By Charles Sercombe
It took a few weeks and some strange twists and turns, but on Tuesday, Acting City Manager Erik Tungate finally got an employment contract.
It was rumored that his contract would once again be held up at Tuesday’s city council meeting, but Councilmember Anam Miah dropped his opposition to hiring Tungate and voted in favor of the contract.
It was a 3-2 vote, with Councilmembers Tom Jankowski and Mohammed Hassan also voting in favor.
Miah said that although he was initially opposed to Tungate’s hiring, he was not against awarding him an employment contract.
“You have to move forward,” he said.
Those voting against were Councilmembers Cathie Gordon and Robert Zwolak. Councilmember Abdul Algazali, who was a supporter of Tungate, was absent and is apparently out of the country.
Tungate had been working without a contract for three weeks.
Tungate will be paid $7,500 a month, an amount that Councilmember Hassan told The Review last week was too high, and that he would seek to have reduced.
However, Hassan voted against two proposals to lower Tungate’s salary, one to $5,500 a month and another to $2,500.
There was some tinkering with Tungate’s contract. The council agreed to eliminate five weeks of severance pay if Tungate is fired before June 30, and also the city will not reimburse him for Internet service at his home.
Another alteration was made to the contract, striking out City Attorney James Allen as his employer.
Tungate’s appointment has been anything but easy for this council, which had been evenly divided until this week.
Councilmember Gordon has been vocal in her opposition to the appointment, saying Tungate does not meet the requirements for the job as outlined by the city charter. Tungate has never held a position of city manager.
He previously worked for Hamtramck, Detroit and Wayne County in the field of economic development.
His supporters, which include Mayor Karen Majewski, say that as Acting City Manager, Tungate does not have to meet the city charter requirements for the job.
The controversy around Tungate didn’t stop there. It came to light recently that he is facing a felony charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend while they were at Mackinac Island last September for a wedding.
His trial is scheduled for June 30 in St. Ignace County. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison or a $5,000 fine.
It also came to light that Mayor Majewski and Councilmember Jankowski knew of the pending charge before his appointment was considered several weeks ago, something they did not reveal that to the council.
Majewski has said that she believes Tungate will beat the charge, and that he is still the best candidate for the job.
Councilmember Gordon accused her colleagues of holding Tungate to a lower standard compared to what other appointees are required to go through prior to appointment, namely a background check and a physical.
“Are we making special rules for special people?” she said.
In the meantime, the council has directed Tungate to post an advertisement for a permanent city manager. That directive was made two weeks ago. At Tuesday’s council meeting, Tungate said he had not yet followed through with that directive, saying he is waiting for further guidance from the council.
Hamtramck is facing payless paydays in the coming weeks unless the city receives advanced payments of state revenue.