counHeights city clerk allowed to rescind resignation

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS – The City Council is allowing the city clerk to rescind his resignation, which has prompted criticism and a lawsuit from a resident.

At its Aug. 12 meeting, the council had an item on the agenda to discuss the resignation letter turned in by clerk Walter Prusiewicz last month but the item was tabled and will instead be discussed at a closed study session in the future.

Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke said his research indicates that the clerk is allowed to rescind the letter and continue in office but that the matter should only be discussed in closed session moving forward because of a lawsuit filed against the council by a resident over the resignation.

Prusiewicz, who was not present at the meeting, will continue as city clerk as discussions continue.

He told the council through a letter submitted July 22 that he would preside over the Aug. 5 primary election and then resign the office Aug. 28.

He said two days later that he would rescind the letter and formally turned in a note stating the same five days later to Council Chairman Kenneth Baron.

Prusiewicz did not monitor the primary election due to a health issue; it was run by Deputy Clerk Eve Schafer with an official from the Wayne County Bureau of Elections assisting.

The council received, noted and filed Prusiewicz’s resignation letter July 22 and since council members and citizens have questioned whether the action by the council constituted an acceptance — thereby forcing the clerk to leave office by Aug. 28 — prompting the research by Miotke.

Miotke said the council’s receiving, noting and filing the clerk’s resignation letter July 22 did not constitute an acceptance of the resignation.

He said that the city charter requires the council to accept the resignation at a meeting, which they have not done because they have not met since the letter was given to them as a body and that receiving and filing the letter is separate from taking the action of accepting or denying the letter and its contents.

Section 4.7 of the charter states that “resignation of an elected official shall be made in writing, filed with the Clerk and shall be acted upon by the Council at its next regular meeting.”

Miotke said that “because the city council has not yet accepted the city clerk’s resignation, the clerk’s resignation is not yet effective and may be withdrawn.”

He added that the clerk could only withdraw the resignation prior to its acceptance by the council. If it had been accepted by the council, the effort to withdraw it would not have been successful.

Resident Robert Hadous disagreed with Miotke and filed a lawsuit against the council last week over the clerk’s resignation.

In the petition, Hadous said that the council needs to show “why they should not be held in contempt of court for failure to appoint a new clerk” after accepting the resignation letter.

Hadous also said that by receiving and voting on the letter, the council accepted it and must now look for Prusiewicz’s replacement.

Dearborn attorney Amir Makled, who is representing Hadous, agreed.

“They (city council) received and accepted the clerk’s resignation,” Makled said. “They had deliberations in public and voted 6-1 to accept the letter. He resigned and they should be looking for his replacement.”

The council voted 6-1 to receive, note and file the letter July 29, with Councilwoman Marge Horvath being the lone vote against the measure.

Prusiewicz’s resignation letter came as allegations from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee surfaced accusing the clerk of voter intimidation and discrimination.

According to the ADC, several Arabic residents alleged that the city clerk deliberately prevented many of them from submitting absentee ballots for the upcoming elections while they were vacationing or knew they were going to be absent for the election.

Prusiewicz denied the allegations against him and said he resigned because of in-fighting between other department heads, council members and members of the mayor’s administration towards his office, understaffing in his office causing long work days and recent accusations of voter discrimination from Arab Americans in the city.

He said he was resigning because the physical and mental stress of the job were wearing him out.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)