Mayor Margaret Guerrero-Deluca (left) chairs a special budget session at the Imlay City hall, held on May 29, 2012. photo by Tom Wearing.
January 16, 2013IMLAY CITY — Mayor Margaret Guerrero-Deluca is railing against allegations by former city commissioner Earl Gass that she has a conflict of interest regarding matters pertaining to the Imlay City Police Department.
In a January 3, 2013, letter to local media, Imlay City officials and Lapeer County Prosecutor Byron Konschuh, Gass claimed that Guerrero-Deluca had chaired public and closed meetings that included discussion and votes on internal police matters.
Gass questioned the mayor's involvement in the process, given the fact that her husband, Officer Joe Deluca, is employed by the police department.
Gass further alleged that Guerrero-Deluca "participated in and voted on compensation, contracts and issues that directly affect her personal household income due to her husband's employment."
Guerrero-Deluca vehemently denied voting on matters of police contracts and compensation, stating she had either recused herself or was not present for such votes.
She noted that she was absent for closed session meetings on July 5, 2011 and on July 12, 2011, during which city commissioners voted unanimously (5-0) to approve a three-year contract with the city's POAM police union, that expires on June 30, 2014.
Indeed, a review of the minutes from those meetings show that Guerrero-Deluca was not present and did not vote.
"I'm not a stupid person," said Guerrero-Deluca. "I know the MML (Michigan Municipal League) handbook like the back of my hand. I'm a fact checker and a rule follower. I was never present in the room during conversation about the police union or contract matters."
Some city commissioners were quick to defend the mayor, saying they would have intervened had any such improprieties occurred.
"I don't want to see somebody get bashed when it's undeserved," said Commissioner Tim Kaiser. "If there was any truth to this, it would be a problem. She always left the meetings when there were votes on those (police) matters, and the minutes will prove that."
Commissioner Dick Brinker agreed, adding that the commission would have responded quickly to any violations of the law.
"We're all very conscious of possible conflict of interest," he said. "Should a situation have arisen, we would have dealt with it as a commission."
Given the fact the mayor had not been present for votes involving police contracts, Prosecutor Byron Konschuh and Imlay City Attorney Gary Howell offered only cursory opinions regarding Gass's claims.
Konschuh said he would need to research the matter before rendering an official opinion. Howell noted he had met with current city commissioners in the past, and with Guerrero-Deluca in particular, regarding procedures to follow to avoid conflict of interest problems.
"The real test is whether or not you have a financial benefit," said Howell. "The mayor followed the rules by not participating in meetings when the police contract was considered and approved."
"I'm just asking the question," said Gass during a telephone interview on Friday. "She (Guerrero-Deluca) sat in on and chaired those budget sessions, including discussion on the police budget, which is the city's biggest expense.
"Whether or not she voted, her influence could still affect how others vote," Gass said.
"There's no ulterior motive on my part," Gass continued. "My intention is not to cut the police department budget, but to make sure that department does not benefit from Margaret's (Guerrero-Deluca's) presence and influence on the commission."
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.