Clerk controversy draws court action in Dearborn Hts.

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A Dearborn Heights resident is asking a judge to compel the City Council to prove why it is not in contempt of court for failing to replace the suburb’s embattled clerk who resigned last month but then rescinded his resignation.

An attorney for Robert Hadous entered a lawsuit Tuesday in Wayne County Circuit Court seeking the action involving the position of Clerk Walter Prusiewicz.

The clerk resigned in July, citing staffing and other issues. He then rescinded the resignation, but the council sought clarification on whether it could accept his bid to return. He did not respond to requests for comment.

The council accepted the clerk’s written resignation in a vote last month and are obligated to fill the vacancy, the court filing said, citing state law and the city charter.

That means the council is required to start the process to select a successor, said Amir Makled, the Dearborn attorney representing Hadous. “We don’t want the city to be put into a position where, come the November election, there isn’t a clerk available.”

City Attorney Gary Miotke said the council had moved to receive, note and file the clerk’s resignation, which was not considered a formal approval or acceptance, so there is no vacancy. The council is scheduled to address the lawsuit during a closed session, which is typical for legal matters, next week, he said.

The city charter doesn’t appear to address the rescission or specify that a vacancy, if one exists, requires an immediate appointment, Councilwoman Marge Horvath said. Horvath added she believed the clerk’s “resignation and the rescinding of that resignation are done correctly. ... We have not gone against the charter.”

The city clerk’s resignation came days before controversy erupted over absentee ballot applications for the Aug. 5 primary election.

Last month, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Michigan office alleged that Arab-American voters were prevented from obtaining absentee ballots. The claims sparked outcries from the community and calls to remove Prusiewicz, and led to poll monitoring by the state.

The allegations came before Prusiewicz reported in a letter to the state attorney general, Michigan Bureau of Elections and the Wayne County prosecutor what he described as potential voter fraud and campaign irregularities involving about 250 absentee ballot applications dropped off at his office.

In the letter, he said the 250 applications were from men who appeared associated with the campaign of state Rep. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, who was running for the 5th Senate District seat in the primary.

It is illegal to solicit voters to fill out absentee ballot applications in the same manner voter registration drives are conducted, state officials said.

State Rep. David Nathan, a state Senate candidate, had sought a temporary restraining order to set aside certain absentee votes cast in the primary. Last week, Wayne County Judge Robert Colombo Jr. dismissed it, saying: “There is absolutely no evidence in this case that there has been one fraudulent ballot submitted by absentee ballot.”