City Hall Insider10/5/12

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

By Charles Sercombe

We last left off with the city council meeting of Sept. 25 where the issue of pawn broker licenses was being discussed. The meeting ran for three-and-a-half hours. Councilmember Tom Jankowski was the only councilmember absent.

Get a cup of coffee, or better yet a shot of espresso, this is was one loooong meeting.

A discussion was held on a follow-up on a review of four contractors’ invoices. An independent review was held and it was found that some invoices were incomplete.

Acting City Manager Kyle Tertzag said one of the contractors. ADR, which provides IT support, does not have a current contract.

Tertzag said department heads need to have training in making sure contractors are filing accurate invoices.

Councilmember Mohammed Hassan said that the main problem with incomplete invoices is because there is a lack of oversight in City Hall.

Councilmember Anam Miah called for further investigation into the invoices.

“The people of this community deserve to know how every penny is spent,” he said.

Miah also added that he’s “not willing to sweep this under the rug.”

Councilmember Cathie Gordon cautioned her colleagues that they need to be careful in what they “insinuate.”
“No one’s hands have been caught in the cookie jar,” she said.

She also said it’s not worth spending $10,000, or so, to continue an investigation into the invoices.

“I just don’t think we should beat a dead horse,” Gordon said.

Councilmember Miah disagreed, saying the city and contractors need to be held accountable.

Councilmember Robert Zwolak said the investigation should be expanded to all city contractors.

“If we’re going to investigate, let’s go after everybody,” Zwolak said.

Zwolak said there is a bigger problem of not enough employees in city departments.

“We’re throwing a lot of blame around but we’re going after the wrong people,” he said.

Mayor Karen Majewski attempted to steer the discussion to a close, but Zwolak blew up, yelling: “This is a discussion, don’t cut me off.”

Councilmember Gordon said that Steve Shaya, the Director of Public Services, has explained the invoices in questioned. She questioned the need to bring in someone from the outside to investigate further.

She added it’s time to move forward.

Councilmember Miah said the company that looked into the invoices reviewed only 60. He said there are hundreds more to review.

Councilmember Zwolak said that the council should reinstate the treasurer’s position to fulltime.

He also proposed forming a committee made up of Councilmembers Abdul Algazali, Miah and Hassan to look into the invoices, to which Councilmember Gordon said: “Is this a male thing?”

Public Services Director Shaya said the investigation into invoices was “garbage.”

“It’s all about gotcha politics,” he added. “It’s nothing but a witch hunt.”

Councilmember Miah proposed a resolution to have the acting city manager come back with a proposal to hire a company to continue reviewing contractor invoices.

Only Councilmembers Gordon and Zwolak opposed the resolution.

Zwolak added that the FBI should be called to look into things.

Councilmember Hassan opened a discussion on changing the city charter to go to a strong mayor form of government.

He said the city’s charter is “not suited” to today’s Hamtramck.

Councilmember Algazali questioned whether a charter proposal could get on the November Election. He was told there is not enough time.

Councilmember Miah said he’s open to reviewing the charter, and urged his colleagues to come back with suggestions.

In another topic, Councilmember Gordon proposed to eliminate the position of deputy treasurer because “this is a new day” with Finance Director Nevrus Nazarko leaving.

She suggested having the position of treasurer become a full-time position.

Mayor Majewski said this decision should be made by the next permanent city manager.

“It’s not our job of council to make this decision,” Majewski said.

Gordon said the position of treasurer is mandated by charter.

“If you want to violate the charter, be my guest,” she said.

At some point in the discussion, Councilmember Algazali said: “We’re bankrupt.”

In the vote to eliminate the position of deputy treasurer, only Councilmember Gordon voted in favor of it.

Acting City Manager Tertzag gave his report. He said that according to a recent study by SEMCOG on city operations, the city is understaffed.

He said the Water Department does not have a licensed person in the department, but he knows of one who is willing to work part-time.

He also said that he will be posting the position of city clerk, and that he will not fill not fill the position of finance director.

He said whoever the city council hires as the next permanent city manager should have the opportunity to make that appointment. In the meantime, he said, the duties of finance director will be taken over by a private firm, Plante Moran.

In the public comment section, Bill Meyer said that this meeting had been “crazy.” And then he said it had been “insane.”

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