DEABORN HEIGHTS – Sad news from Dearborn Heights Tuesday night with the passing of Mayor Dan Paletko, who lost his fight with COVID-19, just a week after his 70th birthday.
“The City of Dearborn Heights is saddened to announce the sudden death late Tuesday of Mayor Dan Paletko from complications associated with COVID-19,” the city’s government said over social media. “More information will be posted as it becomes available.”
Not many knew of Paletko’s illness. The Arab American News learned that he was admitted into a hospital on Monday and passed away the next day.
Respects came pouring in over social media soon after the news.
“Dearborn Heights is saddened by the loss of Mayor Paletko” said Councilman Ray Muscat. “RIP Mr. Mayor.”
“I am deeply saddened to hear of Mayor Paletko’s passing,” said Treasurer Lisa Hicks-Clayton. “I pray for him, his family and friends. Please keep our community in prayer as well. He served our community faithfully for many years. God rest his soul.”
“I’m saddened to learn of the passing of Dearborn Heights Mayor Dan Paletko,” said Dearborn Council President Susan Dabaja, who recently announced her bid for mayor of her city. “He was a devoted public servant, and he will be missed. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the city of Dearborn Heights.”
“On behalf of the City of Dearborn, I expressed our condolences to the people of Dearborn Heights on the loss of their mayor, Daniel Paletko,” said Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly. “He was a friend to our community, and championed collaborative efforts that better served residents in both Dearborn Heights and Dearborn. A longtime public servant, he will forever be part of the legacy of Dearborn Heights, and the region. Our hearts especially go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”
“I was saddened to hear of the passing of my friend Mayor Dan Paletko,” said Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree. “Dan was deeply concerned about the residents of his city and those throughout Wayne County. He regularly asked how he could help prevent tax foreclosures and we worked together on this issue. He was always available and was such a pleasant person. What a loss!”
Paletko was known for his years of public service and active community engagement. For the past few years, a dispute between him and a majority of the Council over alleged misappropriation of city funds, among other allegations, led to bitter ongoing court fights.
Dearborn Heights, like neighboring Dearborn, is a large Arab American enclave, with two notable Arab Americans currently serving on its Council. Paletko enjoyed a strong relationship with this community, who payed respects as the news broke late Tuesday.
Paletko served as the Dearborn Heights’ mayor since 2004. He also previously served on its City Council and on the Michigan House of Representatives. He retired from Ford Motor Company where he was a financial manager. He volunteered his time at the American Legion, Volunteers for Income Tax Assistance and ushers at St. Linus Church.
He leaves behind two daughters, Marie and Ann.
What happens next?
With Paletko’s passing, it appears that Council Chairwoman Denise Malinowski Maxwell should now temporarily perform functions required of the mayor, per the charter. But the Council is waiting on a legal opinion on what the next steps are for filling the vacancy in the city’s executive branch.
There is some confusion about whether Maxwell should now be serving as Mayor, and has indeed left her seat on the Council. This has not stopped Maxwell from publicly declaring herself as Mayor of Dearborn Heights and being sworn in as Mayor on Wednesday.
A person familiar with the charter sent over the following document to The Arab American New, detailing the charter provisions that should determine the fate of the mayoral position, reproduced here in full: