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‘Oversight’ late notice of canceled event rankles local groups

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published September 20, 2019


WARREN — The Warren Community Center was closed Sept. 7-15 for cleaning and renovations.

That was news to Joel Rutherford, who chairs the Official Democratic Black Caucus of Macomb County. His group, together with the Warren Area Democratic Club, booked space in the cafeteria on Sept. 14 way back in March. They paid $150 for space between 9 a.m. and noon, and even got an amended receipt for the booking on Sept. 11.

On Sept. 13, they were told the space was no longer available.

Rutherford said he got a phone call from a Warren Parks and Recreation employee who told him the event would have to be canceled because construction and cleanup work remained ongoing. He said they had a group of about a dozen political figures planning to attend, including local candidates, state-level elected officials, and representatives from the offices of Michigan’s governor and secretary of state. The space was booked to accommodate about 100 people.

“At this point, what can I do? He made no other suggestions. He offered no alternatives. I told him, ‘I just asked you a couple days ago,’” Rutherford said. “There was no mention of any possible problem. There was no mention at all that this was still going on. That’s what troubled me. This was either intentional or totally disrespectful.”

Warren Parks and Recreation Director Dino Turcato said it was neither.

“The community center was shut down for the week. We were opening Monday. We were in the middle of renovating everything in there, the painting, the floors and the bathrooms,” Turcato said. “It was an oversight on behalf of one of the workers. They should have contacted them.”

Turcato said this year’s annual cleaning was done on a longer schedule and involved more work. He said employees may have thought it would have been finished by Sept. 14 and might not have canceled the event outright in order to try and “squeeze them in.”

“When I found out about it Friday morning, I just told them we had to cancel it. We had equipment everywhere,” Turcato said.

The Warren Area Democratic Club posted a notice on Facebook Sept. 13 indicating that its candidate town hall was canceled “due to construction that supposedly nobody knew about when they allowed us to schedule the event.”

Rutherford said he was surprised to not hear from Warren Mayor Jim Fouts on the matter.

“This is a big deal when you involve state officials and elected representatives,” Rutherford said. “Why wouldn’t he at least do some outreach and say I’m sorry?”

Fouts said the groups have secured space in city facilities on other occasions and that the late-notice cancellation was not intentional.

“If he wants to call me up and see me, I’m willing to talk to him,” Fouts said of Rutherford’s concerns.