Darnell Earley

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Darnell Earley
Natural Resources Commissioner
In office
May 3, 2005 – December 31, 2008
GovernorJennifer Granholm
ConstituencyMichigan Department of Natural Resources
Emergency Manager
In office
January 2015 – February 29, 2016
Preceded byRoy Roberts
Succeeded bySteven Rhodes
ConstituencyDetroit Public Schools
Emergency Manager
In office
September 2013 – January 2015
Preceded byMichael Brown
Succeeded byJerry Ambrose
ConstituencyCity of Flint
City Manager
In office
June 6, 2006 – September 2013
Preceded byCecil A. Collins, Jr.
ConstituencyCity of Saginaw
Temporary Mayor of the City of Flint
In office
March 5, 2002 – August 6, 2002
Preceded byWoodrow Stanley
Succeeded byJames W. Rutherford
ConstituencyCity of Flint
City Administrator
In office
Succeeded byPeggy Cook
ConstituencyCity of Flint
Personal details
Spouse(s)Sandra Faye (White) (d. August 12, 2003)[1]
Alma mater
Occupationpublic administration

Darnell Earley is an American public administrator and municipal manager. Formerly the city manager of Saginaw, Michigan and emergency manager of Flint, Michigan, Earley served as temporary mayor of Flint after the recall of Woodrow Stanley. Earley was appointed emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools system in January 2015. He resigned that position in February 2016.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Earley was born to James and Earlie Mae Earley and was one of nine children. He grew up in Muskegon Heights, Michigan.[1]

Earley graduated from Muskegon Heights High School in 1969 and earned an associate's degree from Muskegon Community College in 1975.[1][5] He then earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Grand Valley State University and a Master of Public Administration degree from Western Michigan University.[2]


Early career[edit]

Earley was director of community development at the Urban League of Greater Muskegon from 1978–1981.[2] Later, he worked at Muskegon County as an assistant to the county administrator and equal employment opportunity officer until 1986.[2] In 1985, Earley was appointed township manager in Saginaw County's Buena Vista Charter Township.[2] Lewis Dodak, speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, then named Earley as director of research and public policy for the House Democratic Caucus, and he served in this post from 1988 to 1992.[2] From 1993 to 2001, Earley served as Ingham County budget director and deputy controller.[2]

In April 2001, Earley was appointed the city administrator of Flint, Michigan.[2] After the recall of the Mayor Woodrow Stanley, Earley became temporary mayor from March 5 to August 6, 2002.[2] Part of his term was under an emergency financial manager, Edward J. Kurtz. He continued as city administrator under James W. Rutherford until July 2004.[2]

In August 2004, Earley became deputy city manager and interim director of fiscal services for the City of Saginaw.[2] In September 2005, Earley was appointed interim city manager of Saginaw, and in June 2006 was appointed city manager, remaining in that position until 2013.[2]

Earley was paid an annual salary of $110,000 for his work in Saginaw under a contract that went into effect in 2005, but in a controversial addendum to Earley's employment contract with the City of Saginaw appointed by the City Council in May 2011, the city agreed to give lifetime health insurance and life insurance benefits to Earley.[6][7] In 2015, Saginaw city councilman Michael Balls proposed rescinding this benefit, arguing that it was a "travesty" to give lifetime insurance for six years of city employment.[7]

On May 3, 2005, Earley was appointed to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission by Governor Jennifer Granholm, for a term expiring on December 31, 2008.[8] On September 30, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed a state eight-member review team for City of Flint including Earley.[9]

Emergency manager roles[edit]

Earley remained with the City of Saginaw served until he was appointed emergency manager (EM) for Flint in October 2013, succeeding Michael Brown.[10] Earley served in that post from September 2013 until January 2015. Under Earley's leadership, the city separated from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and joined the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA), a new regional water authority. The decision to join the KWA was made under then-Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz, and approved by then-State Treasurer Andy Dillon.[11]

The water supply switched to the Flint River on April 25, 2014. This decision resulted in lead poisoning to the city, in what became known as the Flint water crisis. Some critics say that Flint's decision to join the KWA ultimately "put the city on course to draw water from the Flint River," while supporters of the KWA "reject that version of events and ... stress that the decision to break from the Detroit water system was separate from the later choice of tapping the Flint River as a temporary water source."[11]

In October 2015, Earley said that he was not to blame for the decision, saying that the decision had been made before his term in office and that "It did not fall to me to second-guess or to invalidate the actions that were taken prior to my appointment."[12]

Earley was appointed to be EM for Detroit Public Schools on January 13, 2015,[13] the city's fourth consecutive EM in six years.[14] At the time of Earley's appointment, the school system had a budget deficit of almost $170 million and faced rapidly declining enrollment.[14] The state Democratic Party called for Earley to be fired from this post in October 2015, citing his tenure in Flint and that city's water crisis.[12]

Earley frequently clashed with the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) union. In December 2015 and January 2016, a series of organized teacher sickouts (which Earley condemned as "misguided" and illegal strikes) took place in the school system.[15][16] In January 2016, the DFT sued DPS in state court, alleging that "the DPS and Darnell Earley have let the fiscal situation and the environmental conditions of the schools to deteriorate so severely that Detroit is not providing a minimally sufficient education." The teachers asked a judge to remove Earley as EM.[17]

Earley announced his resignation on February 2, 2016 (effective February 29), after allegations were raised in the media about inaccurate reports sent to the state capitol claiming that more highly-paid administrator positions had been eliminated than really were.[18] Jim Ananich, Democrat representing Flint, and the state Senate minority leader, said: "For the sake of the kids, Earley needed to go."[19] The DFT hailed Earley's resignation, saying: "As emergency manager, Earley has shown a willful and deliberate indifference to our schools' increasingly unsafe and unhealthy conditions, and a blatant disrespect for the teachers, school employees, parents and students of our city."[20]

In November 2015, Earley was one of fourteen officials named as defendants in a class action lawsuit brought in federal court by Flint residents. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleges that "Defendants' conduct in exposing Flint residents to toxic water was so egregious and so outrageous that it shocks the conscience" and that "For more than 18 months, state and local government officials ignored irrefutable evidence that the water pumped from the Flint River exposed (users) to extreme toxicity." Along with Earley, Governor Snyder, former Flint mayor Dayne Walling, former Flint EM Jerry Ambrose, and others were named as defendants.[21]

In early February 2016, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the United States House of Representatives issued a subpoena to Earley to testify before the committee on the situation in Flint, but Earley's counsel said that he would be unavailable to appear.[22]

On December 20, 2016, Michigan's attorney general Bill Schuette announced criminal charges of false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses, willful neglect of duty, and misconduct in office against Earley for his role in the Flint water crisis.[23] Earley was arraigned on December 21, 2016.[24]

On June 14, 2017, Michigan's attorney general Bill Schuette announced a further charge of involuntary manslaughter due to the events that took place under his watch in the Flint Water Crisis [25]

Memberships, affiliations, and awards and honors[edit]

Earley served as president of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in 2009 to 2010[1] and is an ICMA Credentialed Manager.[2] Earley is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, and a former member of the National Association of County Administrators.[2] Earley received the Western Michigan University School of Public Affairs and Administration's Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award in 2011.[2] He received Muskegon Community College's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Earley is an ordained Baptist deacon.[3]

Throughout his tenure in Flint and the Detroit Public Schools, Earley has lived in Delta Township, Michigan.[1]

Earley was married to Sandra Faye (White) Earley, a former teacher and principal in Muskegon Heights Public Schools.[26] She died in August 2003.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dave Alexander, Muskegon native Darnell Earley leads international group, MLive (March 7, 2010).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Office of the Emergency Manager: About Darnell Earley Archived 2016-06-25 at the Wayback Machine, Detroit Public Schools (accessed January 9, 2016).
  3. ^ a b Mark Bashore, Emergency Mgr Darnell Earley defends Flint role, Detroit schools plan, WKAR (November 2, 2015).
  4. ^ Bosman, Julie (2 February 2016). "Flint's Former Manager Resigns as Head of Detroit Schools". New York Times. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  5. ^ a b Darnell Earley Named 2015 Distinguished Alumnus, Muskegon Community College (March 3, 2015).
  6. ^ Mark Tower, Saginaw City Manager Darnell Earley's $110,000 employment contract with retiree benefits, MLive (January 31, 2013).
  7. ^ a b Mark Tower, Saginaw councilman: Void Darnell Earley's lifetime health benefits, MLive (February 3, 2015, updated February 4, 2015).
  8. ^ Governor Appointments: Natural Resources Commission, Michigan Senate (accessed January 9, 2015).
  9. ^ Longley, Kristin (September 30, 2011). "Gov. Snyder appoints team to review Flint's finances under emergency manager law, requests report within 30 days". The Flint Journal. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  10. ^ New Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley to take over after Michael Brown resigns, The Flint Journal via MLive.com (September 11, 2013).
  11. ^ a b Jim Lynch, Ex-Detroit official reignites Flint water switch tiff, Detroit News (January 26, 2016).
  12. ^ a b Ron Fonger, Ex-emergency manager says he's not to blame for Flint River water switch, MLive (October 13, 2015, updated October 27, 2015).
  13. ^ "Jerry Ambrose named Flint's fourth emergency manager as Darnell Earley heads to Detroit". The Flint Journal. Mlive Media Group. January 13, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Sarah Cwiek, From Flint to Detroit: Darnell Earley to take over as Detroit Public Schools emergency manager, Michigan Radio (January 14, 2015).
  15. ^ Lori Higgins, DPS emergency manager decries 'misguided' sickouts, Detroit Free Press (January 7, 2016).
  16. ^ Gus Burns, Opponent yells at Detroit schools EM Darnell Earley: 'Nobody wants you here', MLive (January 25, 2016).
  17. ^ Dave Bartkowiak, Detroit teachers union sues DPS, asks for EM Darnell Earley's removal, WDIV-TV (January 28, 2016).
  18. ^ Kim Russell, EM for Detroit schools asked tough questions about deplorable conditions, top pay for execs, WXYZ-TV (January 26, 2016).
  19. ^ Ann Zaniewski, DPS emergency manager Darnell Early to step down, Detroit Free Press (February 2, 2016).
  20. ^ Dave Bartkowiak, Detroit Public Schools EM Darnell Earley resigns from position, WDIV (February 2, 2016).
  21. ^ Ron Fonger, Class action lawsuit claims Snyder, Flint put water cost above safety, MLive (November 16, 2015).
  22. ^ Bosman, Julie (2 February 2016). "Flint's Former Manager Resigns as Head of Detroit Schools". New York Times. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  23. ^ Egan, Paul (20 December 2016). "Emergency managers, city officials charged in Flint water crisis". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  24. ^ Anderson, Elisha (21 December 2016). "Former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley arraigned". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  25. ^ http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/michigan/flint-water-crisis/2017/06/14/flint-water/102838154/
  26. ^ Obituary in Lansing (Mich.) State Journal, August 14, 2003
Political offices
Preceded by
Woodrow Stanley
Mayor of Flint
March 5, 2002 – August 6, 2002
Succeeded by
James W. Rutherford