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Windom is Highland Park recall target

Highland Park council members listen as Mayor DeAndre Windom and Finance Director Ernestine Williams address State Treasurer Andy Dillon’s findings of the city’s “financial stress.” City Council member Norma Lewis (background wearing all black) is also being recalled.  STAFF PHOTO

Highland Park council members listen as Mayor DeAndre Windom and Finance Director Ernestine Williams address State Treasurer Andy Dillon’s findings of the city’s “financial stress.” City Council member Norma Lewis (background wearing all black) is also being recalled. STAFF PHOTO

By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen

Highland Park Mayor DeAndre Windom’s effort to stave off his recall has failed. Residents leading the recall plan to file 1,000 signatures on April 7 calling for his recall.

“The mayor did, in fact, single handedly shut down the water plant and did, in fact, contract another municipality for municipal water without first securing approval from the city council,” is the wording of the recall petition. So far 717 city residents have signed, Kursheed Shasii said, although only 347 signatures are needed. Three community groups are working with Shasii to gather the signatures.

According to the city charter, only the council has the authority to shut down, decommission, sell or demolish any city resource, Shasii said. Windom violated that charter provision. In Jan. 2013, at the advice of Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointee Tony Saunders, a Windom advisor, Windom turned off Highland Park water and switched to Detroit water without a vote of the council. In fact, council members say, Windom did it without even conferring with them.

The Wayne County Election Commission approved the ballot language in December. On January 10, Highland Park city attorney Todd Perkins filed a motion in Wayne County Circuit to dismiss the recall, arguing the recall petition under Michigan’s new recall law requires the petition language to be a statement of fact.

According to Perkins, the language cannot be deemed factual unless there has been a fact-finding process.

Judge Annette Berry simply never took up Perkins’ motion and let the matter die, Shasii said.

“I filed a motion to dismiss,” Shasii said. “And gave the court a video tape of Windom speaking at a town hall meeting where he admitted he shut down the water plant without council approval. He spoke in front of the city attorney and I thought the attorney would advise him not to make that statement, but he didn’t.”

Detroit is suing Highland Park for the $80,000 a month in unpaid water usage. It is a figure most city council members dispute. They want Detroit to substantiate their figures.

While Shasii is not alone in his anger over Highland Park water issues, his history with the city is an unhappy one. In 2011, he purchased a house at 166 Colorado from the city, paying $1,500 for the house. Shasii said he replaced the doors, windows, roof, electrical and plumbing systems bringing the house up to code. His investment: $13,000 plus his labor.

In March 2013, when he was ready for final inspection, Shasii said, the city announced the house was really owned by the Highland Park Housing Commission, which said it could not give him title to because the home had claims on it by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city refused to reimburse him, Shasii said, and HUD refused to deed him the property. The house remains empty.

Windom’s past two years in office have been plagued negative publicity.

He was in the public eye for being shot in a night club on New Year’s Eve this year. He has angered many city residents for his mishandling of water bills. Windom fired everyone in the water department when he took office in 2012. No water bills were sent out until a year later, Jan.2013, which reflected charges for a year’s use ranging in the thousands of dollars. Again water bills did not get sent out until Jan. 2014. Some residents have yet to receive a bill.

Shasii said a recall effort is also ready to go against two council persons, Titus McClary and Norma Lewis. Petition language has been approved and once the petitions are filed against Windom, the groups will begin to gather signatures calling for their recall.

The recall election will be at the same time as the state’s primary election set for Aug. 5. Under the state’s new recall law, Windom can remain as mayor if voters choose him in August. Other candidates may run for mayor in the same election.

Recall organizers say they hope only one candidate opposes Windom in the August election. They fear two or more candidates will split the ballot and allow Windom back in.

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