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DETROIT A debate over how to deal with Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his text-messaging sex scandal that has enveloped the already struggling city for months came to a head Tuesday when the City Council took the rare step of approving two measures aimed at removing Kilpatrick from office.
Council members voted 5-4 to begin forfeiture of office proceedings against Kilpatrick. On a separate 5-4 vote, they approved asking Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to terminate Kilpatrick's hold on the mayor's office.
A third vote to censure the mayor passed on a 7-2 vote.
Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams called the forfeiture vote "another meaningless gesture on their part."
"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."
But the moves were jeopardized by a potential change of heart by council member JoAnn Watson, a swing voter who initially approved all three measures.
The council agreed to reconvene later Tuesday afternoon after Watson requested that her vote be reconsidered.
The relationship between the council and the mayor's office was strained even before revelations earlier this year that he may have misled them to approve an $8.4 million whistle-blowers' settlement.
Council members say they were unaware of a confidentiality agreement that Kilpatrick signed that kept secret references to intimate and sexually explicit text messages between the mayor and former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty.
Excerpts of those messages were published in January by the Detroit Free Press and contradicted testimony Kilpatrick and Beatty gave during the whistle-blowers' trial, when they denied having a romantic relationship.
The Wayne County prosecutor's office charged the two 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.
State law allows the governor to remove an elected official from office for a number of reasons, including official misconduct, willful neglect of duty or a felony conviction.
A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with a Granholm spokeswoman. The governor has said she wants to allow the legal process to play out.
The council's move to start forfeiture of office proceedings against Kilpatrick 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.
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.
Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com