HEIGHTS — The City Council approved a budget amendment July 12 to allow for the hiring of a full-time corporation counsel at a cost of $171,925.
The council voted 3-1, with Council Chairman Dave Abdallah and Councilmembers Nancy Bryer and Ray Muscat voting in favor, and Councilmember Tom Wencel voting against. Councilmembers Hassan Ahmad, Mo Baydoun and Robert Constan were absent.
The amendment includes the $115,000 salary plus $13,500 for medical insurance, $1,500 for life insurance and $41,925 for fringe benefits, Mayor Bill Bazzi said.
The funding for the budget amendment will be coming from the general fund.
Chief of Staff Mariana Hernandez said the city budgeted $342,000 in total for the department in the 2022-23 budget. She said that last year, the city budgeted $300,000, and out of that, by the time of the 2022-23 budget approval, only $231,000 was spent.
Wencel questioned the projected cost of the proposed new hire, and whether support staff would be needed in the future. Abdallah said the amendment switches funds from one account and allocates it to the hiring of the new corporation counsel.
Muscat said legal services already were budgeted, and that the council can monitor the costs. Bazzi responded to the support staff concern, saying that only the current request is for the proposed full-time hire.
No name was given for the expected corporation counsel hire, but Bazzi said a background check needs to be completed before it is announced and placed on the next meeting agenda.
The appointment is made by Bazzi, but requires confirmation from the City Council.
With the hire, current contractual services with Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke, and attorneys O’Reilly Rancilio and Chris Mikula will be smaller as the full-time corporation counsel takes on more work.
When asked by Abdallah for a better understanding on the shift, Bazzi said Miotke will remain affiliated with the city.
The plan is to have Miotke continue prosecution cases along with any special cases that come through the city, Bazzi said. Miotke also will help with the transition period.
Miotke currently bills the city on an hourly basis and submits monthly bills, which will continue since he doesn’t have a specific contract amount.
With the proposed hire, the workload for Miotke, Rancilio and Mikula will be reduced, allowing the city to save money and pay for the full-time position.
“The new person would do the work that he or she would be able to end up handling, and there would probably still be a need to go to outside counsel for some of this work,” Miotke said. “We would continue to end up getting paid, it would just be less because this person would take on a number of the tasks, but there would still be a need for outside counsel.”
Abdallah asked about the transition period, when the hire is confirmed.
“My impression based on conversations with the mayor and chief of staff would be I would be appointed assistant corporation counsel and would be assigned to handle all the prosecution unless I delegated it off to someone else, and then I would be doing special projects or helping the new corporation counsel,” Miotke said.
O’Reilly would be be handling matters like zoning and planning, and helping out the new corporation counsel, Miotke said.
During the same meeting, the council unanimously extended the used car lot moratorium for 180 days effective July 13. Abdallah said the moratorium has been in place for roughly about two years.
“This is a limit on used car lots that can be put on or put in the city,” he said. “We’re extending it for another 180 days because there are some areas which this could be drastically affected, most specifically Van Born Road.”
Dearborn Heights and Taylor have been working together to improve Van Born Road through the Van Born Corridor project.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])