By Charles Sercombe
City Councilmember Cathie Gordon said there’s been an unholy alliance between the city and a Christian non-profit agency.
Gordon has called for the state police to step in and investigate if there has been criminal wrongdoing in the hiring of Acts 29 Fellowship to cut and maintain empty lots and other blight appeasements.
She said the organization was hired without first receiving City Council authorization and she further questions some of the bills the organization submitted. She said it appears Acts 29 submitted bills for work done at properties that another company was paid to take care of.
City Manager Bill Cooper conceded that the procedure for hiring Acts 29 fell through the cracks and that his administration did not keep on top of billings submitted and paid. In total, the organization was paid about $13,000 for work performed in 2008 and 2009.
Cooper said there is little reason to believe this is a case of criminal wrongdoing but welcomed the investigation if councilmembers ask for it.
“Mistakes were made by both the city and Acts 29,” he said. “It’s shame on both of us.”
Mayor Karen Majewski said that although “internal safeguards” were not followed, “I don’t see a violation of law. There is no criminal intent.”
Gordon said that because the council was not asked to approve of the contract with Acts 29, “I feel this is sort of a backdoor deal.”
Gordon stressed, however, that she does not intend to besmirch Acts 29.
“My only concern is transparency,” she said. “It’s not about Acts 29.”
What may have caused some initial confusion is that Acts 29 was approached by the state department of Housing and Development to fix up blighted locations by employing homeless people or those who had served prison time and were out of work.
The state offered Acts 29 a $50,000 grant, which required Hamtramck to kick in some matching funds.
Acts 29 founder, John Meyers, said he was unaware of all the steps that were required to seal the deal with the city. He stressed this was a program to help the homeless and give them temporary jobs.
It’s unknown at this point if the state police will agree to investigate the matter. The council met Thursday evening, after The Review went to press, to discuss a state police investigation.