Breaking News … Special council meeting erupts in anger, accusations

A special city council meeting was held on Friday to take steps to hire an interim city manager when the contract for current City Manager Katrina Powell(right) expires on June 30.

A special city council meeting was held on Friday to take steps to hire an interim city manager when the contract for current City Manager Katrina Powell(right) expires on June 30.

By Charles Sercombe
In a hastily called special city council meeting on Friday afternoon, a bare majority of councilmembers voted to take steps to hire an interim city manager.
But that vote faces some legal hurdles before any action can take place.
The meeting also raised a number of questions about the transparency and motive of those who called for the meeting. On Thursday evening, Mayor Pro Tem Anam Miah, along with the support of Councilmembers Mohammed Hassan, Saad Almasmari and Abu Musa, posted a notice for a special meeting for Friday at noon.
While the posting deadline met the guidelines set by the state’s Open Meetings Act, there was a question of whether the four councilmembers violated the law by doing a behind-the-scenes “round robin” to discuss the matter.
The OMA forbids elected officials to talk privately among themselves about a pending city issue and come to a decision.
During the meeting, Councilmember Miah, who chaired the meeting because Mayor Karen Majewski was unable to attend, refused to let City Attorney Travis Mihelick to speak, despite requests from Councilmembers Andrea Karpinski and Ian Perrotta to allow Mihelick to talk about the pending resolution.
As it turned out, that may have been a fatal flaw for the resolution. Mihelick said the resolution failed despite a bare majority supported it because there needs to be at least five votes to fire a city manager.
It was not immediately clear why Mihelick interpreted the language of the resolution to mean City Manager Katrina Powell was being fired.
The resolution “declared” a vacancy in the city manager’s position when Powell’s contract expires on June 30. The resolution further instructed that “appropriate steps be taken to appoint a qualified interim city manager.”
The meeting followed up on an action taken several weeks ago to reject a proposal to have the city attorney negotiate a contract extension with Powell. The same four councilmembers who called for Friday’s meeting also were the bare majority to block a contract extension with Powell.
Another hurdle facing the resolution is that it must be approved by the state-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board. The RTAB does not meet until two weeks, on May 23.
The meeting lasted for a little over one hour and at times the filled-to-capacity council chambers erupted into shouting matches between audience members and the council.
Police Chief Anne Moise had to warn some of the more vocal audience members several times that they would be thrown out of the meeting unless they settled down.
Three police officers were in the council chambers and a few others were in the outside hallway.
At one point a 10-minute recess was held to cool down tempers.
Councilmembers Karpinski and Perrotta lambasted their four colleagues for calling the meeting at the last minute and trying to ramrod the resolution through. Karpinski repeatedly accused Miah of being “out of order.”
Perrotta chastised the four councilmembers who called for the meeting for not having the courtesy to answer his email asking for an explanation for the meeting and to provide a copy of the proposed resolution.
“That was egregious,” he said.
The resolution was not made available until the start of the meeting, and it was two pages of a list of grievances against Powell.
Most of the faults the four councilmembers included were vague at best. For example, one accused her of refusing to “prosecute certain property owners that she favors.”

City Manager Katrina Powell

City Manager Katrina Powell

Another grievance accused her of hiring a person to “curry support among a certain member of this council.”
The resolution also lashed out at Powell for being “dismissive of and disrespectful to the city council.”
But the worst tongue-lashing came from those who attended the meeting, who directed their criticism to the four councilmembers who called for the meeting.
The call for the meeting, said Carrie Beth Lasley, “reeks of collusion.”
Former city Treasurer Mike Wilk said the resolution and meeting was “a bunch of baloney. Might as well done it in a back alley.”
Susan Dunn was among several who warned the council’s action would result in a lawsuit.
“This city has enough frivolous lawsuits, and you’re creating another one,” she said.
“We’re not going to sit quietly,” she added, and indeed, she was later warned by Chief Moise to quiet down or get escorted out.
Jeremy Duncan demanded to know who the councilmembers had in mind as an interim city manager. He waited for over a minute for an answer, but there was only silence.
One wiseacre played the “Jeopardy” game show theme on their cell phone while the time passed.
After the long moment of silence and not getting an answer, Duncan said: “The silence was deafening,” and then returned to his seat.
There was at least one supporter of the four councilmembers in audience. Bill Meyer, who heads up a local group that promotes ethnic harmony in the community, called OneHamtramck, said he’s seen other city managers get removed by “stranger methods.”
He said the community has to accept the decision of a majority on council.
“That’s the way it goes,” Meyer said.
He also said that Powell was hired by the former emergency manager without the consent of the council, calling it “an undemocratic process.”
Councilmember Hassan defended his vote by saying he was simply taking steps to fill Powell’s position once her contract runs out.
He insisted that the council – not the state – has the sole authority to hire the next city manager. He said if the council has no authority, “let the government step up.”
That action could indeed happen.
During the April RTAB meeting it was strongly hinted that the state is considering to extend Powell’s contract.
Discussion among councilmembers came to abrupt halt by Councilmember Miah, who ended the talk and called for an immediate vote. That prompted Councilmember Perrotta to explode and shout out:
“This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong.”
And at another point he looked at Miah and said: “Who’s the dictator now?”
Both Perrotta and Karpinski abstained from the vote in an apparent attempt to delegitimize the proceedings.
At the end of the meeting City Manager Powell said there were many “lies” spoken about her record and that the resolution “didn’t pass.”
Also at the meeting was council candidate Fadel Almarsoumi, a newcomer to city politics, who was taking the experience in.
The meeting, and the process of how the resolution worked its way through, gave him “great insight.”
While he didn’t have an opinion on the resolution, he said that despite the chaotic moments of the meeting, “it’s always darkest before dawn.”


8 Responses to Breaking News … Special council meeting erupts in anger, accusations

  1. Roadman

    May 12, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Kudos to Mayor Pro Tempore Anam Miah for standing up to Katrina Powell and the Transition Advisory Board!

  2. Guest

    May 12, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Tables have turned. We’ve seen this same scenario being played out the Mayor and her supporters before.

    If the majority of the council decides not want to renew her contract, that’s within their right.

    You can’t force city officials to keep someone when his contract expires especially if his performance was lacking.

    I addition, city’s attorney claiming that she was “fired” should cause city council to look for a more rational attorney for the city. .

  3. Stan Zelmanski

    May 12, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    I was present and can verify that this has been a historic event in Hamtramck’s history toward ridding itself of the yoke of oppressive control by the state and also by Katrina Powell.

    “It was not immediately clear why Mihelick interpreted the language of the resolution to mean City Manager Katrina Powell was being fired.”

    J. Travis Mihelick – who is NOT the City Attorney – his boss, John Clark, is – hails from a law firm having a cozy relationship with Powell and tirelessly advocates for her interests and for unending state government dictatorial control over the city’s affairs. Mihelick’s firm has been paid many hundreds of thousands in attorney fees during Powell’s tenure and that firm, Giarmarco Mullins & Horton, answers directly to Powell as City Manager.

    Should Powell’s tenure as Hamtramck City Manager come to an end and a new city manager replace Powell, the City Charter sets forth that the new City Manager shall appoint a City Attorney subject to the approval of the City Council. Given Mihelick’s rocky relations with the four-person Muslim-majority serving on the City Council presently, it is highly questionable whether John Clark will continue as City Attorney when and if Powell actually vacates the office of City Manager as is the goal of the resolution which passed today.

    The City Council may have to retain legal counsel to institute court action to enforce their resolution if the Powell administration refuses to comply.

    At this juncture, there are a number of persons that are planning to deliver public commentary at the next Transition Advisory Board meeting on the afternoon of May 23rd.

  4. Stan Zelmanski

    May 12, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    The videotape of the City Council meeting has been recently uploaded to YouTube.

    It captures the acrimonious exchanges between the City Council representatives.

  5. Roadman

    May 14, 2017 at 12:55 pm


    Karen Majewski’s absence fron this Friday’s City Council meeting speaks volumes about why she should not be re-elected as mayor.

    There is a palpable absence of leadership at the top levels of City Hall that has created a crisis of confidence in the public, including:

    (A)the city expending huge amounts of legal fees to defend breach of contract suits from city vendors that were fired and/or unpaid – which are ALWAYS settled with the city paying though the nose;

    (B)a police department that – due to retirements and resignations – has dwindled to only 19 officers – eight of whom were proving security for the City Council meeting referenced above – Dispatcher Robinson was the only employee left to man police HQ during the Friday City Council meeting;

    (C)the city being forced to expend large amount of attorney fees to defend Police Chief Anne Moise – appointed by Katrina Powell without consulting City Council – in multiple federal civil rights lawsuits by citizens claiming she had not properly trained or supervised officers under her command.

    Following the City Council meeting Friday afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to see many Bengali and Yemeni residents approaching mayoral candidate Cathie Gordon, who appeared to speak before council, and had offered to help her get elected.

    I am wondering what platform that Rahman and Hassan have toward improving our city?

    “Anybody but Karen!!” is the new battle cry in Hamtramck.

  6. Someone

    May 15, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Roadman says Majewski’s absence is reason for her not to be mayor but the whole point of the meeting being called on such a tight timeline was so she couldn’t attend.

  7. bill meyer

    May 17, 2017 at 1:53 am

    I’m very impressed with the level headed and logical comments in this section. As the article said, I was the only one who spoke in favor of the resolution, although the room had a lynch mob mentality and I felt Anam was attacked unfairly. Making fun of him tripping on a word or two during the reading of the lengthy document was despicable. As Cathie Gordon reminded the hostile group of non-Muslims, this was decided back in February and this resolution is simply to emphasize that nothing has been acted on in the last 90 days. Here’s the plain facts: this was a legal meeting. They did not meet as a group outside the council chambers to draft the resolution. It was written by Anam with assistance from others than council members. Former police chief Max Garbarino did not draft the resolution. Ian and Andrea were out of order several times. Anam did a masterful job in a stressful situation. Anam did not know Karen would be out of town. She apparently never informs the Mayor Pro Tem when he will have to chair meetings. The ‘city attorney’ Mihelick did not read the entire resolution before he wrongly proclaimed ‘you need 5 votes to terminate the city manager.’ He either lied or tried to stop the vote. Saad ‘called the vote’ and in Roberts Rules that means NO ONE gets to speak before the vote. Also very few people know Anam’s extensive experience and qualifications in running meetings.
    These department heads and city employees, all coincidentally white, who are supposed to do their job for ALL of us, and should remain a-political,have displayed favoritism towards the mayor and a segment of the council consistently. It’s these officials and the rabid audience along with Andrea and Ian who fomented the so-called ‘chaos’ in the council chambers – not the four councilmembers who presented the resolution.

  8. Roadman

    May 22, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Breaking news………City Treasurer John Gabor has been suspended pending investigation by Katrina Powell.

    Powell has been irked by complaints by Gabor to City Council.

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