Council confirms Griem as Warren’s city attorney

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published June 27, 2013

WARREN – David Griem is Warren’s new city attorney.

The appointment of the well-known lawyer who in recent years represented some of metro Detroit’s most high-profile defendants; who previously served as a county and federal prosecutor; and who also led the city’s legal department for 11 months under former Mayor James Randlett in the 1980s, was confirmed by a 5-2 vote of the Warren City Council June 25.

Griem was picked by Mayor Jim Fouts to succeed former Judge James Biernat, who’ll leave City Hall in late July after serving two and a half years as Warren’s city attorney.

Council Secretary Scott Stevens and Council member Keith Sadowski voted against the appointment after a discussion during the meeting about Griem’s future plans for his law practice, and after they unsuccessfully attempted to postpone action on the appointment until July 9.

But both Stevens and Sadowski also said they took no issue with Griem’s qualifications or legal expertise.

“You’ve got a wide range of experience, so I don’t mean to question your legal prowess in any way,” Stevens said. “That is, from what I’ve found, it goes without saying, or is without question.

“You’ve had a lot of controversy. You’ve been in the media a lot,” Stevens said. “How do you think you’re going to fit with the administration? You seem to gravitate towards the limelight, so to speak.”

Sadowski asked why Griem, who has enjoyed much success in the private sector, would go back to work for the city at this stage in his career.

Griem will make what Biernat made as Warren’s city attorney, about $112,000 annually.

“To say it’s a significant pay cut is an understatement. I may be one of the few people who come before you that require approval that don’t need the job,” Griem said. “But I like the job.

“I meant it when I said in my letter to you: You don’t always take. Sometimes you give back, too.”

Griem pledged to remain accessible to the council and invited them to contact him after hours should the need arise.

He pledged to work at least a day a week for free in the weeks leading up to his official start date at City Hall to acquaint himself with the office and the issues it faces.

One he’s officially onboard, he said he would work at least a 40-hour schedule for the city.

But both Sadowski and Stevens pressed him regarding his intentions for his own private legal practice.

Griem said it he could not say when he would close the practice, but added, “I will say to you that I’m ready to go however many hours. My first responsibility is to —and not necessarily in this order, but probably in this order — the citizens of the city of Warren, this council and the mayor.

“I have obligations that I plan to take care of on evenings and weekends. I already work 70 hours a week and it’s going to mean that maybe I’m going to start working 80 hours a week,” Griem added.

Stevens also asked Griem if he remained retained by the mayor for defense in a separate legal matter.

“I have a lot of people, especially in Macomb County, maybe if it’s a second opinion or whatever, they pick up the phone and call me,” Griem said. “I never received a penny from the mayor.”

Griem worked as a prosecutor at both the county and federal levels before he went to work in Warren for Randlett in the mid-1980s.  As an attorney in private practice for more than 30 years — specializing in criminal and civil litigation, according to his bio — Griem represented defendants in many high-profile cases, such as Stephen Grant and Bob Bashara. Griem also defended former Warren City Council President Chuck Busse, who was acquitted of federal public corruption charges in 2003.

Fouts previously said Griem is “one of the top attorneys in the United States” who is coming back to his roots in Warren, seeking a challenge.