By Charles Sercombe
It now looks like City Manager Katrina Powell will not get a contract extension.
Mark Stema, a member of a state-appointed financial review board overseeing Hamtramck, confirmed with The Review that the state Treasury Department will heed whatever the city council wants to do about filling the position.
The issue of extending Powell’s employment contract has resulted in a couple of heated council meetings. A bare majority of councilmembers – Anam Miah, Abu Musa, Saad Almasmari and Mohammed Hassan – have opted to seek an interim city manager while a search is conducted for a permanent one.
Two councilmembers, Andrea Karpinski and Ian Perrotta, have vehemently opposed that move, saying Powell has done a good job and the city needs continuity.
Powell was hired by the city’s former emergency manager two-and-a-half years ago. Her contract expires on June 30.
For the past several weeks there has been speculation that the Treasury Department might step in to extend her contract. At the April Receivership Transition Advisory Board meeting there was a discussion that implied the Treasury Department was indeed going to get involved in the contract by modifying the emergency manager’s final order.
At that meeting Stema asked if the board could do anything about “Katrina’s situation.” At that time the four councilmembers who have moved to seek an interim city manager also had rejected a proposal to have the city attorney negotiate a contract extension with Powell.
A representative from the Treasury Department, Patrick Dostine, replied: “Well, I guess what I can say is that the order’s been revised, and it’s under review now.”
He was speaking in reference to the emergency manager’s final order.
The Chairperson of the RTAB, Deborah Roberts, also spoke on the matter and expressed her frustration with the city council.
“I just think we’re in an unfortunate circumstance. … The RTAB was put in place to help the city transition back to local control,” Roberts said. “We’ve been here for two years. For some reason, the council is having an issue with taking that control, and wants to keep throwing it back at the RTAB.
“I think that’s a sad situation that they’ve put themselves in, so I guess we’ll all see what goes forward. I mean, it’s too bad that the local control has not come into place at this time. We tried.”
It is not clear why the Treasury Department decided to back off from taking action on Powell’s contract, but the mission of the RTAB was to only react to financial decisions by the city – not take an active role in decision-making.
Powell’s relationship with some councilmembers has been rocky during her stay. Councilmember Miah has been the most vocal opponent of her.
His main beef has been that she makes decisions without fully conferring with the council.
He was also angry over her investigation into former Police Chief Max Garbarino, which resulted in his sudden resignation – a resignation that many believed was forced upon him.
Powell never disclosed what she was investigating, and Garbarino never explained why he resigned.
Her supporters, which includes Mayor Karen Majewski, have argued that not keeping Powell is reckless and will jeopardize the progress the city has made.
The city went from a deficit budget to one with a $4 million surplus under Powell’s management. She has also put into place a long-range street repair program, among other improvements.
The big question now is: Who will be the city manager come July 1? There is speculation that the four councilmembers already have someone in mind. They have denied that.
The leading guess, though, is city Treasurer John Gabor will be tapped. Gabor was put on paid administrative leave last week by Powell after he openly criticized her proposed budget for the year at a budget meeting with the council.
No matter who it is, according to a special resolution that the aforementioned four councilmembers agreed on, that person will have to meet “charter-mandated qualifications.”