Emergency Manager Cathy Square says that after looking into the matter, City Councilmember Abdul Algazali is not a “defaulter” to the city.
We disagree with Square’s findings.
We get the feeling that Square would like to see this issue go away so she can get back to getting Hamtramck back into financial shape. We don’t blame her for that, because that is her primary reason for being here.
But the city charter is cut and dry on the subject of being in default. It says that if an elected official is a defaulter to the city – or any other government body — the election results for that official become void.
It’s a pretty unforgiving clause in the charter and allows no grace period to make a late payment owed to the city. Who hasn’t been late in making a utility or credit card payment?
(Most people would agree that one definition of being in default is being late in making a payment.)
But in Algazali’s case, it’s not just a mere slip up.
Algazali, who was the top vote-getter in the primary election for mayor, was two years late in paying almost $3,000 in property taxes for a building he owns at 8557 Jos. Campau. According to the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office, the property was subject to foreclosure.
Algazali paid the tax a week after the primary election when it came to the attention of a number of folks that he was delinquent in paying his property taxes.
The city charter has no margin of error when it comes to being a defaulter. It does not distinguish from being a week late to two years late.
Late is late.
Yes, that provision is pretty unforgiving, and we think it needs to be modified.
In fact, we would argue the charter needs an overhaul in general. No matter, the charter is the charter and city officials are bound to follow it until it is changed by a vote of the people – or a court strikes down a provision.
It now appears if this matter is to be taken any further, someone will have to challenge the city’s decision in court.
Regardless, this issue speaks volumes about Algazali’s ability to lead this city if he can’t even keep his own house in order. And his late tax payment is a slap in the face to those living on fixed incomes who manage to make their tax payments on time.
And considering the fact that he has repeatedly refused to return phone calls or answer questions by the press about this matter and other issues, it appears he has something to hide from the public.
That’s not how leaders of a community act. Leaders face up to the tough questions and answer them head on – not run away.