By Charles Sercombe
In her farewell speech to a state-appointed financial advisory board, former City Manager Katrina Powell made a serious allegation.
According to Powell there is rampant election fraud and drug dealing happening in the city.
Those allegations were made during her farewell speech at the June Receivership Transition Advisory Board meeting.
Powell’s employment contract was not renewed by the city council, and she left the city leaving some harsh remarks.
She said: “The election fraud and drug dealing are real in this town.”
Powell did not accuse any specific person or elected official but went on to claim that there are those who are “providing meals, buying TVs, paying someone $5 in cash to fill out an absentee ballot …”
She also accused, without naming elected officials specifically that “taking bribes from votes on contracts and services is illegal and should not be tolerated by this community.”
Powell’s assertion of election fraud is not without foundation.
There have been incidents in the past several years, before Powell arrived, of people illegally handling absentee ballots. They were prosecuted and convicted.
To this day there is a belief among some city and elected officials that there is ongoing illegal handling of absentee ballots.
Powell’s allegations begged the question of whether she ordered any current investigation into election fraud and drug dealing. Powell did not elaborate on her charge of drug dealing.
City officials told The Review they were unaware of any investigation.
“To my knowledge there has been no specific investigation into alleged drug dealing per the former city manager’s comments,” said Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer.
“As always the Hamtramck Police Department takes appropriate action on crimes within our city, including drug dealing.
“The city clerk is responsible for the conduct of the annual election, including processing ballots and all aspects of the election. At any time he would suspect an issue of election fraud, it would be his responsibility to contact the appropriate authorities and work with them.”
While Angerer said she was unaware of an investigation, she said if one was underway the Police Department “would likely not make comment on the investigation, so as not to hinder the progress of that investigation. When it is appropriate to do so, we would provide comment.”
Powell said the only way corruption will end is when residents speak out.
“It all ends when the community stops sitting on its couches, posting on Facebook, and actually gets involved in their local government,” she said.
“I encourage you to reach out to your Bengali, Yemeni, and other immigrant neighbors, as they too are sick of the corruption and voter fraud. They visit my office regularly to report things to me because they feel safe, but are afraid to speak up in their communities because of the bullies and thugs.
“They may not feel comfortable enough to come to a council meeting alone if they’ve not been to one, so please offer to attend one with them.
“Also, many are unaware of the laws that protect them, but we need to teach them that they don’t have to be bullied or intimidated. There are laws in place to protect them. They have a pulse on the community; tap into it.”
The RTAB, which was appointed by the state to oversee all financial decisions of the city, did not respond to Powell’s comments.
City Councilmember Anam Miah, who was an outspoken critic of Powell, said the accusations were more about spite over her not being kept on as city manager.
“She’s a completely vindictive individual,” Miah said.
Miah and others on the city council complained that Powell kept the council out of the decision-making process. He said there was nothing “personal” about his decision to reject an extension of her employment contract.
“I wish her the best, but she just wasn’t a good fit here,” Miah said.