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Detroit emergency manager strips pay, power from council head

(Reuters) - Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr on Thursday stripped City Council President Charles Pugh of his pay and authority after Pugh missed two council meetings and said he would be away on medical leave for up to four weeks.

“Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr today issued an order eliminating the pay and removing authority to conduct city business for Council President Charles Pugh, who has been absent from Council,” Orr’s spokesman Bill Nowling said in a statement.

Orr had ordered Pugh to return to his $77,000-a-year job by the end of the business day Wednesday or resign.

No one at Pugh’s office was immediately available for comment.

Pugh will be paid through July 7. He will keep his health care benefits “until he leaves office on December 31 at the end of his term unless further hastened by any subsequent order by the emergency manager,” Orr’s spokesman Nowling said.

The city’s emergency manager was appointed by Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, in March to tackle Detroit’s massive debt of some $18.5 billion.

Two members of the City Council have also announced plans to leave after the end of this week. Their departures and Pugh’s loss of authority will bring the council down to six acting members.

Mayor Dave Bing has announced he will not seek re-election this year.

While Orr’s powers as emergency manager mean that he is the ultimate authority in the city, Bing and the City Council still run the city day to day. The loss of several members will make it difficult for the council to conduct business.

At full strength, the City Council has nine members. They were elected to four-year terms in 2009. The entire council is up for re-election this year.

Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Jan Paschal