DETROIT - Detroit city council put aside more than three months of internal bickering yesterday and narrowly approved the first step toward removing Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who faces perjury and other charges related to explicit text messages sent to a former aide.
A packed council chambers hushed as the nine council members cast their votes on a measure to ask Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to step in and remove Mr. Kilpatrick for misconduct - something the governor has said she is unwilling to do while the criminal case proceeds.
It passed 5-4 on a roll-call vote.
Within minutes, council again voted 5-4 to begin forfeiture-of-office proceedings against Mr. Kilpatrick.
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," Mr. Adams said. "This goes well past where they need to be. He was elected by the voters of Detroit, not by the council."
Councilman Sheila Cockrel said the group simply did what many residents have been asking since excerpts of sexually explicit text messages between Mr. Kilpatrick and former Chief of Staff Christine
Beatty were published in January and a confidentiality agreement referring to those text messages and linked to a whistleblowers' settlement was made known.
"There are a lot of people whose position to me has been whatever it takes, we need to get the city moving forward," Ms. Cockrel said.
"In order to do that, as tragic as it is, this enormously talented, gifted, charismatic politician, who cannot accept responsibility and will not operate within the frame of the rule of law, has got to go.
"That's what people here say to me on a regular basis. 'When are you guys going to do something?' We've done it here today."
Ms. Watson told reporters in her office that she was given a note that led her to believe Mr. Kilpatrick may have been considering an earlier request she personally made asking him to step down.
"The best scenario out of all this challenge is for the mayor to resign," she said.
But Dan Webb, one of Mr. Kilpatrick's attorneys, said the mayor has had no intention of voluntarily leaving the office he's held for six years.
The Wayne County prosecutor's office charged Mr. Kilpatrick and Ms. 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 Mr. Kilpatrick to resign.
Forfeiture proceedings could end up in court and be costly, presenting yet another burden for the cash-strapped city.