By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — The appointment of a new commissioner for the Act 78 Police & Fire Civil Service Commission was tabled by the City Council while a lawsuit decision is pending in circuit court.
A vote to table was unanimous, with Councilmembers Ray Muscat and Tom Wencel absent from the April 12 meeting.
Mayor Bill Bazzi brought the appointment of Raed Mourad to serve as president on the commission following the termination of Act 78 Commission President Martin Crandall last month.
The day after the termination, former Police Chief Mark Meyers appeared in front of the commission for a hearing where he spoke about his termination which happened Feb. 24.
Bazzi and the city maintain they had the authority to terminate Meyers, citing the city charter.
Shortly after, Bazzi then announced the appointment of new Police Chief Jerrod Hart.
In a March 29 letter to the city administration, Act 78 Commission Secretary Stephen Lobkovich wrote that the commission “finds no cause for the termination of Chief Mark Meyers has been demonstrated by the Appointing Authority in Dearborn Heights.”
As a result, Meyers is to be reinstated with full pay for the entire duration of this separation from service per Public Act 78 of 1935.
Meyers has not resumed his duties; Bazzi has indicated the city will challenge the commission’s decision in the courts.
During the public comment on agenda items portion of the April 12 meeting, Lobkovich said he believes the appointment at that time is premature because Crandall has filed an appeal on his removal from the commission.
“It’s apparent that it is the intention to appoint a president to the commission and I would like to bring a point of interest on that, that this body or the mayor’s office does not appoint presidents to the commission, only the active commissioners elect the president,” he said. “You can appoint a commissioner and it’s proper to do that once we know there’s a vacancy there, but we choose our own president.”
Councilman Robert Constan said the position is a mayoral appointment but then the president is elected by all the members of the civil commission, which Lobkovich said takes place during the first meeting of the year.
“However I would think this is a special circumstance where if we need to appoint a new president — the only thing I am aware of is that commissioner Crandall appealed his removal from the commission, which per the act he has every right to do, and then it goes to circuit court.” Lobkovich explained.
Of the three positions on the commission, one is appointed by the mayor, one is elected by active employees of the Police and Fire departments, and the third is chosen by those two commissioners.
When Councilman Mo Baydoun asked Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke for his recommendation on the topic, Miotke said that a labor attorney has been advising the city with respect to this issue.
“A lot of these issues have been handled by labor counsel,” Miotke said. “There are some issues where I don’t feel comfortable being involved in because of a potential for a conflict of interest.
“If there is a removal, and then the person who is removed appeals that, whether it’s to the mayor or otherwise, then the mayor has to end up going to the circuit court, and in this instance asking for a confirmation of this decision.”
The next civil commission meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 2, but it is unknown if a decision will be made in Wayne County Circuit Court before then.
Lobkovich agreed that the mayor has the authority to remove a commissioner for cause, but that a commissioner has the right to appeal within 10 days.
“Following that it becomes incumbent upon the mayor to file with circuit court a hearing on the subject to be determined by a judge whether or not the removal is upheld or denied,” Lobkovich said.
The commission still has a quorum with Lobkovich and Commissioner Stephen Popp, so business can continue according to the rules and regulations of Act 78 in Dearborn Heights, Lobkovich said.
Bazzi said he consulted with an attorney the same day as the meeting and talked extensively about the topic. He said appointing somebody to look after the interests of the city and following the charter is needed.
“As I mentioned, we need somebody to look after the interest of the city with the charter,” Bazzi said. “We are following the charter with what we did. I hope that you guys vote not to table this here because we still have some police officers that we need to proceed with the interview process, and that can take a while.”
When it came time for the council to discuss the agenda item on the appointment, Baydoun made the motion to table the appointment for a later date so the court can make its decision.
Miotke said the court’s decision depends on the court docket, but it could be as soon as a couple weeks.
Constan said it was important that the rules are followed.
“I think it’s important for the enforceability of the findings of the commission, and again, the city has filed a circuit court lawsuit asking the circuit court to determine that the dismissal of Mr. Crandall was fair and right, and that is pending,” he said. “Until that is determined, under the Act, because Mr. Crandall appealed it, his dismissal is not final.”
To watch the city council meeting go to the city’s Youtube page.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])