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Grosse Pointe Shores

August 21, 2013

Council strips Schulte of Shores mayor pro tem duties

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

Embattled Shores City Council member Daniel Schulte — who is facing charges for domestic violence and resisting and obstructing police — has been stripped of his duties as mayor pro tem, at least for now.

The Shores City Council voted unanimously at their meeting Aug. 20 to “excuse Dan from his potential duties as mayor pro tem, pending further action by the City Council,” Mayor Ted Kedzierski said. The vote was 5-0 in favor of the move; Schulte and fellow City Council member Alexander Ajlouni weren’t present for the Aug. 20 meeting.

Schulte — whose absence from the meeting was excused by the council, as was his absence from the previous meeting July 16 — was arrested at his home earlier this month. Police responded to Schulte’s home around 10:22 p.m. Aug. 7 following an alleged domestic violence assault that reportedly involved his wife, according to a news release from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Schulte was arraigned the evening of Aug. 8 on charges of resisting and obstructing, preventing a crime report and domestic violence, said Maria Miller, a spokesperson for the prosecutor, by email. Resisting and obstructing police carries a possible sentence of two years in prison, while preventing a crime report carries a possible one-year sentence and domestic violence carries a possible 93-day sentence.

Kedzierski insisted that the decision to remove Schulte from the pro tem position “is not punitive. Actually, it’s being supportive of him at this time. … It’s in the best interests of Dan and in the best interests of the city.”

A couple of residents spoke out against the council’s decision.

“This is America, where people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” Robert E. Lee said. “I think your actions are reprehensible. … A man should not be sanctioned until he has his due date in court.”

Resident Vito Cusenza agreed with Lee.

“I think this is a little premature also. … This whole thing might quiet down yet with his wife. … I think you ought to hold off before you cite him,” Cusenza told the council.

Lee also questioned whether the council had the authority to make this change, and said they weren’t giving Schulte a proper hearing, since he wasn’t there to respond or defend himself.

City Attorney Brian Renaud said the council’s decision was permitted by the city charter, noting that it’s the council that selects the mayor pro tem, not the general electorate.

“It was not a motion to remove him as a councilman,” Renaud said of Schulte. “He retains his council status.”

Schulte, who was the highest vote-getter and the only incumbent re-elected to the council during a hotly contested race in November 2011, was named by his fellow council members to the pro tem position after that election.

Schulte also still has his committee appointments, Renaud said.

Renaud said removal from a council seat would require “due process” and findings of malfeasance, misfeasance or a felony conviction.

Schulte could not be reached immediately for reaction to the council’s decision. Kedzierski said after the meeting that another council member had spoken with Schulte Aug. 19 about the pending council vote.

There was discussion at the meeting of media reports that the actions taken by the Public Safety Department might have been in retaliation for Schulte’s support of a decision to reduce some of the department’s employee benefits as a cost-saving move a couple of years ago. That was a decision supported by the rest of the council at the time.

Former City Council member Brian Geraghty, who served on the council that made the decision to make those cuts, spoke out in support of the city’s Public Safety Department.

“I am here this evening to state my strong support for our public safety officers, and their management, for their dedication, courtesy and professionalism in their duties,” he said. “I offer these comments to counter reported comments made by Dan Schulte in at least two newspapers. My experience with our public safety officers and all of our city employees is one of high satisfaction. …

“Two years ago, I was on the City Council and participated in two budget cycles that included extensive discussions regarding changes to municipal employees’ pay and benefits,” Geraghty continued. “I introduced a motion for the budget that was passed that changed the benefit structure. I have experienced no negative impact from any employee at any time. In fact, the high level of response, courtesy and professionalism has been the same for the 25 years we have lived in Grosse Pointe Shores.”

Current City Council member Kay Felt also defended the department, citing incidents in which they assisted her and other residents.

“I don’t know how any police department could be any more attentive or protective of its citizens,” she said.

Public Safety Director John Schulte — no relation to Daniel Schulte — said previously that he couldn’t comment on the case against the council member. However, he did respond with regard to the actions taken by his officers.

“This case, and the previous case, were handled with complete professionalism and in an identical fashion as any other call for service,” John Schulte said. “In regards to this most recent situation, the prosecutor files the charges, not the police.”

The August incident wasn’t the only time police have gone to Schulte’s home in recent months. They were also called there at 6:59 p.m. May 16 for an altercation between Schulte and his 19-year-old son that resulted in no charges.

As to whether Daniel Schulte could be facing expulsion from the council itself, Kedzierski and Renaud said it was too early to speculate on that, with Renaud saying it “really is premature” to comment on such possible action.

“We have a charter, and we’re going to follow the charter,” Kedzierski said.

Kedzierski also said it would be “up to the council” to decide whether or not they planned to replace Schulte with someone else as mayor pro tem.

At press time, Schulte was expected to appear in Grosse Pointe City Municipal Court before Judge Russell Ethridge for a preliminary examination at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 12. Judge Matthew Rumora, the municipal court judge for both Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Shores, had asked to step aside from this case.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.