DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Mayor Daniel Paletko is suing Council Chairwoman Denise Malinowski-Maxwell for what he calls “illegal and reckless actions.”
In the lawsuit, Paletko states that the attorneys hired to represent him during the numerous lawsuits back and forth over the last year have still not been paid and alleges that Malinowski-Maxwell has been refusing to put their invoices forward for the Council to vote on.
The lawsuit also states that the motive of the financial audit is to remove Paletko from office.
“Further, and in reality, the underlying motive for the investigation has been and remains to try to force the plaintiff to resign as the city’s mayor,” it said. “This has been planned by the majority of the Council (including Maxwell) in order to result in Maxwell becoming mayor on at least a temporary basis pursuant to the Charter. Thereafter, Maxwell could seek to retain the office of mayor with the advantage of incumbency. This plan has been premised in part on the idea that the investigation would create so much stress for the plaintiff that his health would be compromised and he would be forced to resign.”
The lawsuit also alleges Open Meetings Act violations.
“The Council has retained special legal counsel (hereafter ‘Mr. Schenk’s firm’) to assist it with the investigation with Mr. Schenk (‘Schenk’) being the main attorney from this firm working on this matter,” the lawsuit said. “As part of this retention, it appears that Mr. Schenk’s firm has also engaged the services of the accounting firm Rehmann Robson (hereafter ‘Rehmann’) to assist it or the Council with the investigation. Mark Kettner (hereafter ‘Kettner’) is the partner from Rehmann who is the main accountant from this firm working on this matter. Despite the plaintiff’s Open Meetings Act objection to it, the Council elected to have Kettner and/or Schenk meet with individual members of the Council and others to discuss the scope of the investigation and to formulate the plans for the investigation. None of these individual meetings was a public meeting wherein the public or the plaintiff could attend or have any input into the topics discussed.”
Paletko’s lawsuit also includes accusations of HIPPA violations.
“After Maxwell learned that a city employee had the Coronavirus, the plaintiff, the city’s human resources director and the employee received inquiries from the media and/or others asking if this employee had the disease,” it said. “Whether the employee had the Coronavirus and/or went on leave because of it is legally restricted information under HIPAA and the FMLA. Since the inquiries implied mismanagement by the plaintiff and/or his administration, the plaintiff reasonably believes that the disclosure of this legally restricted information to the media was undertaken by Maxwell, another member of the Council and/or someone allied with them who received such information from Maxwell.”
In an email to The Arab American News, Paletko said that this is to hold Malinowski-Maxwell and the majority of the City Council accountable.
“These actions have violated the Open Meetings Act, the city charter and the fair and just treatment clause of the Michigan Constitution,” the email said. “While Maxwell and the City Council majority have regularly made irresponsible and unfounded accusations against me and the rest of the city’s administration, they are the ones who have actually engaged in wrongdoing. Contrary to my city charter right to fully participate in meetings, Maxwell has regularly kept me muted to keep me from being heard on important matters during electronic City Council meetings. Maxwell has also routinely assumed the power to act on behalf of the City Council without having any such authority or authorization to do so. Plus, Maxwell and the City Council majority have been violating the Open Meetings Act by engaging in ‘round-the-horn’ deliberations and decisions which violate the Act. Further, they have violated the Michigan Constitution through their financial investigation, which has been nothing more than a political witch hunt that has cost this city and its taxpayers thousands of dollars with nothing to show for all of the expense and effort. And this witch hunt has been pursued because Maxwell and another member of the City Council majority want to force me out of office and be the next mayor.”
Paletko also said he believes the misconduct is becoming more brazen.
“Even after I filed this lawsuit, former interim City Treasurer Zouher Abdel-Hak placed two letters on the agenda for the October 27, 2020 City Council meeting that clearly suggested that he, Maxwell and the City Council majority violated the Open Meetings Act,” he said. “In one of his letters, Abdel-Hak admitted that he had used American Express Points to order printers without authorization being granted to do so by a City Council vote taken at a meeting. Similarly, in the other letter, he not only stated that he had ordered items without City Council authorization received at an open meeting, he further stated, ‘Authorization was granted for this purchase by Council Chair Denise Malinowski-Maxwell.’ And when he explained why he did not wait to receive authorization for his actions at an open meeting as required by the Act, Abdel-Hak’s explanations for his misconduct unquestionably demonstrated that Abdel-Hak, Maxwell and the City Council majority actually violated the Act. That is, Abdel-Hak explained his violation of the law by saying that he contacted several City Council members, asked permission to buy the items and then bought them. Abdel-Hak followed up on this explanation of his illegal behavior by actually naming the four members of the Council majority that he had spoken to, including Maxwell.”
Paletko also said that these actions are damaging to the city as a whole.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “Because I could not in good conscience wait for Maxwell and the City Council majority to violate the law and to continue to harm the city, I have been forced to file and to pursue this lawsuit. Hopefully, the court will stop Maxwell and the City Council majority from doing even more damage to the city and to its reputation by putting an end to the needless chaos, confrontation and conflict they constantly seek and create through their unlawful acts.”