A look back at 2011: July through December

Photo by Sue Suchyta

The Henry Ford hosted a Remembrance & Unity Vigil on Sept. 11 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. The American flag hanging from a Dearborn Fire Department ladder truck was flown over Ground Zero and was a gift from the city of New York to Dearborn in appreciation for donations to the families of the New York firefighters and police officers who died when the World Trade Center Twin Towers collapsed.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN –A former 19th District Court Administrator was awarded over $700,000 in a civil case against a district judge that ended June 30.

Jurors announced their verdict for former court employee Julie Pucci that day in the case she filed against 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers, alleging she was unfairly fired from her position due to her relationship with another judge.
DEARBORN – A 23-year-old man was killed and another man arrested following a shooting about 7:30 p.m. July 13 at Riverside Academy, 6345 Schaefer.

Fadi Hassan Faraj, 35, was charged by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy July 15 with first degree murder and felony firearms possession. Faraj faces life in prison if convicted.

DEARBORN – A judgment that would have reversed a decision to award a former probation officer more than $400,000 in lost wages and benefits was dismissed Aug. 10 by 3rd Circuit Court Judge Jeanne Stempien.

Stempien rejected a judgment notwithstanding motion against a June 3 ruling in favor of Simone Calvas, who served as the 19th District Court’s probation officer from 2002 until 2007 when she was fired by Chief Judge Mark Somers.

DEARBORN – A temporary millage increase and a proposal to eliminate the Civil Service System appeared on the Nov. 8 ballot.

City councilors approved the revised ballot language during their regular meeting Aug. 8 allowing voters to decide two issues in the general election.

The millage increase is to generate an additional $12.25 million that will go directly into the city’s general fund in an attempt to close a $20 million budget shortfall. The city already has made cuts to full-time staffing and benefits, saving about $12 million per year.

DEARBORN – A 34-year-old Dearborn man accused of killing a 23-year-old after a fight on a basketball court faces first degree murder charges after a preliminary examination of the evidence against him that finished Sept. 2.

A trial is scheduled for February before Third Circuit Court Judge Carole Youngblood.

In the conclusion of the exam that began Aug. 19 in 19th District Court, Judge Mark Somers ruled that 34-year-old Fadi Faraj, accused of shooting to death 23-year-old Hassan Zeidan following a fight at a basketball court at Riverside Academy in July, would stand trial on charges of first-degree murder and felony firearm possession.

DEARBORN – Florida pastor the Rev. Terry Jones, who gained national exposure following a mock trial that led to the burning of a Quran, failed to appear in Detroit Sept. 1 for a Circuit Court hearing stemming from charges levied by 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers and an arrest for failing to post bond.

Fellow pastor Wayne Sapp also was scheduled to appear at the hearing at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit.

DEARBORN – The buildings along Michigan Avenue that housed Giuliano’s Restaurant, Brother’s Formal Wear and Bally’s Fitness Center were given the go-ahead for demolition.

Councilors unanimously OK’d the demolition at their regular meeting Sept. 6.

HEIGHTS – Five cities proposed consolidating their district courts in a potential cost-saving measure.

City councilors unanimously approved a proposal at the regular meeting Sept. 13 to allow a consulting group to weigh the pros and cons of possible consolidation of the 20th District Court in Dearborn Heights, 22nd District Court in Inkster, 21st District Court in Garden City, 18th District Court in Westland and 29th District Court in Wayne.

DEARBORN – An appeal to overturn a court ruling in favor of a former 19th District Court employee was dismissed after the paperwork was filed with the wrong date.

The appeal stems from a 2008 civil case involving former 19th District Court probation officer Simone Calvas and 19th District Court Chief Judge Mark Somers.

HEIGHTS – A proposed amendment override, and ways to fix the city’s budget were the topics of discussion at a second town hall meeting held Sept. 26.

An estimated 700 residents filled a gymnasium in the Richard A. Young Recreation Center, 5400 McKinley, for the event, which followed one held Sept. 19, to hear Mayor Daniel Paletko and city councilors discuss the proposed override of the 1978 Headlee Amendment, which requires that voters approve any tax increase not authorized by charter before the amendment was adopted.

DEARBORN – A Combined Sewer Overflow facility designed to capture wastewater from heavy rains and snow melts opened Oct. 15 with an open house for residents.

The structure was under construction since 2007.

The facility, on Millitary Street between Morely and Alexandrine streets, is one of five similar structures constructed around the city.

DEARBORN — Residents of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights elected new city and school officials and passed measures allowing for temporary tax increases in an attempt to eliminate general fund deficits.

In Dearborn, residents approved a five-year operating millage (7,420 votes, or 60 percent to 4,860, or 40 percent), raising property taxes up to 3.5 mills and generating about $12.25 million in general fund revenue in an attempt to offset a $20 million general fund deficit
for the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year.

HEIGHTS – Dearborn Heights District 7 School Board members welcomed two new members following the Nov. 8 election.

Robert Brown and Vickie Bracken took their seats as school board trustees at the regular meeting Nov. 21.

DEARBORN — A former Dearborn health worker filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit Nov. 23 against the city, alleging he was fired for treating female patients.

Madison Heights resident John Benitez Jr. lost his nursing job with the city’s Health Department in December 2010 after a female Muslim nursing supervisor instructed him to refer female patients wearing a hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf, to her for treatment.

DEARBORN — Judge Richard Wygonik, who has served in 19th District Court since March 2005 following the retirement of Judge Virginia Sobotka, was named Chief Judge of the court.

DEARBORN — Creators of TLC’s “All American Muslim,” faced a lawsuit from a company that claims the show’s creators stole their idea.

According to a lawsuit filed against Discovery Communications, the parent company of TLC, which airs “All-American Muslim,” following five Muslim families living in Dearborn, Los-Angeles-based Visionaire Media claimed responsibility for the premise for the show.

HEIGHTS – A local pastor was placed on a six-month leave of absence as of Oct. 1 amid allegations he molested several female church members when they were between the ages of 8 and 13.

According to reports, the Rev. Ioan Buia allegedly inappropriately touched several female members of his church, the Alleluia Romanian Pentecostal Church of God, 4470 Pardee.

As of press time, six women have come forward with allegations.

DEARBORN — Dearborn native Rima Fakih, who became the first Arab-American to win the Miss USA pageant in 2010, was arrested for drunken driving in Highland Park about 2:15 a.m. Dec. 3.

According to published reports, Fakih, 26, was stopped by Highland Park Police on Woodward Avenue after officers saw her black 2011 Jaguar driving in excess of 60 mph and swerving in and out of traffic.

HEIGHTS — Dearborn Heights officials could seek legal action following flooding from rains Nov. 29 and 30 that dumped about 3 inches of water on parts of the city.

Mayor Daniel Paletko said he is considering filing a lawsuit against Wayne County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers if clarification is not found on a 2009 Corps study that reviewed similar research in 1987 which recommended construction of a retention basin along the north branch of Ecorse Creek.

DEARBORN — A United States District Judge awarded former 19th District Court Deputy Administrator Julie Pucci $1.2 million in damages and legal fees stemming from a 2007 lawsuit against 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers.

U.S. District Court Eastern District Judge David Lawson upheld a jury’s decision in a legal opinion filed Dec. 16, awarding Pucci about $735,000 in compensatory damages and about $417,000 in attorney fees. Lawson also denied Somers’ appeal to dismiss a June ruling that he denied Pucci’s constitutional rights by firing her.

DEARBORN — The decision to pull ads from the TLC realty series “All-American Muslim” brought a backlash to Lowe’s Home Improvement.

The retailer removed advertising from the show after receiving emails from Florida Family Association, a religious group based in Tampa, Fla., urging them to remove the ads.