Change in city’s legal team spurs division and debate

Now that local control has been returned to the city, a familiar face has returned to city hall. James Allen has been appointed as the new city attorney. Councilmembers Andrea Karpinski and Ian Perrotta argued to have legal services bid out, but a bare majority on council decided to go with Allen.

Now that local control has been returned to the city, a familiar face has returned to city hall. James Allen has been appointed as the new city attorney. Councilmembers Andrea Karpinski and Ian Perrotta argued to have legal services bid out, but a bare majority on council decided to go with Allen.


By Charles Sercombe
Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer wasted no time in starting to reshape her administration now that the state has returned local control.
The first adjustment she has made was replacing the city attorney. At last week’s city council meeting, she introduced a resolution to replace John Clark with Jim Allen.
Clark is technically with the law firm Giarmarco, Mullins & Horton. James “Jim” Allen is part of the Allen Brothers law firm.
Allen is no stranger to Hamtramck.
He has been in and out of city hall for the last several years. He originally came on board when Tom Jankowski was mayor in 2005.
Prior to Allen’s hiring, John Clark was the city attorney under emergency manager Louis Schimmel.
When the city fell into a financial crisis once again four years ago, the state took over control and fired Allen. That’s when John Clark came back.
Did everyone follow that?
The appointment of Allen last week caused a rift between Majewski and her allies on council, Ian Perrotta and Andrea Karpinski. Allen has been a political supporter of Majewski.
The mayor supported Allen’s return, while Perrotta and Karpinski instead favored bidding out legal services.
“It just seems to me if we’re going to spend this much money, we should go for a bid,” Karpinski said.
She also added that hiring Allen “seems like a backroom deal.”
Perrotta said the contract to hire Allen was “sprung” on the council and that the hiring procedure needed to be more “open and transparent.” He said with local control now returned to the city, “we are looking for a new set of priorities.”
Majewski defended the hiring, saying Allen has expertise in a couple of city-related issues, such as establishing guidelines to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate here and putting a closure to the city’s decades-old housing discrimination lawsuit.
The resolution to hire Allen passed with Karpinski and Perrotta being the only councilmembers who voted in opposition.
Allen is being paid $125 an hour and received a three-year contract. Details of the contract are still being worked out, said Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer.

5 Responses to Change in city’s legal team spurs division and debate

  1. John Dory

    March 25, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    Why is Hamtramck not bidding out legal services to receive a more competitive rate?

    This does have the appearance of a “back room deal”.

    The bigger question may be is why did the Muslim-Americans on City Council join the Mayor in giving a no-bid contract to Jim Allen?

    Jim Allen also recruited Kyle Tertzag to act as Hamtramck City Manager and Tertzag left after Cathy Square was appointed Emergency Manager. Tertzag initiated the controversial mass water shutoffs of residents in 2013 that coincided with Election Day primaries.

    There is concern among residents that the same insider crowd that caused the financial crisis that resulted in the imposition of state receivership is returning anew.

  2. Concerned

    March 25, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    Nominating dept. heads is the job of the city manager. Council members and mayor only approve or disapprove these appointments.

  3. Concerned

    March 26, 2018 at 12:29 am

    In addition, choosing a professional legal service should not be based on a bidding process. The money saved can go down the drain when a firm with no experience is awarded the contract based on their low bid but consequently causing the city to lose millions by substandard representation. You get what you pay for.

  4. Stan Zelmanski

    March 31, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Some blame City Attorney John Clark for the proliferation of legal fees the city incurred the last several years – however the truth is that City Manager Katrina Powell had a philosophy toward lawsuits the city was facing that can be paraphrased as follows:

    “Fighting lawsuits is a matter of principle. If we begin paying out settlements this will open up the floodgates to encourage others to make claims against the city.”

    This “philosophy” resulted in a backlog of lawsuits in the court system tying up the city’s financial resources with increasing balances owed to Clark’s firm, Giarmarco Mullins Horton, P.C. Very, very few of these litigated cases resulted in victories for the city – one was the pension litigation in which the city prevailed.

    Blame for the swelling amount of attorney fees under Mr. Clark can be assigned to Ms. Powell – and her legacy of pending court litigation will likely take years to clean up. Her rosy conclusions regarding the state of the finances of the city under her supervision is debatable as the future cost of lawsuit payouts and legal fees is an open question and some feel that her strategy in avoiding lawsuit settlement payouts during her tenure will result ultimately in Hamtramck “paying the piper” at a later time.

  5. John Dory

    April 1, 2018 at 10:35 pm


    There are plenty of competent law firms out there – and the bidding process will flush out a number of those firms who wish to accede to the City Attorney position in Hamtramck.

    Now that Jim Allen has been appointed as City Attorney, the job of City Council will be to rein in the avalanche of legal fees that have been paid without question under John Clark’s firm.

    The City of Hamtramck is facing complex federal civil rights litigation and is preparing for the depositions of Anne Moise, Sgt. Michael Stout and others by the attorneys for Arab businessmen that have made claims of improper searches and seizures of their property during operations of the COBRA auto insurance fraud unit – the City of Highland park is also a defendant in those cases. Clark has handed over files to Allen on those cases and the courts are processing substitution of counsel orders replacing Clark with Allen.

    A question will be is what liability insurance coverage is available to pay for a settlement in those cases and whether the City Attorney will explore a resolution with Steve haney and other Plaintiff’s attorneys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *