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Hamtramck council censures member for swearing at employee

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Hamtramck City Council voted Tuesday night to censure a member accused of berating a municipal employee in June.

The resolution against Ian Perrotta, previously censured by the council for his conduct, alleged that he used profanity when addressing an unidentified worker, including referring to that person as a “little (b----)” and saying they were “just a (f------) kid and didn’t know anything.”

Ian Perrotta

According to the measure, Perrotta, who serves as mayor pro tem, “has bullied and berated other employees, contractors, and private citizens, holding this body up to disrepute, poisoning the work environment, and working counter to the interests of the city.”

The document called for "training regarding workplace harassment and discrimination to be recommended by the city’s Human Resources Specialist” within 45 days of the resolution's passage.

"I hope he changes the behaviors towards anyone because it is important, because he is an elected official," Councilman Nayeem Choudhury said before the 4-2 vote.

During the meeting, Perrotta apologized for his actions and acknowledged "I temporarily lost my cool" and "cussed out" a city worker several months ago. Perrotta said the encounter was related to frustration over delays in plans to add to his business, Trixie's Bar, during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I know my actions that day were wrong and I immediately took responsibility for them," Perrotta said, adding he wrote a letter of apology to the employee.

The two have interacted since then without issue, Perrotta said. "I sincerely believe the employee recognizes that what I did was a mistake and not a representation of my overall conduct."

Before the vote, Perrotta called the censure resolution "punitive, retaliatory and libelous."

In earlier public comments, some residents defended him.

Rachel Srodek called him a respected businessman who "probably was speaking from his heart at the time."

"This is his business that he’s dealing with," Srodek said. "Everyone’s going through tough times and he was saying it probably as a resident and not a councilperson. And just shame on everyone on council for bringing it up and reiterating it and making it more than what it really is."

Bill Meyer, who leads the group OneHamtramck, said while he did not always agree with how Perrotta communicated, “I respect him as a person who seems very committed to helping the people of the city.” 

Andrew Perrotta, the councilman’s brother, called the resolution “a joke,” questioned its motivation and called his sibling “one of the most normal people."

"Ian is and always will be the same person elected by the voters," he said. "They know who he is. No need to censure him for losing his cool after having his business shut down for the last five months ...”

Councilwoman Andrea Karpinski, who voted against the measure, said "I think we need to remember that we all have lapses in judgment when emotions run high."

Others on the council disagreed, saying Perrotta should be held to a higher standard.

"If I did this myself or any other council member did it … I would expect the same action to be taken against me and them," said Fadel Al-Marsoumi, who introduced the resolution with Councilman Mohammed Hassan.

After the resolution was approved, Perrotta said it was "unfortunate ... I apologize to the residents of Hamtramck for bringing this about. It was unnecessary. The issue was resolved, but I’ll take responsibility for it."

Perrotta has faced the issue of censures during his tenure before.

In September 2017, the panel was due to vote on a resolution to censure him over controversial comments he made on immigrants during a radio interview. Speaking on WWJ-AM (950), Perrotta blamed immigrant residents for trash piling up in Hamtramck alleyways and singled out residents from Yemen and Bangladesh.

However, the council did not vote on the resolution as planned and no explanation was given. At the same meeting, Perrotta apologized to anyone offended by his remarks, which he described as a response to a question in an interview about a problem in the city drawing complaints.

In January 2019, the council approved another resolution against Perrotta for “assaultive, abusive and uncivil conduct,” city records show. It said he was “admonished to guard against making … biased, abusive and impertinent remarks in the future” and warned the councilman would be removed from proceedings “in which he engages in or threatens to engage in assaultive conduct.”