DEARBORN HEIGHTS — The City Council passed a “no confidence” resolution against Mayor Bill Bazzi, Corporation Counsel Roger Farinha and Police Chief Jerrod Hart in a 5-2 vote and unanimously voted to cancel the salary and benefits of two directors within the Police Department.
The resolution passed with “yes” votes from Mo Baydoun, Hassan Ahmad, Denise Malinowski-Maxwell, Hassan Saab and Tom Wencel. Council members Nancy Bryer and Bob Constan voted “no” against the resolution.
The no confidence vote indicates a formal declaration by the Council expressing doubt in an individual’s capabilities to effectively fulfill their roles. This vote comes roughly six months after the Wayne County Elections Commission unanimously rejected a petition to recall Bazzi and just a few weeks into the terms of new Council members Saab and Malinowski-Maxwell.
Baydoun told The Arab American News that a similar motion had been put forth before by former Councilman Zouher Abdel-Hak and he had turned it down at the time.
“The motion was put forward before, but I had asked for it to be removed,” he said. “But when it was put forward this time by Councilman Saab, I supported it. There is no respect for the City Council. I have had to remind different departments even to stay in their lanes and not interfere with the Council and the mayor’s veto was submitted incorrectly and not submitted timely either.
City Council resolution cancels salary and benefits for police department directors
“The Council is demanding respect and an understanding of checks and balances. The mayor is not the legislative body, he is the executive body and we are not going to be bullied, harassed or intimidated. This new Council brings a new era for Dearborn Heights and the mayor needs to play ball or he will be voted out.”
Councilman Ahmad said the Council took this step due to a concern regarding adherence to the city charter when it comes to certain appointments and disregard for Council decisions and that the Council has received complaints from city employees regarding being in a hostile working environment.
“Our action underscores the principle that no one is above the charter and that we will not tolerate a toxic work environment,” he told The Arab American News. “Real change requires an exchange of ideas and a willingness to listen, learn and adapt. We extend an olive branch to work collaboratively with the mayor to address these issues and move our city forward, but only if the mayor is willing to engage in constructive dialogue, correct the wrongs, respect the charter and create a safe and respectful workplace for all employees. The mayor has done a lot of good things for the city, but we still need to adhere and respect the charter.”
During the Jan. 23 meeting, the Council also approved the cancellation of salary and benefits for Police Department Directors Kevin Swope and Paul Vanderplow and allegedly removed their positions.
A press release from the city calls these resolutions “illegal” and states that they “expose taxpayers to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and liability, as well as exposing some members to criminal prosecution for flagrant violations of federal law.”
In the release, Bazzi said residents deserve better and that he brought Chief Hart and his team into the Police Department to change the culture and make it more responsive to the needs of the residents and businesses in the community and that they have succeeded in “rooting out corruption and institutional inefficiency.”
“I believe in our officers,” Bazzi said in the release. “Unfortunately, morale suffered from constant bullying, inappropriate behavior, a lack of professionalism and favoritism that made an already difficult job worse. The people elected me to rectify these problems and give them the responsive, community-oriented law enforcement they deserve to receive for the hard-earned tax dollars they pay. City Council’s actions threaten to turn back the clock.”
Hart, Swope and Vanderplow represent more than 90 years of law enforcement management and according to Bazzi have made “remarkable strides in bringing the Dearborn Heights Police Department back to a well-managed, transparent and respectable organization.”
“As a mayor who has emphasized the restoration of law and order, accountability, transparency and respectability in our community, I am astounded our Council members have made the effort to so blatantly defund and derail the Dearborn Heights Police Department and put our progress in jeopardy,” Bazzi said. “Since the new administration has begun its ‘cleaning up’ initiative of the department, several areas of serious concern have been identified and corrected.”
Baydoun told The Arab American News that the positions were created illegally as the City Council is responsible for approving the budget.
“I want to make it as loud and clear as possible, I will never defund the Police Department,” he said. “I’ll be brutally honest and the truth is the truth; these positions are illegal.”
These areas of concern were highlighted:
- “Traffic ticket fixing”, where the administration allegedly uncovered and addressed/eliminated a decade-long ticket fixing scandal, which was shown to void thousands of tickets by officers for “preferred” business people, residents and other contacts;
- A “traffic ticket quota system” where the administration allegedly uncovered an illegal ticket writing quota system that rewarded selected officers for taking part in reportedly stopping vehicles, warning and releasing the driver, and writing and voiding the ticket upon returning to their patrol car to simply “get credit” for writing the ticket;
- The “excessive use of restraint/force” where the administration allegedly investigated officers’ use of excessive force in response to complaints received and has since developed policies governing the use of restraining when facing unusual circumstances;
- and developing “evidence room policies” where the administration allegedly identified and corrected disregard for evidence room basic policies and procedures.
“It’s alarming that selected Council members would oppose having a professional, seasoned leadership team with a proven track record in place, which is committed to effectively instilling law and order, accountability and partnering with the community on many mutually beneficial initiatives,” Bazzi said in the press release. “This is even more frustrating that their efforts are, in part, further fueled by the support of a disgruntled former city attorney who was earlier relieved of his duties due to ineffective performance.”
The positions held by Swope and Vanderplow will continue to remain intact, Bazzi told The Arab American News in an interview.
“Several Council members have asked me to promote someone in the department that they are friends with and they have been defunding the Police Department little by little and (are) now removing people that have identified corruption within the department,” he said. “We have these three individuals in these roles with over 90 years of experience combined and someone on Council with no law enforcement experience on City Council trying to make these decisions.”
Bazzi said both positions will remain intact until he gets a court order stating otherwise as he will not disrupt the Police Department when the residents’ safety is his top priority.
“I was fortunate enough to recruit someone qualified when the department was in disarray with no law and order; and if you can’t have law and order in the department, how can you have law and order in the city?”
He also said that he takes his role very seriously and will continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of the residents.
“We will continue to work in the best interest of our Dearborn Heights community and will not succumb to attempts of intimidation or harassment of myself or my staff, to strongarm this administration to work for the interest of a select few — or be bullied into replacing this Police Department leadership team with underqualified individuals,” Bazzi said in the release. “In my elected capacity as mayor, I take seriously the responsibility of making decisions for the safety and well-being of our nearly 65,000 residents.
“Although I certainly disagree with some City Council members on how they would like to run the city, I do respect their point of view and their responsibilities in their elected capacity,” he added. “However, it appears that some Council members may not fully understand their role and responsibilities in local government. I took an oath to lead the city and lawfully execute my duties in accordance with the best interest of our nearly 65,000 residents, as opposed to the demands which serve the special interests of a select few.
“This administration continues to work tirelessly as we identify and analyze critical bottlenecks, implement new ideas, strategies and solutions to effectively propel our city forward. We hope that the entire Council body will join us and see the value of working together and utilizing their role as council members to help not impede this progress.”