By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — A hearing in the case between Mayor Daniel Paletko and Council Chairwoman Denise Malinowski-Maxwell was postponed until 10:30 a.m. Jan. 8 in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Murial Hughes.
The lawsuit was filed by Paletko Sept. 24, but the entire council was not served until Nov. 20 since Malinowski-Maxwell had been living in Dearborn Heights, but further in Pinckney.
Tom Bruetsch from the law firm Ottenwess, Taweel & Schenk represented the city council and was given until Dec. 23 to respond to the lawsuit since he began working on the case Dec. 7. Also, former City Attorney Gary Miotke was granted one week to respond to filings made by Bruetsch.
During a special virtual meeting Dec. 7, the council passed a resolution related to the lawsuit filed by Paletko.
Malinowski-Maxwell, and Councilmen Bill Bazzi, Ray Muscat and Tom Wencel voted in favor while Councilmen Dave Abdallah and Robert Constan were opposed.
Prior to the vote, the city council held a closed session to consider material from Attorney Matthew Schenk dated Dec. 2 regarding the lawsuit.
Paletko read a statement during the meeting saying he was “forced” to file the lawsuit to stop Malinowski-Maxwell and the city council majority from doing even more damage to the city and it’s reputation.
“At this time I can see no alternative but ligation to stop you from continuing to engage in a pattern of misconduct that violates the Open Meetings Act, city charter and Michigan Constitution,” he said. “Still at some point, I hope that more reasonable and cooler heads will prevail on the city council. At that point I hope that we will be able to talk things out as I have always tried to do with all of you.”
He added that he made a settlement proposal to resolve last year’s ligation way before the court of appeals made its ruling.
“Yet it appears to me that the council chair and Shank decided amongst themselves to hide this settlement proposal from most of you and the public — which is part of reason I had to file this lawsuit,” Paletko said.
Schenk responded since there was an allegation made by Paletko that there was an Open Meetings Act violation, which he said was not the case.
“The settlement proposal was presented to all council members,” Schenk said. “Nobody decided to bring that settlement proposal forward for a vote, and there’s no obligation to vote on something if not one person wants to recommend it.”
Paletko filed the lawsuit against Malinowski-Maxwell for her “illegal and reckless actions.” He is seeking $25,000 in damages. He also listed the City Council as defendants in the lawsuit.
The counts listed in the lawsuit include violation of the Open Meetings Act, violation of the Fair and Just Treatment clause of Michigan Constitution, and requests for declaratory and equitable relief based on violations of the city charter.
Paletko is claiming the City Council and Malinowski-Maxwell violated his right to fair and just treatment in two ways in their seeking a financial audit to provide answers for questions surrounding the almost $1.4 million missing for the city’s Public, Educational and Governmental Fund.
“Substantively, the defendants have violated the plaintiff’s rights in that the investigation was instigated and has been pursued for unfair and unjust reasons and purposes as described previously,” the lawsuit said. “Further, the investigation has otherwise been substantively unfair and unjust.
“Procedurally, the defendants have violated the plaintiff’s rights in that the investigation has been pursued in unfair and unjust ways as described previously. The defendants’ actions have violated the act, the charter and general rules of procedure typical applicable to judicial processes and other quasi-judicial processes. Further, the investigation has otherwise been procedurally unfair and unjust.”
When asked about the ligation, Malinowski-Maxwell did not comment on the lawsuit.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)