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Meeting rife with shakeups


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August 30, 2012
GROSSE POINTE SHORES — On this night of long knives and sharp pencils, the new city council cut a quarter-century connection with Grosse Pointe Shores' legal advisors, prepared to do the same with an even longer-term engineering consultant and removed, without notice, the mayor pro tem from an appointed post.


The seachange came at the Tuesday, Aug. 21, council meeting.

"Mark, we had a very tough vote," Grosse Pointe Shores Mayor Ted Kedzierski told municipal attorney, Mark McInerney, of the Clark Hill law firm. "We made a change in corporate council."

Switching firms saves the city 20 percent in legal fees and conforms with a two-year budget projection capping anticipated legal expenses at $100,000 annually.

Engineering

The council also instructed the city manager and public works director to investigate matching individual engineering firms with particular projects rather than retaining a single, overall provider.

The query may threaten the standing of Hubbell, Roth & Clark consulting engineers as the city's sole advisor.

Up for review

The council, which includes four attorneys, put legal and engineering contracts up for review last April.

"When we put this out, we were looking at a shortfall of about $490,000," said Mayor Ted Kedzierski.

"When we came into office, we agreed to review all vendors and large suppliers and put them out for quote," added Bruce Bisballe, one of five first-term council member and chairman of the finance committee.

Legal

Clark Hill's bid of $54,000 per year for general counsel was in the upper range of quotes submitted by eight competing firms.

City officials replaced Clark Hill with the firm of Foster Swift Collins & Smith. Its $42,000 bid and experience with municipal matters were key in winning the council's unanimous vote.

"They are one of the best known firms in the municipal field in the state," said Councilwoman Kay Felt.

"Foster Swift represents at least 150 municipalities across the state," Bisballe added. "Clark Hill represents two."

"All things being equal in our bidding process, I don't think we'd have made a change," Kedzierski told McInerney. "But, everyone's taking concessions. Our budget is $100,000 this year and we have a chance to come in under $70,000."

"I'm certainly disappointed," McInerney said. "The city council is functioning very well, as is the city as a whole. I've enjoyed working in this community for almost 25 years. I wish you all the best."

For criminal prosecution services, the council maintained its current firm, O'Reilly Rancilio, but at less cost than this year.

"They bid $15,000 two years ago," Kedzierski said. "(They) sharpened their pencil and reduced it to $14,000."

"From a prosecutorial standpoint, they are responsive to our needs," said Public Safety Director John Schulte. "I have no issue with (the firm)."

Overall Shores legal fees for fiscal year 2012 are $141,000, according to Kedzierski.

"This year's legal expenses were unusually high," he said. "We had the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club (water billing) issue (and) collective bargaining."

Changing professional services isn't new.

"We changed auditors a couple years ago," Kedzierski said. "We went from (paying) $45,000 to $17,000."

Council change

Mayor pro tem Dan Schulte left the meeting shortly after voting to change legal firms.

He wasn't present when remaining members unanimously supported Kedzierski's motion to remove him as public relations liaison.

"I haven't had a chance to ask Dan to withdraw, but I think it's in the best interest," Kedzierski said. "I will call Dan the first thing in the morning and advise him of this."

Kedzierski replaced Schulte with Ajlouni.

"He (Ajlouni) indicated a willingness to do it," Kedzierski said.

Ajlouni's first major task is preparing the next edition of the community newsletter, "Shorelines." The issue is due this fall and scheduled to include an article on the state of the city.

Kedzierski said he based the reassignment on Schulte's decision to run for state representative.

"In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, conflicts of interests or violations of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, I think we need to make this effective today," Kedzierski said. "Dan Schulte has the absolute right to run for another office, but he's in elected office right now. I don't want his opponents using this as a potential claim of using the power of the podium to promote a new elected office."

Schulte, contacted this week, called the decision "an act of cowardice" without honorable justification.

"The mayor and council did not have the decency to make the decision in my presence," Schulte said. "I left the meeting early because of a family emergency. Kedzierski knew this."

The campaign rationale is groundless, he added.

"I do not use council meetings to campaign," Schulte said. "(I) suspect Kedzierski plans to place misleading information in the 'Shorelines' newsletter."

He perceived the reassignment as retribution.

"This decision came across as retaliation by the mayor because I challenged several of his decisions," Schulte said.

All council assignments and mayoral appointees are subject to review by year's end, Kedzierski said.

"We'll be looking at new volunteers and examining all committees to make sure we (are) advancing the best interests of the city," he said.


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