By Charles Sercombe
Councilmember Saad Almasmari is known to be a stickler when reviewing city expenses, no matter how small or routine.
But when it comes to his own properties’ financial concerns, it appears he is not so vigilant.
In a review of city, county and state records, Almasmari is facing foreclosures on two homes he owns at 2261 and 2267 Faber.
He is also behind in property taxes for a commercial building at 9723 Conant where he runs his ice cream distribution business.
He has also consistently been threatened with water shutoff notices from the city for his two Faber residences. At times he has owed up to several hundred dollars.
At his Conant building, his water service is billed at a nearby address at 9735 Conant, which is owned by Almasmari Investment. That address has received several water shutoff warnings for over a year, according to city records.
As of Wednesday of this week, Wayne County Treasury property tax records show that Almasmari owes over $4,600 in property taxes for both Faber properties and $569 for his Conant building. He has until the end of March to make payments.
After The Review talked with Almasmari on Thursday morning, he said he went to the county treasury office and paid the full tax owed at 2261 Faber and half for the house he owns at 2267 Faber.
At press time on Thursday, The Review was unable to confirm that payment.
On top of that, despite claiming to be a resident, Almasmari does not have a Homestead tax exemption for either of his two Faber houses.
A Homestead exemption is for homeowners who live in the house they own. However, although it is not mandatory to claim a Homestead exemption, Almasmari is losing a substantial savings.
When he filed to run for council two years ago, Almasmari said he lived at 2261 Faber, but there has been no Homestead tax exemption listed for that property since at least 2015 according to city assessment records, which can be accessed through the city’s official website.
However, last June he sought a Homestead exemption for his house at 2267 Faber, but was denied by the state Treasury Department. That denial was retroactive to the year 2013.
In a Freedom of Information Act request made by The Review, the Treasury Department said in a letter to Almasmari his request was turned down because the department “did not receive a completed questionnaire or other requested information.”
Almasmari, according to the department’s letter of denial, did not respond to the request for additional information within 30 days.
Almasmari admitted that he has fallen behind on water and property tax bills.
“I’m living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “I’m not Donald Trump. Everything will be paid in a month.”
Almasmari added that he sits on city council for no pay, which is not accurate. He is paid a stipend of $245 a month.
He added that bringing up these issues serves only to “divide the community.”
As for his delinquent water bills, Almasmari brought up the issue at last week’s city council meeting. Almasmari was responding to a comment made by Mayor Karen Majewski on her Facebook page where she let it be known that a councilmember, who she did not name, was behind on his water bills.
Almasmari said at last week’s council meeting that he got behind on his water bills because he was renovating his house at 2261 Faber, which is the address he supplied to the City Clerk’s Office as his official residence when he ran for office two years ago.
Water service at that household was shut off in January of this year but was turned back on a month later. The city charges property owners to turn off and turn back on water service.
It was not entirely clear why he would stop making water payments while renovating his house. The city continues to bill for water and sewerage service no matter if a house is vacant, unless the owner requests a water shutoff.
Almasmari’s delinquent water and property taxes raise a question of whether he is qualified to remain on council.
According to the City Charter, Section 6-08, an elected city official who is in “default” to the city is not qualified to hold office.
That’s a predicament Councilmember Mohammed Hassan found himself in three years ago when he fell behind on his water bills. At the time Hamtramck was under the control of state-appointed Emergency Manager Cathy Square.
Square declined to take action to remove Hassan from council, saying she wanted to avoid legal fees.
City Manager Katrina Powell said she is looking into the city charter section in question.
Editor’s note: In the printed version of this story, it was said that water service at Almasmari’s 2261 Faber house was turned back on a week after being turned off. That was incorrect. Water service at that address was turned back on after a month had passed.