DETROIT, DEARBORN HEIGHTS – Almost six weeks after the Wayne County Election Commission unanimously rejected a petition seeking to recall Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi, the Wayne County Circuit Court rejected an appeal to the recall petition, which was rejected by the three members of the commission on July 25, last Wednesday.
During the hearing, which lasted only 25 minutes via Zoom, Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Patricia Fresard rejected the appeal to recall Bazzi, who attended the proceedings with his attorney, Thomas P. Bruetsch. The applicant for the appeal, local businessman and Dearborn Heights City Council candidate Zouher Abdel-Hak, also attended, along with his lawyer, Gary August.
August argued that the committee rejected the recall petition without “formal discussion”, pointing out that he and Abdel-Hak did not understand exactly why the recall petition had not been allowed to make its way onto the ballot.
I am grateful for Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Fresard’s decision to reject the appeal to continue this frivolous recall initiative during today’s hearing,” Mayor Bazzi said
“I am grateful for Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Fresard’s decision to reject the appeal to continue this frivolous recall initiative during today’s hearing,” Mayor Bazzi said. “This re-affirms the July 25 decision of the Wayne County Election Commission and, hopefully, puts an end to this attempt. These frivolous and desperate attempts to disrupt our city are a waste of time and resources for all. Despite this nonsense, I remain unwavering in my commitment to our residents. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from residents throughout the city, and appreciate those officials who were at the helm of rendering justice for Dearborn Heights.
“With the continued support of those forward-thinking elected officials and employees who are tirelessly supporting our work, Dearborn Heights is enjoying renewed growth and optimism,” he added. “No longer tolerated are the days of favoritism for the selected few, bullying and lackluster customer service.
“Residents, business owners and visitors to our city are treated with respect, fairness, courtesy and the efficiency they deserve and expect. Our police department, behind the leadership of Chief Jerrod Hart and Directors Vanderplow and Swope, is transitioning into a truly world-class organization. With initiatives like the new DHPD/Department of Justice (DOJ) partnership, a renewed sense of data-driven operations and a more robust community-oriented/outreach philosophy, our department is once again becoming an organization we can all be proud of. I am proud to serve as our city’s mayor and remain dedicated to continuing to build on the long list of improvements we are accomplishing.”
Renewed political bickering and divisions
The failing attempt to recall Bazzi comes within a framework of renewed political and legal tensions and disputes that have overshadowed the corridors of City Hall during the last years of the term of the late Mayor Dan Paletko, who died from the COVID virus in late 2020. The disputes in City Hall at that time resulted in a temporary cease of bickering that resulted in Bazzi’s appointment as mayor in early 2021, in addition to the appointment of Abdel-Hak as interim treasurer.
While Bazzi was able to win a landslide victory in the 2021 elections, Abdel-Hak failed to win a City Council seat, which prompted him to try and run again this November.
The recent conflicts in the city were fueled by the police department following Bazzi’s appointment of Police Commissioner Thomas, who died Oct. 2 after a short illness, and Chief Hart. The latest manifestation of this was the leaking of a video clip of the arrest of Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray to Fox 2 Detroit without first notifying and/or consulting with Bazzi or Hart.
In another development, a story was published on August 25 in a local newspaper, The Times Herald, stating that Chief Hart was put on administrative leave, suggesting that he will not return to his position. This was based on information leaked by two members of the City Council, without stating their names, after a closed Council session, which angered the mayor. Bazzi issued a joint statement with the police chief that denied the report and expressing his dissatisfaction with publishing false information about the administration.
The paper’s original article, headlined “Dearborn Heights Police Chief (Jerrod) Hart on leave, unlikely to return”, was based on information reportedly leaked to the writer by an un-named City Council member following a closed-door session – a violation of both the City Charter and the Open Meetings Act. The assertion was changed by the writer in a follow-up article, confirming the chief has no plans to depart the city.
“The way in which this article was written was certainly misleading and, frankly, unprofessionally done,” Bazzi said. “Chief Hart took a few days off to spend with his family. Per Police Department procedures, he notified me in writing of his upcoming absence. Per department procedures, he also appointed Operations Director Kevin Swope as the acting chief during his absence. He was gone for a few days, he enjoyed his time off and now he’s back in his position, serving the community. He has assured me he is committed to continuing his mission of leading the transformation of the Dearborn Heights Police Department into a truly world-class organization. Chief Hart is a highly-educated, highly respected and effective leader, and a welcome and respected part of the Dearborn Heights family of public servants. I am fully confident he, his leadership staff and those officers who are also committed to serving our community so professionally are the right people for the job.”
Both Bazzi and Hart expressed concern and frustration over the continued false and malicious interference from a small, but vocal group of individuals who continuously impede the forward momentum of both the police department and the city in general.
“Reckless media communications like this, coupled with a continuous supply of deliberately untrue, pointless and derogatory social media comments and rumors serves no one – and serves as a breeding ground for casting a negative light on the entire city,” Bazzi said. “Do we support freedom of speech? Of course. However, along with the right to free speech, there also comes a responsibility to present truthful, non-destructive comments… which some of our residents and officials have seemed to forgotten.”