Attorney for former Heights building director asks council members for apology

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Attorney Amir Makled appeared in front of the city council at its Oct. 9 meeting requesting that the council members who made “malicious” comments about former city Building and Engineering Department Director Mohamed Sobh apologize.

“My client is deeply concerned about those comments and deeply concerned any further comments that will be made against him,” Makled said.

Sobh worked for the city for more than 20 years before resigning on Sept. 17, which was not related to accusations that he extorted money from residents, Mayor Daniel Paletko said.

Paletko informed the council of Sobh’s resignation in a Sept. 27 email. Sobh has been retired from the city since 2012, but had a temporary contract with Dearborn Heights after that.

During the Sept. 25 council meeting, Councilman Bill Bazzi said he received calls from a resident regarding a department head who “wrote up a bunch of issues at a house where a senior citizen with terminal illness lives.”

Bazzi said the caller told him that the senior citizen wanted to sell her house and that Sobh wrote up  $15,000 to $20,000 in violations, then told the woman that one of his family members would purchase the house. In his claims, Bazzi also said Sobh came back and “wrote some more stuff” before purchasing the house and not making any changes and then putting it up for rent a few days later.

“I received complaints from residents and real estate agents saying that certain people can come to the counter and go behind closed doors to get permits while other agents are waiting in line to get permits,” he said.
Councilwoman Denise Maxwell said that some of the violations written up on the house were not considered violations.

At the Oct. 9 meeting, Makled told the council that the comments made at the Sept. 25 meeting and in local media defamed Sobh’s reputation.

“With that being said, an employee of the city Dearborn Heights that served this city with integrity and honor for nearly 20 years had his reputation tarnished,” he said. “The comments that are made about Mr. Sobh were done maliciously, reckless and irresponsibly made without any investigation.”

While addressing the council, Makled was stopped by Maxwell after he addressed Bazzi directly when asking for an apology, but made an adjustment to address through the council chair.

“I am asking through the chair that these comments are retracted and a formal apology made on behalf of that person who served our city of Dearborn Heights for nearly two decades without any issues on his record,” Makled said. “I reiterate that the comments contained at this council meeting and in local media were maliciously false and is our contention, were done for a political gain and purpose at the shortcoming of my client and really for the purpose of attacking the current administration which I think is improperly done.”

Sobh told the Arab American News that he was assigned at random to perform inspections on the house and that the violations written up were about $10,000.

He also said he spoke with the senior citizen’s daughter to inform them that they would have to pay for the repairs or sell the house when the owners already had been taking offers to sell the house.
According to the AANews article, Sobh told them he first made an offer to purchase the house through a real estate agent, completed the required repairs, bought the property and listed it for rent three months later.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)