By Charles Sercombe
It looks like Hamtramck won’t have a permanent city manager in place for at least several months.
At a special meeting Monday evening, a bare majority of city councilmembers rejected hiring the only candidate recommended for an interview by the city’s search firm.
Former Sterling Heights and Eastpointe city manager Stephen Duchane was questioned for two hours in a hot and steamy council chambers before a vote was taken.
The city’s search firm, GovHR, prepared 18 questions and four options on what action to take after the interview.
Those options included:
o Hire the candidate.
o Request to interview the two candidates who were not recommended for an interview.
o Re-advertise for the position.
o “Pause” the search until the city charter qualifications are modified.
Duchane was one of 38 people to apply for the job. Only three met the city charter qualifications, which the search firm said the charter limited the field of candidates.
Soon after the interview, Councilmembers Anam Miah, Saad Almasmari, Abu Musa and Fayed Al-Marsoumi chose the fourth option to delay the search until the charter requirements are changed.
That action will require voter approval, which at the earliest can happen in the August Primary Election coming up.
Their vote caused friction with Councilmembers Ian Perrotta and Andrea Karpinski as well as Mayor Karen Majewski, who all said Duchane, who has 37 years of experience in municipal administration, is highly qualified.
“I have never seen a candidate so qualified,” Majewski said in apparent exasperation. Duchane, she added, “would have won hands down” against any other candidates.
Councilmember Karpinski was blunt in her opposition to waiting for a charter change, saying the vote to delay was a “stall tactic.”
She said rejecting Duchane and waiting for a charter revision will make state officials “look at us as a joke.”
Hamtramck is still under the supervision of a state-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board. That board has final say in all expenditures and contracts.
The city has been seeking to have local control returned.
The four councilmembers who voted to wait for a charter change argued the city needs to consider more than just one candidate.
Councilmember Miah, who proposed waiting for a charter revision before continuing a search for a city manager, said he is searching for a candidate who has a “Hamtramck vibe.”
“I didn’t hear that today,” Miah said. “To fix the charter, a couple of months are not going to hinder us.”
Tensions rose to the point where Councilmember Perrotta abruptly announced he had to leave, and as he walked out, Councilmember Karpinski and Mayor Majewski joined him.
There was still a quorum remaining, and Miah, the Mayor Pro Tem, took over chairing the meeting.
He said before the vote that while there was not a total agreement, this is how government operates.
“Sometimes you come up short … but the process of democracy must prevail,” Miah said. “The majority rules.”
Right before the vote was taken Councilmember Perrotta returned to take his seat. He voted against delaying a hiring.
Perrotta “admitted” he should not have walked out. He called the vote “short-sighted.” Perrotta suggested earlier that the council should wait until the next council meeting to vote on the matter in order to process the interview and the options.
After the vote Mayor Majewski also returned. She said the vote was part of a “clear agenda … an unspoken plan that some councilmembers are privy to and others are not.”
She did not elaborate on her comment.