Councilman could face removal for back taxes

By J. Patrick Pepper
Times-Herald Newspapers


DEARBORN — City Councilman Robert Abraham owes more than $80,000 in back taxes on five Dearborn properties dating to 2007, according to Wayne County and city tax records.


Abraham is in danger of losing four of the properties to tax foreclosure if the delinquencies aren’t righted by March 31. Those properties, on Garrison between Brady and Monroe, are part of a condominium tract that Abraham developed.


The other property, 24530 Michigan Avenue, is an office building he formerly used for his accounting practice. According to records, taxes for that property are unpaid only for 2008 and would not enter foreclosure until March 31, 2010. But taxes aren’t the only issue facing the two-term councilman. According to the city charter, enacted in 2006, “No person who is in default to the city may accept or hold an elective or appointive position unless the default is resolved.”


Whether or not he is allowed to remain in office would fall to his fellow City Council members. The charter says, “When the council shall have reason to believe that any elective or appointive office should be declared vacant, the council shall hold a special public hearing to investigate the matter. A majority of the members of the council thereafter may vote to declare such office vacant based on” violation of the charter.


Reached by telephone Friday, Abraham said he was involved in a partnership that owns the concerned properties on Garrison, but declined further comment.


City Councilman Douglas Thomas said he hadn’t had enough time to review the information to comment on the specifics of the situation, but in general said that tax problems are indicative of the tough economy.


This is not the first time Abraham has had issues with the Garrison properties. In 2005, Stephen Dobkowski asked the city’s Board of Ethics to review Abraham’s conduct as it pertained to the development of the condos. Dobkowski raised concerns that Abraham had used his position to gain unfair advantages from the city.


But a lack of physical evidence and a reliance on hearsay plagued Dobkowski’s case, and Abraham was cleared of the allegations.


At the same time Abraham was cleared of his charges, letters from citizens raised questions about Dobkowski’s own tax records. It was found that Dobkowski, a city charter commissioner at the time, was delinquent on taxes for a house on Horger Street.


An investigation found Dobkowski in violation of the charter, and the City Council voted 5-1 to remove him. Thomas Tafelski was the loan dissenter; Thomas was absent. Further complicating Abraham’s issue with the city could be the status of two of the condos in city records.


In an effort to stem the negative effects of increased rental properties caused by the foreclosure epidemic, city officials have begun to push a rental registry Web site to residents. Although the city has had a registered rental policy for years, the ballooning number of rental properties led officials to ask for residents’ help in identifying those properties.


City spokeswoman Mary Laundroche said all of the Garrison properties were registered, but a search of the city’s registered rental database only showed two. The cause of the discrepancy was unclear at press time.