By Charles Sercombe
City Councilmember Saad Almasmari is attempting to climb up the political ladder and become state representative in this election year.
And in order to achieve that goal he’s not shy in admitting to something many voters here can relate to: He’s broke.
“I am a poor person,” he told The Review. “I’m suffering just like my constituents.”
As proof of his financial challenges, Almasmari readily acknowledges he has fallen behind on his water bills and property taxes.
In the last couple of weeks the city shut off water service at his home and at a rental dwelling he owns, according to city utility records. According to the city’s website, Almasmari was behind $173 for his house at 2261 Faber, but he made a partial payment two days later.
On May 3, a house he owns at 2267 Faber had service shut off because he owed $743. On May 4, he made a partial payment to that debt. Almasmari said that bill should have been paid by the renter – not him.
On top of that, he is behind on his 2017 property taxes for his residence at 2261 Faber ($498) and another house at 2267 Faber ($883), according to the Wayne County Treasury Department.
He is also behind on property taxes for a commercial building he owns at 9723 Conant. He owes the county $1,646 for 2017.
Almasmari told The Review he was going to pay his property tax bills on Thursday, the day The Review went to press.
Almasmari has a history of falling behind on water bills and property taxes. In 2017 alone, he faced water shut-off service four times.
If Almasmari does not pay what’s owed for property taxes, the county will put his properties up for sale after three years.
Almasmari told The Review he makes no qualms about falling behind on his taxes and water bills. In fact, he said having financial troubles makes him uniquely qualified to hold office.
“I’m an example of everyone in the district,” Almasmari said in reference to residents who live in the House district that he seeks to represent in Lansing. “I don’t have a million dollars in the bank.”
The 4th District consists of Hamtramck, Highland Park and part of Detroit. The district indeed has many low-income residents.
“Everybody gets their water shut off,” he added. “It’s normal to not afford your bills all the time.”
The issue of a city elected official falling behind in bills to the city raises the question of whether Almasmari is a “defaulter.”
According to the City Charter, any public official who falls behind on bills owed to Hamtramck or any other government agency is a “defaulter” and thus disqualified from holding office.
There have been instances in the past where elected officials fell behind on water bills and property taxes, but city officials have been reluctant to pursue the matter.
Last year Carrie Beth Lasley, a government watchdog, submitted documentation to the city showing that in 2015 Councilmember Anam Miah lost property he owned in Detroit to foreclosure after failing to keep on top of property tax payments.
But in a review of the matter then-City Attorney John Clark said that since the issue happened before Miah was elected, he was not technically a defaulter.
May 11, 2018