DEARBORN HEIGHTS — In a 4-3 vote during a City Council meeting on Sept. 8, the Dearborn Heights City Council voted to adopt a resolution that would allow their attorneys to research legal ways of removing Mayor Paletko from office.
The resolution for “endorsing Council chair’s letter to Mayor Paletko dated August 27, 2020” was put forth by Council Chairwoman Denise Malinowski-Maxwell.
The letter sent to Paletko stated that he was refusing to provide documents subpoenaed by the City Council. However, during a City Council meeting on July 28, Malinowski-Maxwell advised that the reintroduction of the resolution to subpoena records was no longer needed as the request had been complied with. Council members also confirmed that the other documents requested were received by them, just not the auditing firm.
“I feel my obligation was to submit documents to City Council, and that’s what I did,” Paletko said. “I called Plante Moran directly to have them transfer the documents over to their auditors, but they need approval from their legal department before they can proceed which has not happened yet, so I sent the documents to all City Council members.”
“Separation of powers”
In her letter, Malinowski-Maxwell stated that Paletko must comply, resign or be removed.
“Not only do you fundamentally misunderstand the concepts of separation of powers and your obligations under the charter, but you also do not seem to understand that you have no right to object to the subpoena,” her letter said. “You have issued countless vetoes related to this financial investigation over the past eighteen months and all of those vetoes have been overridden by the Council. You must now comply with the subpoena in its entirety, resign from office or be removed.”
Councilman Bill Bazzi, who voted no on the resolution, said that there isn’t enough evidence to back up misconduct claims.
“It was very harsh language,” he said. “I do not know if we have exhausted all options, but before you say something like that you need more data to back it up. There’s too much unknown and I need the facts. I don’t agree with a lot of what the mayor is doing, but this is wrong and it’s embarrassing. We need to concentrate on the needs of the residents and do what’s best for the city.”
John Knappman, an attorney who represented Paletko in the early stages of the lawsuit against him, said that the City Council has no authority to remove the mayor from office.
“Misconduct in office does not happen when people are doing the official acts allowed to them under their office,” Knappman said. “I can save you a lot more research time, to justify some type of removal action, you can’t.
“Period, end of sentence. There’s two ways an elected official can be removed. During certain time frames, they can be recalled and the governor can remove them. So you can spend all this money on legal research that your attorney has told you is a good idea to undertake. I know you’re concerned about saving taxpayers’ dollars; it’s not going to result in any type of action that you can undertake to remove the mayor.”
Council may not have legal authority to remove the mayor
This is hurting the city. I believe they don’t want me to succeed… This is not right and this is a waste of our taxpayers dollars — Daniel Paletko, mayor
Despite not being given an opportunity to speak during the Council meeting, Paletko had prepared a response to be read during that time.
“First and foremost, your body does not have any legal authority to remove me,” the speech Paletko had prepared said. “This resolution is all a huge distortion of my position as mayor and my continued opposition to your actions as a Council chair. I am the chief executive officer and will not surrender any of the powers that I have as outlined in the city charter.”
Paletko told The Arab American News that he believes this is holding up city projects.
“This is hurting the city,” he said. “I believe they don’t want me to succeed. I am disappointed and I think this is the sole reason why the Van Born Corridor project hasn’t taken off yet, because the Dearborn Heights City Council won’t schedule the meetings. This is not right and this is a waste of our taxpayers’ dollars.”
Attorney hired for audit going beyond scope
During the meeting, accusations were made against Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke for “impersonating an appointed official” as his appointment had expired in May.
“They need to vote him up or vote him down,” Paletko said. “I have been getting mixed signals and they didn’t take a vote. Why didn’t they take a vote?”
Miotke, who was also muted mid-sentence during the Zoom meeting, told The Arab American News that attorney Matt Schenk, who was hired for the audit itself, is going well beyond his scope.
“He is going far beyond his scope of what he was approved to be doing,” he said. “There have been comments made about charter revisions, but those need to be done by a charter review commission, which would be elected by the voters and then the revised charter would also need to be voted on by the residents.
“It isn’t misconduct in office for the mayor to veto anything he wants to; it’s his legal right to do so. I’m in a position where the mayor and I believe that I am holding over, but I still have not been paid.”
Miotke also said that he is just trying to do what is right.
“I’m mystified at what I’m doing unlawfully when I’m trying to protect the city. I have been corporation counsel since 1999, I am trying to help protect the city.”
Knappman also said this resolution is strictly emotional.
“This is a wasted effort from the get go,” he said. “A resolution that is more emotional than factual. Mr. Miotke was accused of a criminal act of impersonating an appointed official. I remember a city Council meeting where, Madam Chair, you told him, ‘you’re going to be corporation counsel until’ and I forget whether it was until the state of emergency was over or until you’re replaced.
“Well, neither of those things have happened yet, so I don’t understand how you can say that you haven’t had a corporation counsel since May.”
Knappman was then muted during the Zoom meeting as his three minutes were up.
A need for compromise
You are hereby placed on notice that if you continue to refuse to comply with this financial investigation and the lawful resolutions adopted by the City Council, I will recommend that the City Council remove you from office — letter to Paletko by Council Chair Malinowski-Maxwell
Councilman Dave Abdallah said that nothing will change until they compromise.
“I just wish that all parties would come to an agreement,” he said. “Nobody acknowledges the responses or allows people to finish their statements. We need to compromise.”
Before being muted, Miotke said during the meeting that what the City Council is receiving is not sound legal advice.
“The resolution makes reference, and I believe falsely, to me impeding your ability to end up hiring a consultant,” he said. “If you recall, your body, or at least someone, started a lawsuit which ended up being dismissed as being unauthorized, yet your attorney insisted on telling you to take an appeal on it and he continues to end up giving you terrible legal advice.”
In Malinowski-Maxwell’s letter to Paletko, she advised that he is being placed on notice.
“You are hereby placed on notice that if you continue to refuse to comply with this financial investigation and the lawful resolutions adopted by the City Council,” her letter said, “I will recommend that the City Council remove you from office, including initiating court action, if necessary. I hope this is not necessary. The courts have already told you that you have wasted the City Council’s time and money and the court’s resources through your continued delay tactics.”
After the meeting, Paletko reached out to all members of the City Council, requesting a compromise.
“I think we can all agree that last night’s meeting was a horrible example of working together,” he said in his email to the Council. “We need to have some sort of communication outside of letters drafted by attorneys and figure out an end-game. If the goal is to go over every invoice/record for every department for the last five years, then a compromise will not happen.
“However, if the City Council can articulate what it is that the collective body is looking for, then, as I have continually stated, I can provide those records to you. I hope you accept this as my olive branch and we can finally sit down and work together for the remainder of our terms in office.”
Paletko confirmed he has not yet received a response to this message from anyone on the City Council.