By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Muriel Hughes on Oct. 25 denied three motions by Mayor Daniel Paletko, who attempted to block the city’s council plans to conduct a financial forensic audit.
Initially, the council voted Feb. 26 on a resolution to seek a forensic audit to provide an explanation for almost $1.4 million missing from the city’s Public, Educational and Governmental fund.
Paletko’s first motion asked, “the judge to reconsider her original Sept. 3 opinion that he must honor his city council’s resolution to proceed with steps to conduct a forensic audit of the city’s finances.
The financial review was proposed and approved by the council in order to help address questions regarding a number of city expenditures, including spending on retiree health care, spending on city-owned vehicles and charges from the city’s water fund, among other things,” according to a news release.
The second and third motions asked for a stay of the order, which would allow Paletko time and the opportunity to file an appeal in the appellate court system and requested of the judge to rule that the conduct of the council’s July 30 special meeting be deemed illegal and nullified, a Dearborn Heights City Council news release read.
Along with the denial by Hughes, none of the three motions by the mayor are allowed to be brought up again as part of an appellate process.
During the Oct. 25 hearing, Hughes also denied the city council’s motion to find Paletko in contempt of court for non-compliance with the judge’s orders. The city council will have to wait 21 days from Oct. 28 to refile their contempt motion, which they plan to do if Paletko doesn’t comply with Hughes’ orders, the news release said.
”We appreciate the judge’s position in upholding the laws regarding this case,” said Council Chairwoman Denise Malinowski Maxwell, who attended the hearing. “I am confident this will finally pave the way for us to conduct the full forensic audit of the city’s finances, which will answer the questions we have regarding both past and present spending procedures. Our intent as council members is to serve in the best interests of our residents — and this judgement will allow us to do just that.”
A phone call to Paletko’s office for comment was not returned by press time.
At the city council’s Sept. 10 meeting, Paletko refused to sign the city council’s resolution related to his failure to abide by a court order. The council voted 5-2 to authorize the law firm of Ottenwess, Taweel & Schenk, PLC to file a court motion holding Paletko in contempt of court as well as other claims of misconduct in office for failing to follow the order of the court and the direction of city council.
Paletko said he was not in contempt of the court order. Malinowski-Maxwell asked Paletko if he wanted to sign the resolution and he said he didn’t.
In a Sept. 3 press release Malinowski-Maxwell said the council was pleased with ruling by Hughes made that same day requiring Paletko to abide by the steps required to complete an audit.
Hughes ruled that Paletko must sign a retainer agreement with the law firm of Ottenwess, Taweel & Schenk, PLC as approved by the council on Sept. 3. Also, the ruling denied the council’s request of costs and attorney fees in its motion for writ of mandamus because it failed to articulate a legal basis in support of such requests.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])