Breaking news … State returns local control to Hamtramck

hamtramck review



By Charles Sercombe
That didn’t take long.
The Michigan Department of Treasury issued a press release today (Friday, March 2) announcing that local control has been fully returned to Hamtramck.
In other words, the city has been “released” from receivership. This action came on the heels of the state-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board voting to dissolve itself at its regular monthly meeting just this past Tuesday.
At the time it was unclear how long it would take for the state to follow-up and restore local control. Friday’s press release reiterated many of the reasons the RTAB decided to end its supervision of the city.
The main goal of financial stability has been met. The city now has a budget surplus of $6.5 million.
“Today marks an important achievement for Hamtramck residents, the city and all who have contributed to moving the city back to a path of fiscal stability,” said State Treasurer Nick Khouri in Friday’s press release. “I am pleased to say the city is released from receivership.”
The city has been under state oversight since 2014. That’s when an emergency manager was appointed to take control of the city. Emergency Manager Cathy Square stayed for 18 months and then appointed a city manager to take over.
That city manager, Katrina Powell, ended her relationship with the city when her employment contract ran out last June.
Another goal of the state intervention was to somehow change the city’s volatile political climate. That task, however, proved to be elusive at best. There is still plenty of political division in the city.
That division rose up sharply when a bare majority on city council refused to extend Powell’s employment contract, and then most recently when almost the same bare majority on council refused to hire a city manager two weeks ago.
Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer has been running the city in the meantime. Angerer told The Review previously that she has been working with state officials closely since she took the acting city manager role last July.
She said her main objective was to return local control to the city.
In the state’s press release, Mayor Karen Majewski said she is optimistic about the city’s future.
“Hamtramck is in a great position for solid growth in the future,” Majewski said. “I am pleased with the progress the city has made and ready to move forward.”

12 Responses to Breaking news … State returns local control to Hamtramck

  1. Roadman

    March 2, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    The other big Hamtramck story that coincides with the Khouri announcement is the resignation of State Senator Bert Johnson following his guilty plea in federal court to theft of state funds.

    State Senator Jim Ananich is calling for Governor Snyder to hols a special election to fill the seat by this upcoming August.

    Councilman Anam Miah has been campaigning for that local State Senate seat Johnson is now vacating.

  2. John Dory

    March 4, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    We owe a debt of gratitude (no pun intended) to the members of the Receivership Transition Advisory Board who had largely thankless jobs in trying to bring the City of Hamtramck back to economic health.

    The city was badly mismanaged for years under the tutelage of prior city administrations and I have no doubt that the city was headed for bankruptcy without the state intervention of Governor Snyder’s team from the Michigan Department of Treasury.

    Remember it was City Council who invited the state in to extricate itself from ill-advised and burdensome public service collective bargaining agreements and felt that the state oversight would end in 90 days – eventually it was over four years of state receivership.

    God bless Al Bogdan, Mark Stema and all the other citizens and Michigan Department of Treasury personnel who gave the city the competent and professional leadership it so sorely lacked before they were impaneled.

  3. Fatema Hossain

    March 10, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    The dissolution of the receivership will result in a new direction for the city.

    Top city officials in conjunction with Hamtramck City Council are expected to make profound changes in such areas as the City Attorney service provider and the Hamtramck Police Department leadership.

    City Attorney John Clark was retained as the new City Attorney when Emergency Manager Cathy Square assumed office in 2013. In the 2014 city budget legal services were allocated $200,000.00 for that fiscal year, but when Katrina Powell assumed office the budget for her first full year in office that budget allocation doubled to $400,000 for 2015 and then $500,000.00 for 2016.

    There is a feeling that bringing back James Allen of the Allen Bros. law firm may be more cost effective. Allen has close ties to Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer as well as Councilman Anam Miah.

    The next area where an administrative shake-up is being considered is the police department. The department is facing a wave of personnel turnover in recent years not being able to pay a competitive wage compared with suburban departments and is is currently embroiled in a substantial number of federal civil rights lawsuits and recent news stories alleging the targeting of minority residents. City Council members have been receiving complaints over several years about heavy-handed tactics by certain officers toward minority residents – especially Bengalis and Yemenis and that the police administration has not addressed citizen concerns in a satisfactory manner.

    There is also a concern that the demographic make-up of the local police force does not match that of the city it serves and this creates an environment similar to Ferguson, Missouri. City Council members are being called upon to ensure it takes a more active role in supervising personnel decisions such as hiring and minority recruitment.

    City Council will be moving to address these important items in the near future.

  4. Roadman

    March 12, 2018 at 1:58 am

    @Fatema Hossain:

    The current City Council Agenda has a proposed resolution to name James Allen as the new City Attorney.

    The matter will be taken up at the 3/13 meeting.

    This development has sent shock waves through the corridors of power at City Hall.

  5. Huh?

    March 13, 2018 at 10:06 am


    The $200k budget was set by the emergency manager so they could have a balanced budget. It was a horrible number to budget because Hamtramck average legal spend in this city is normally 500k. Do a little research and you will notice that the city spent even more on legal when Jim Allen was in charge. This city is constantly being sued which is why legal cost are so high. The big difference under John Clark leadership we pay out a lot less in settlements.

    Facts are your friends, You should try to use them.

    This is the equivalent of a friends and family deal for Jim Allen because of all the free legal work he does for a certain section of the council. No problem getting rid of John Clark but it should be put out to bid like all contracts.

  6. guest

    March 13, 2018 at 6:56 pm

  7. Huh?

    March 14, 2018 at 11:58 am

    What the city pays for an contracted city attorney is not very much. What drives the bills are the hourly fighting lawsuits. If you add Allen’s billing then what we paid out in settlements it higher than it is now. Will ClarkHill billings might be more they are settling for lower amounts which saves the city money overall.

    Not to mention when you are capable of winning a case or getting plaintiff to settle for low amounts the city is less of a target for frivolous lawsuits.

    Like I said have no issue getting rid of ClarkHill but not going through a formal bidding process is wrong. Send it out to bid so the city can get the best deal. Rewarding Jim’s firm because he has done free legal work for you is bad government.

  8. Neighbor

    March 14, 2018 at 5:27 pm


    Can you give us a figure of how much was paid annually in settlements during CalrkHill time vs. James Allen? so we can see the big difference.

  9. guest

    March 14, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Huh, Can you proof your allegations? And name names of officials getting free service from Jim?

  10. Concerned

    March 15, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Does anyone know why Vellman was allowed to fence off the public alley behind his lots on Jos. Campau and Alice St. To pedestrian traffic?

  11. Fatema Hossain

    March 16, 2018 at 11:01 am


    You are mistaken.

    John Clark’s law firm is Giarmarco Mullins Horton, P.C., based in Troy.

    Clark Hill is another distinguished law firm which is headquartered in Detroit.

    The City of Hamtramck doled out $80,000.00 to CPI Excavating to resolve a lawsuit after they got terminated as the city’s excavation contractor by Katrina Powell. The city spent substantial funds in legal fees to John Clark’s law firm before the matter settled. John Clark’s firm was unable to get the Taras Nykoriak civil rights suit dismissed after almost two years and tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees incurred by the city and recommended a settlement to the RTAB which was granted and Nykoriak received money – despite the fact he had no attorney representing him and the city paid a second law firm – Ben Gonek P.C. – to defend a city official named in the case as a co-defendant.

    The City of Hamtramck paid Clark’s firm about $22,000 in legal fees to defend against a 17.00 tax appeal brought by Allen Furst, a former city employee.

    Clark’s office was the operational center of the City of Hamtramck during his tenure and Katrina Powell, department heads and police personnel frequented Clark’s firm’s Troy office as his staff was consulted on regarding virtually all areas of municipal operations. His staff controlled city decisions through “recommendations” that were usually followed without question.

    John Clark’s departure as City Attorney was for more mundane reasons however – Jim Allen has close ties to Karen Majewski and the Muslim members on City Council felt more comfortable with Jim Allen.

    Allen’s firm was not immune from billing large amounts for seemingly minor cases. Allen Brothers was paid $58,000.00 in legal feees to fight Councilwoman Cathie Gordon for her seat on City Council when the city unsuccessfully claimed she resided in Sterling Heights.

    The next strategy will be to amend the City Charter to allow the return of Kyle Tertzag as City Manager – who does not otherwise qualify.

  12. Uncle Cooter

    March 17, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    There is concern that the City of Hamtramck is going to amend their City Charter to bring back the same people that caused the finances to deteriorate so that an emergency manager had to be appointed in the first place.

    I am disappointed that a professional and competent law firm was dismissed when City Attorney John Clark ,in fact, has done an outstanding job in generating traffic ticket and ordinance violation revenues for the City Treasury and has been defending the city in complex cases in federal court at a reasonable cost.

    Clark came in as City Attorney when Cathy Square was appointed but he also was City Attorney back when Lou Schimmel was the receiver and had continued well after that when he was succeeded by Jim Allen.

    Most city officials and the police force members knew John Clark and his staff on a professional level and enjoyed their competence and experience in handling issues. Mike Bosnic handled prosecutions in the district court and had a fine relationship with the judges that served.

    The City Council has made a major error in dismissing an able and hardworking City Attorney in John Clark.

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