City Hall Insider …

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

By Charles Sercombe

City Council met on Nov. 22, and the meeting ran for one-and-a-half-hours. With the resignation of Kazi Miah from council, Abdul Algazali was sworn into office to take his place.

From the public, Council-elect Robert Zwolak said he noted that, on the agenda, the council was going to consider the appointment of Lt. Max Garbarino as police chief.

However, this appointment was not coming from City Manager Bill Cooper. Zwolak told the council that the City Charter explicitly says only the city manager can submit an appointee for council’s consideration.

“That’s not to be usurped by the council,” Zwolak said.

Susan Dunn criticized the council for refusing to hire Steve Shaya as director of Public Works.

Shaya is a former director of the department and is now a consultant running the department until a director is hired.

Dunn said Shaya is committed to the community and is known for working on the weekends and at night if he is called.

Later in the meeting, Shaya’s contract to run the Public Works Department was extended through January, and he was given a pay raise because of the extra work he has performed.

But Councilmember Algazali raised an objection, saying the council has to watch out for taxpayers’ money. He suggested that Shaya volunteer his time. All but Algazali voted to OK Shaya’s contract extension.

Robert Hunter introduced himself, and said he would like to apply for the director’s job. He said he has experience as a city engineer for Mt. Clemens.

Hillary Cherry said the council did a “great thing” by not appointing Lt. Ron Mathias as police chief. She said that a proposal, made by Councilmember Cathie Gordon, to look outside the department for a chief would be a “mistake.”

She said the city would lose “valuable” time in searching outside the department for a chief.

An auto shop on Trowbridge St. asked the council to overturn a decision by the Plan Commission denying the shop to be able to rezone its site from residential to industrial.

The auto shop is seeking to construct a new repair shop. The request is controversial because the area is residential.

The request was unanimously turned down by the council.

In the proposed appointment of Lt. Max Garbarino as police chief, a lengthy discussion ensued. Councilmember Shahab Ahmed sharply questioned City Manager Cooper as to why it appears, on the council agenda, that Ahmed is making the proposed appointment.

Ahmed said his resolution from the previous council meeting was to have Cooper submit the appointment, not Ahmed.

Councilmember Jankowski said this matter “once again” shows Cooper not following a council resolution.

Councilmember Algazali suggested tabling the appointment until the new council is seated in January.

Councilmember Jankowski objected, saying that city can’t delay making a decision because it puts the city at risk, as well as affecting contract negotiations with the police officers’ union.

Councilmember Gordon accused three fellow councilmembers of trying to pressure her to vote for Garbarino.

She said she received a threatening letter at her Sterling Heights home on the matter. She also said she received a telephone call from someone who said: “Vote for Max or your buddy is dead in the water.”

(Editor’s note: Apparently the reference is to Gordon’s support of Steve Shaya to become director of the Public Works Department.)

Gordon said she will not back down or bow to pressure.

“I don’t take blackmail lightly,” she said.

She also said the source of the person who told her about who is trying to pressure her is former council candidate Mohamed Delwar Hussain. Later in the meeting, Hussain denied that statement, saying that Gordon is a liar and has been a liar for years.

In the vote to postpone the appointment, only Councilmember Gordon voted in favor of it (Councilmember Algazali earlier withdrew his support to postpone).

Councilmember Jankowski pointed out that the resolution at hand, with Councilmember Ahmed’s name attached to it as being the person proposing Lt. Garbarino as chief, is “illegal.”

So, Councilmember Ahmed then submitted a more neutral resolution. But Councilmember Gordon said she doubted Ahmed wrote the resolution, since it contained some legal wording.

Gordon also said that if the council votes for Garbarino, it will be a vote of no confidence in City Manager Cooper.

Cooper said he would not fight the council’s appointment of Garbarino.

Councilmember Jankowski said it’s not a vote of no confidence against Cooper, it’s a vote of no confidence in Cooper being Acting Chief of the Police Department.

Sooo … here it is, the vote on whether to appoint Lt. Garbarino as chief. Drum roll, please.

All but Councilmember Gordon voted in favor of the appointment.

(Don’t worry, everyone will get over this mess later in the night with drinks at Gordon’s New Dodge Lounge, and we’ll all be friends again.)

Over and out.

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