City Hall Insider …

What is our City Council up to these days? We have the highlights of the latest council meeting.

By Charles Sercombe

We left off last week part way through the Nov. 10 council meeting. Here’s part two.

After finishing up a discussion on whether to appoint Lt. Ron Mathias as Police Chief, which the council ultimately rejected, another appointment came next.

City Manager Bill Cooper asked the council to appoint Steve Shaya as the director of Public Works. Shaya is a consultant who is currently running the department.

Several years ago, Shaya was the director of the department under Emergency Financial Manager Lou Schimmel.

Shaya has been working for Platinum Landscaping, a contractor for the city of Hamtramck. He resigned from that position to take the consultant role.

The council had previously directed Cooper to submit a permanent appointment for the job of director by no later than the end of November.

Councilmember Tom Jankowski started off the line of questioning, asking where Cooper had posted the job. Cooper said he put a help wanted ad in The Review, as well as posting the job online with the Michigan Municipal League.

Cooper said he received 11 resumes, of which eight candidates didn’t meet the minimum requirements.

Jankowski asked what Shaya’s strengths and weaknesses were. Cooper said Shaya’s weakness is that he needs to control his temper.

Jankowski said he was not convinced that Cooper did a thorough search. Jankowski demanded a justification for hiring Shaya.

Jankowski also said that there is not enough background information on Shaya. Jankowski said he’s about “good government.” He said he has a concern about Shaya’s relationship with Platinum Landscaping. He said the relationship poses a conflict of interest.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” Jankowski said. “It doesn’t look good. I came here asking for best practices.”

Councilmember Cathie Gordon conceded that Shaya is a friend of hers. But she also pointed out that Shaya was director of Public Works while Jankowski was the city’s mayor.

(Editor’s note: Jankowski was mayor while Lou Schimmel was acting as the emergency financial manager.)

Gordon asked Cooper if there have been any improvements in the Public Works Department since Shaya was hired as a consultant a month ago.

Cooper said there have indeed been a number of improvements, in particular a better response to problems as they rise up.

“I’m very satisfied with what Steve’s done,” Cooper said.

Gordon also asked Cooper if he was comfortable with Shaya being a former employee with a current city contractor.

Cooper said Shaya has separated himself from the company, and Cooper said that of need be, he would step in if there is a concern over a conflict of interest.

Mayor Pro Tem Catrina Stackpoole said that although she thinks Shaya is hard-working and well-qualified, she has a problem with him being a former employee of a city contractor.

Plus, she said, the contractor Shaya worked for lost a contract with the city for one year because it was not the lowest bidder.

Stackpoole also said that there is no reason to rush into an appointment, and suggested widening the search for a director.

She said Shaya’s relationship with the contractor is a “recipe for disaster.”

In the vote to approve the appointment, councilmembers Jankowski, Stackpoole and Shahab Ahmed voted against it. Councilmember Gordon and Mohammed Hassan voted in favor of the appointment, so the appointment failed.

In other matters, Councilmember Jankowski said the sudden resignation of Kazi Miah from council was a “slap in the face” to the city. He said Miah should be forced to pay back the city any salary he collected for the past couple of months when he has been absent.

Councilmember Gordon said she also has an issue with Councilmember Ahmed being absent from meetings without asking to be excused. She also questioned how Ahmed could vote against hiring Shaya while he previously was paid to certify Hamtramck police officers for motorcycle licenses.

Ahmed denied he was hired to certify officers, and he asked the city attorney to launch an investigation into this allegation.

Well, that’s it for this week. Happy Thanksgiving!

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