To Ms. Rosemary Otzman:
In the April 4, 2019 edition of the Belleville-Area Independent you included a headline on your front page that stated “City of Romulus accused of stealing court money to cover its payroll.” Had you taken the time to reach out to myself or my administration, and checked the facts, prior to writing such a harmful, defamatory article, you would have realized that the statements and accusations regrettably made by uninformed employees of the 34th District Court were made due to opposition to a potential cost share beginning July 1, 2019 for healthcare for all employees of the City, consistent with State Public Act 152, a practice followed by a majority of our neighboring communities and similarly in the public sector across the region.
Over the years, the City of Romulus, business community and our residents have had a great collaborative relationship with our Belleville community partners. The City, businesses and residents support many of your local businesses, including many of those who advertise in your paper.
How unfortunate that you chose to lead with an inaccurate headline, without verification of facts. There are a lot of great things going on in Romulus, many in collaboration with the City of Belleville. Including the upcoming 6th-annual Mayors’ Ball hosted by myself and Mayor Conley again this year in the City of Belleville. This annual event raises funds donated entirely to the Romulus and Belleville Donahey Boys and Girls Clubs, a much needed resource in both of our communities. That would have been a great story to run about our community and our Belleville neighbors.
You indicated in an article in the April 11, 2019 edition of the Belleville-Area Independent that you planned to view the Romulus City Council meeting of April 8, 2019. I hope that you are true to your word, as I presented facts to our City Council and viewing audience under my April 8, 2019 report to City Council. Should you view the meeting, you will hear the facts presented by City Attorney Steven Hitchcock and myself. Factual data about the financial relationship between the City of Romulus and the 34th District Court. If you have not yet viewed the meeting, I implore you to review the meeting on YouTube: https://youtu.be/y800pTf51FE?t=794 .
Let me be clear — the City of Romulus has conducted all financial transactions in accordance with the 1998 agreement between the City of Romulus, Township of Sumpter, Township of Van Buren, Charter Township of Huron and the City of Belleville.
Further, the City of Romulus has received and accounted for funds from the 34th District Court in accordance with the July 27, 2016 MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the 34th District Court as well as the August 27, 2017 revised MOU with the 34th District Court drafted when it was determined that the 34th District Court project would be a newly constructed building on the municipal complex rather than a renovation of the current building. Both the 2016 and 2017 MOUs address the process for accounting of the funds and the terms were agreed upon by both the Court and the City.
As stated in my press release of April 9, 2019, in 2018 auditing firm Plante Moran gave Romulus the highest, unqualified audit opinion. To publicly state otherwise, as you chose to do without information is dangerous and demeaning to the City of Romulus, our employees, the community we serve and our Belleville neighbors.
In your April 11, 2019 edition of the Belleville Independent, you included an article mentioning a recent Sumpter Township Board of Trustees’ meeting which included statements made in the letter received by Sumpter Township from the Judges of the 34th District Court dated March 27, 2019. By her own admission to our legal counsel following release of the letter, Judge Green has confirmed that the letter to the other four communities is incorrect. While I fully understand that the healthcare cost share of employees is a passionate subject for all involved, it was a decision not made in haste. Multiple meetings over the last two years were held with City staff, and additionally with the Chief Judge and Judge Oakley regarding the financial health of the City and proposed changes to employee healthcare. I requested to meet with Court employees personally and to include their employees with meetings I scheduled with City staff. Although the Judges were aware of the plan, I was not given opportunity to share the facts with their employees. I stand by my recent statements that the comments of the employees and judges at the March 25, 2019 City Council meeting and the inaccurate letter that was sent to the four communities of the 34th District Court dated March 27, 2019 was in direct retaliation to the action taken by City Council regarding employee healthcare.
I am left to no other conclusion. As previously stated, the City of Romulus has conducted business in accordance with 1998 District Funding Unit agreement with the four other communities of the 34th District Court. At no time during the drafting of the 2016 or 2017 MOUs with the 34th District Court for construction of the new court facility was there any question of how the funds were being recorded or requested by the 34th District Court. Finally, City Auditors have confirmed there is no question of any funds.
The City of Romulus remains proud to be the host community for the 34th District Court. With that responsibility given to our community in the 1998 community agreement and subsequent MOUs for construction of the Court, the City also retains the risk for the maintenance, financing and operation of the 34th District Court.
In the days ahead, we are working with the four communities to address the unfortunate verbal and written accusations by the employees and Judges of the 34th District Court with the four communities they serve. It is also my intention to continue to work with the 34th District Court as I and my administration always have — in harmony. As stated in my April 9, 2019 press release, I am proud of the plans for the new building.
The recent actions of the 34th District Court, and falsehoods printed in your paper, have damaged the community and our employees. Romulus will continue to do its part to be a good community partner — I ask you to do your part — print the facts and publish a retraction of your April 4, 2019 article in the same place in the Belleville-Area Independent as the original article. I have attached the press release again for your reference as well as a full packet of information compiled by our City Attorney with copies of all the agreements as well as the letter sent out by the Court Judges. Thank you.
LeRoy D. Burcroff, Mayor
City of Romulus
To Ms. Rosemary Otzman: