Committee mulls alleged board misdeeds, $2M loan to institute

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – The city’s ethics committee met Friday to consider allegations of improper actions by two Downtown Development Authority board members and a request to rescind a $2 million loan to the Lifton Institute for Media Skills.

Attorney Dennis Miller, representing the DDA board, asked the committee for an advisory opinion on two board members he declined to name.

He asked the committee whether it is an ethical violation for a DDA board member to vote in favor of the $2 million unsecured loan to the institute for capital improvements, then subsequently receive contracts to do work for the institute and benefit monetarily from it.

Outgoing DDA Director James Sabo, whose contract expires at the end of the month and was not renewed by the board earlier this year, asked that the loan be rescinded. He also asked for removal of the two board members who voted to approve the loan and allegedly have benefited monetarily from the institute.

Committee members, whose function is advisory only and has no authority to remove officials or rescind the loan, gave no opinion on Friday.

City Attorney Anthony Guerriero, who ran the meeting, said the committee needs to take the allegations seriously and address the situation correctly, noting that the board members in question are appointed officials, not employees. He also said Sabo’s request is problematic because it is far outside the bounds of the ethics board. Guerriero did say, however, that a complainant could refer such a matter to a law enforcement agency for relief of any grievances if they wished.

City Clerk Michael Mizzi provided administrative support for the meeting, which also was attended by committee members the Rev. Joseph Mallia, the Rev. Joel Holls, John Cicotte and Tracy Fressel.

The committee will meet again at 1 p.m. April 23 at City Hall.