City Hall Insider …

What is our City Council up to these days? We have the scoop and the highlights – as well as the lowlights – of the latest council meeting.

By Charles Sercombe

The City Council met on Sept. 13, with only Councilmember Kazi Miah absent. The meeting ran for over two-and-a-half hours, which also included a closed meeting.

A representative from a program called Earn and Learn said he will be taking applications at the former ACCESS office on Jos. Campau.

The program pays those who are chronically unemployed $7.74 an hour to learn job skills. The program will also subsidize the hourly salary for workers hired through the program.

“It could be a win, win, win for all parties involved,” said the representative.

In the first public comment section, Robert Zwolak, a candidate for City Council, said he is not opposed to appointing Ron Mathias as police chief, which was on the agenda for the council to consider.

But, Zwolak said, the council should hold off deciding the appointment until the terms of the chief’s contract are submitted first. He also said the city needs to fine-tune its charter to allow the city manager and council to choose their own chief instead of having it decided by the police officers’ contract.

He said the same goes for the Fire Department.

“The officers in the police and fire departments are literally hiring their own boss,” he said.

The council then went into closed session to discuss two pending lawsuits. One lawsuit involved an allegation of police brutality, and the other was about repaying dozens of residents for damages suffered during a massive basement flooding.

Later in the regular meeting, after the closed session, the council agreed to settle the police matter for $200,000. The city is required to pay $50,000 of that amount.

(Editor’s note: The case involved a 15-year-old boy who was accidently tased in an eye. The boy eventually lost his eye. According to sources, the teen got into a scuffle with an officer and partially subdued the officer. The officer, being under physical threat, then fired his taser at the boy, not knowing he was going to strike the boy’s eye.)

But before the lawsuit was settled, the council invited the public to comment on the matter.

Hillary Cherry asked what exactly the public can comment on, considering no one knows what the case is about.

Robert Zwolak said that brings up the issue of making legal documents available for the public to view. He said documents, like lawsuits, should be available for viewing at the City Clerk’s Office.

Zwolak said he’d like to see which residents are suing the city over their flooded basements.

“What neighbor is suing what neighbor?” he said.

Speaking of lawsuits, the council agreed to hire Kaplani Insurance Co. here in Hamtramck for the fourth year in a row. The insurance coverage will protect the city from liability, and it costs $231,000.

Jason Friedmann, the city’s Director of Community & Economic Development, gave a brief presentation on a $15 million grant program that will help eliminate blight and go toward rehabbing empty houses as well as constructing new housing units.

The program will start in the coming weeks. (For more information, see the front page for a related story.)

The proposed appointment of Lt. Ron Mathias to police chief was not acted on.

City Manager Bill Cooper proposed the appointment, but Cooper was absent from the meeting. At the time we went to press, it was not clear what the legal consequences will be. Cooper has been Acting Chief for several weeks.

Councilmember Tom Jankowski went on a lengthy discussion about the lack of policies in the city’s administration. To illustrate, he held up a thick binder filled with paper, which he said were the policies of the school board.

He said, that since the city adopted a new charter, Hamtramck is no longer run by a strong mayor al form of government. He said it’s now up to the council to set policy.

“Where are our policies?” Jankowski asked.

Does the city have enough polices?

Councilmember Cathie Gordon said, at first, that she agreed with 50 percent of what Jankowski said, and then upped to 80 percent.

“The only thing I hedge on … we’re elected officials,” Gordon said.

And by that, she meant that the city charter lays out a limited role for the council, and limits how much interaction the council can have with department heads.

Mayor Majewski said the council can suggest that the city administration come up with policies, but it’s up to the administration to write specific ones.

(We here at The Review have a strict policy that when council meetings go over two hours, it’s cocktail time.)

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