Council calls for court fund review

Sunday Times Newspapers

MELVINDALE – Officials here are questioning whether Allen Park has been improperly directing 24th District Court revenue to that city’s general fund.

City Council members unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday asking City Administrator Paul LaManes to investigate whether Allen Park Mayor Gary Burtka directed his city’s building authority to transfer some $300,000 it was holding for the 24th District Court into the Allen Park general fund. LaManes also will try to determine whether Melvindale has a claim on any part of the court funds.

Melvindale Councilwoman Stacy Striz, who made the motion, said she had been told by an unnamed source that the transfers were occurring at Burtka’s behest.

Several Allen Park officials on Thursday declined to comment on the resolution for this story.

Based on a joint agreement, Allen Park receives two-thirds of the revenue received from the court through fines and fees, while Melvindale receives a third. Both cities approve the court’s annual budget and contribute to that budget every month based on the same ratio.

“These funds appear to be generated by the revenue of the 24th District Court,” Striz said, “which are subject to a one-third, two-third split, we all know. So I think it might be worthwhile if we can … investigate this further.”

Melvindale Mayor Valerie Cadez asked City Attorney Joseph Couvreur to join LaManes in reviewing the situation and provide feedback to council members.

“It seems like it was something that we should look at because it was … a substantial amount of money that (Melvindale) would be entitled to,” Striz said.

Council Joe Alvarez asked if there were any legal way the fund transfer could be prevented if Melvindale has a legal claim to it, and if it has been transferred, whether Burtka could be held accountable personally for the action.

Couvreur advised members to await the investigation’s results before taking any action.

“You never know what the outcome could be, but I just feel that with that amount of money we should definitely take a look at it and make sure,” Striz said.

The court was established in 1978 by merging the courts of both cities. It handles general civil litigation, jury and nonjury criminal misdemeanor trials, felony preliminary examinations, civil infractions and small claims actions. It also handles arraignments, bail hearings, landlord tenant disputes and marriages.

Operating revenue comes primarily from fines and fees from traffic violations and other civil infractions, as well as truck weigh station revenue.