October 3, 2017. Once the investigation is completed, a full report will be presented to council.”

  72. Rick
    Posted April 6, 2018 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    The investigation has been completed and Beth Ernat has been fired.


  73. EOS
    Posted April 6, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    No, that’s insufficient. Barr told them before they left that accepting the tickets was both “unethical and illegal”. The four persons who traveled need to be charged and tried in court.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] to talk about it. Mayor Amanda Edmonds, who just last night returned from 10-day trip to China, which may or may not have been paid for by the developer of the International Village project, in vi…, said that, while she gleaned “invaluable” insights on the trip, she was just too tired […]

  2. […] [If you feel like you still want more, check out these previous posts on the International Village development; My thoughts on International Village, With the Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem having left the room, Ypsi City Council votes unanimously to pursue a formal investigation into their recent trip to China, Who really paid for Ypsilanti city officials to visit China?] […]

  3. […] has blogged about this issue four times and has done a great job summarizing this COMPLEX issue, and, as always, has not been afraid to state the obvious […]

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