A leadership vacuum is threatening to undo this town

At this point, you have to wonder: Is the hiring of Erik Tungate as the city’s Acting City Manager dead in the water?

Some mighty weird things have been unfolding in city hall, and it’s not adding up to a vote of confidence for Tungate.

We have nothing against Tungate, and wish him only the best.

But it’s become increasingly clear that even his supporters, Councilmembers Abdul Algazali, Tom Jankowski and Mohammed Hassan, are getting cold feet over hiring him. The councilmembers have refused to show up for two special meetings this week to vote on Tungate’s contract, or at least that was the case when we went to press on Thursday.

Stranger yet, those three councilmembers failed to make a motion to sign the contract at last week’s city council meeting, thus leaving Tungate just hanging out there in limbo.

This is nothing short of a failure in leadership, and they should be ashamed for ducking out on this issue.
Either you support the guy or you don’t.

Tungate is still coming to work each day, and making decisions and doing who knows what else. You have to wonder if Tungate working without a contract poses a liability to the city, and whether he has the authority to allocate funds and make any other decisions.

For example, our understanding is that Tungate has “rescinded” the firing of City Attorney James Allen this week. Does Tungate have the authority to do that? And if city officials want to question the legal basis of bringing back the city attorney, who do they turn to for a legal opinion?

And what should we make of the proposed contract with Tungate that lists Allen as his employer? Is there a conflict of interest here?

Again, who do we turn to for a legal opinion?

What a mess.

Complicating this matter is the fact that Tungate, a former Director of Economic Development for Hamtramck, has absolutely no experience as a city manager.

He doesn’t even come close to the basic requirements for the job that are spelled out in the city charter.

Again, who do we turn to for a legal opinion on that? Jim Allen? The guy who was rehired by Tungate and is Tungate’s potential employer?

On top of all this, it has come to light that Tungate is facing a felony charge of assault against his ex-girlfriend stemming from an incident last September while they were at Mackinac Island.

It should be stated that Tungate is innocent until proven guilty, and that he has denied the charge, and stresses that the charge is without foundation.

But having said that, is this the time to have someone run the city while he is facing a serious felony charge?

Furthermore, in light of recent events in which two Hamtramck women were kidnapped and later murdered, and in another incident three women were carjacked and sexually assaulted, does it make sense to hire someone who is charged with assaulting a woman?

At the very least it appears pretty insensitive.

What is even more distressing is that Mayor Karen Majewski has admitted she knew of the charge facing Tungate, but still insists he is the best candidate for the job. Tungate is a political supporter of Majewski, and it’s the mayor’s right to support whoever she wants for the job.

We have to ask the mayor, though: Why is Tungate so special? He has no experience as a city manager, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is a political liability.

Why can’t Hamtramck hire an experienced city manager on a temporary basis while a search is on for a permanent one?

Hamtramck is facing a critical financial crisis that could lead to payless paydays for city employees and an eventual takeover by a state-appointed emergency financial manager.

Now is no time for someone inexperienced to take on the job as city manager.

When it was proposed to hire a temporary city manager from a list of candidates available from the Michigan Municipal League — an organization that Majewski is the president of, no less — the mayor said the city didn’t have time to do background checks.

In light of Tungate’s legal problem, and the fact no one knew about it when the mayor proposed hiring him, that statement may come back to haunt the mayor.

There is a vacuum of leadership in this city right now, and it is threatening to unravel this town.

Again we ask, is there a reason why Hamtramck can’t hire an experienced and qualified city manager (and one who isn’t facing a serious felony charge) in this time of crisis?

Is that too much to ask?

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