Dexter DDA Board Member Suddenly Resigns with Unsubstantiated Allegations
On Thursday, August 24th, The Beer Grotto’s Phil Mekas announced via email to the city his resignation from both the ZBA and the DDA.
He cited multiple personal reasons for his departure from the DDA and mentioned an alteration in his professional circumstances that necessitated an immediate decision. In the email, Mekas expressed his wish for the resignation to be included in the DDA's public record. He openly voiced his disapproval of the ongoing involvement of "Common Sail" in the 3045 Broad Street Redevelopment Project. Additionally, he insinuated that certain board members might be backing the continuation of this partnership for their potential benefits.
When the Sun Times News contacted him, Mr. Mekas refused to elaborate on his allegations.
In her report on the matter to the DDA, Community Development Manager Michelle Aniol pointed to the State law, PA 57 of 2018 (the Recodified Tax Increment Financing Act), as amended, requiring that “not less than a majority of the members shall be persons having an interest in property located in the downtown district or officers, members, trustees, principals, or employees of a legal entity having an interest in property located in the downtown district. Not less than 1 of the members shall be a resident of the downtown district.”
Ms. Aniol added, “That in itself sets up an inherent conflict of interest for board members because nearly every decision a Board makes, in its mission to support and improve the economic health and vibrancy of a Downtown and a DDA District, could result in a ‘personal gain’ or benefit for the members of the Board.”
The Community Development Manager listed examples of DDA decisions such as:
- Streetscape improvements;
- Participation in the development of Mill Creek Park and the Mill Creek Park Pathway;
- Participation in brownfield redevelopment projects;
- Acquisition, development, and maintenance of public parking facilities;
- Property acquisition;
- Participation in the creation and maintenance of the Social District;
- Acquisition of barricades and barricade covers for expanded outdoor dining;
- Sponsorship of events, such as Lite-Up Dexter and the Dexter Ice Festival; and
- Marketing efforts, such as the Michigan Trails Magazine.
The issue was put on the DDA agenda for discussion at its September 21st meeting. When asked to speak on the group’s discussion, Chairperson Doug Finn provided the meeting minutes summarization.
“At its meeting on Thurs, Sept 21st, the DDA addressed the allegations made by former DDA Board of Director member, Phil Mekas in his August 24, 2023 resignation email. The Board also heard from City/DDA Attorney, Scott Munzel, who at the request of the City Manager, contacted Mr. Mekas. According to Mr. Munzel, Mr. Mekas declined to provide any details or information to support his allegations.
“According to Sec. 17-7 of the City’s General Code of Ordinances, following the declaration of a potential conflict of interest, details of the potential conflict must be provided. In this case, no details were provided. As such, Attorney Munzel indicated that without details to support the allegations, there is nothing to investigate. To allay any concerns the public might have, each Board member declared publicly that they did not have a personal relationship with Common Sail and therefore, no conflict of interest. The Chair deemed the matter closed.”
Mr. Mekas’s letter can be found in the DDA meeting packet on the city’s website.