DEARBORN HEIGHTS — City resident Robert Hadous is taking legal action against the Dearborn Heights City Council following clerk Walter J. Prusiewicz’s decision to rescind his resignation shortly after submitting it.
Hadous is requesting that the Wayne County Circuit Court grant an immediate order to show cause as to why the city council should not be held in contempt of court for failing to appoint a new clerk.
Hadous’ attorney, Amir Maklad, said Prusiewicz presented a letter of resignation to City Council Chairman Kenneth Baron on July 22; and that the very same day the council discussed the letter and decided to accept the clerk’s resignation in a 6-1 vote.
“This whole issue with them saying his resignation wasn’t accepted, we believe to be untrue,” Maklad said. “There was deliberation and it was clear, based on our detailed understanding of the city charter, that the resignation was tendered in writing and it was brought before the city council, and the city council acted upon it.”
The Arab American News obtained a copy of the letter Prusiewicz sent to Baron noting that he was rescinding his resignation. The letter was short and read, “I hereby withdraw my resignation which was dated July 22, 2014. Thank you.”
The clerk did not provide any reason as to why he decided to rescind his resignation.
The issue of the clerk’s resignation was on the Tuesday, Aug. 12 city council meeting’s agenda and up for discussion, but City Attorney Gary Miotke advised the council not to address it.
“It would be appropriate to address these issues in a closed session, especially because this body is being sued,” Miotke said.
Prusiewicz was also supposed to be present at Tuesday’s city council meeting, but didn’t show up. Arab Americans filled the city council chambers during the meeting. Members of the community attended in hopes of pressuring the city council to take measures to appoint a successor for Prusiewicz. Many people were forced to stand up during the meeting because there were no seats available. “The clerk attempted to take it back; well, there is no taking a resignation back, Maklad said. “The council has broken the law by failing to begin the process of appointing a new clerk. The council has already accepted his resignation. It is too late for him to tender a withdrawal of that. Our concern is that this council is failing in its obligations by not appointing or starting the process of hiring a new clerk.”
Prusiewicz resigned last month amid controversy surrounding hundreds of absentee ballots that were submitted to the clerk’s office, which sparked speculation of voter fraud. Prusiewicz said about 250 absentee ballot request applications were dropped off at his office by people who appeared to be from the campaign of Democratic State Rep. David Knezek, who was running for state senate. Prusiewicz indicated that he was cautious about accepting the applications because they were not filled out properly.
The Arab American Anti Discrimination Committee of Michigan later alleged members of the community were discriminated against because of the difficulty they experienced trying to obtain absentee ballots at the city clerk’s office.
“Regardless of what happens in respect to this lawsuit, I’ll consider it to be a personal victory that so many people are here, not just of Arabic background… I want people to understand this: I speak on behalf of Polish, Italians, Armenians, you name it, that is who I speak on behalf of,” said Hadous.
He also complained to the city council about why Prusiewicz was not working in his office on election day. “And today, when we are supposed to be taking up an agenda item dealing with the same position he is supposed to be fighting for, he isn’t here,” Hadous said. “Isn’t it an insult? Is that the highest integrity standard you hold us to in this city? This man is not here today and if he has some illness that he is suffering with, then maybe we should take into consideration his physical and mental condition. This flip-flopping and all these other various things that he is doing, to me they are a little bizarre. They really are.” Miotke said the council never accepted Prusiewicz’s resignation. “It is not a formal declaration of acceptance,” he said. “So when the council voted on it they were taking no action; and you have to have a formal acceptance of a resignation.”