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DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) - A longtime Dearborn city councilman and candidate for mayor has been accused in police memos, by multiple citizens and under oath of abusing his power while on the Dearborn City Council.
Tafelski, who is locked in a tight and contentious race to unseat Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, has been on the city council since 2001. A series of documented allegations against the councilman, supported by witness statements, raise questions about his conduct in office.
Tafelski denies that any of allegations are true, calling them eleventh-hour “unsubstantiated rumors” by his opponent meant to discredit his surging campaign.
"Pulled out a badge"
In 2005, police records show that Tafelski was involved in an accident with a 17-year-old driver. According to a police report, Tafelski got out of his car holding a badge.
That’s when Tafelski told the teenage driver, according to a police report, that “he was a cop.” He wasn’t, and when a real officer showed up, he talked to both drivers and issued a citation to the 17-year-old. 7 Action News spoke with the other driver by phone, who stands by his account that Tafelski impersonated a cop.
Only a few months later, police documents show, Tafelski would be pulled over by an officer for speeding, more than 20mph over the speed limit. According to a police memo, when the officer approached the driver’s window, he saw Tafelski “holding…a gold police-style badge,” telling the officer he was a city councilman and admitting he was at fault.
The cop, who we confirmed the story to 7 Action News, didn’t write him a ticket but did report the incident to his supervisor.
A year later, Tafelski was accused of throwing his weight around again. When one of his friends wasn’t admitted access to a Cinco de Mayo party, Tefalski allegedly took out his badge and told a security officer: “Do you know who I am”? “I can shut this place down.” One of the witnesses, who we spoke to off camera, said he appeared intoxicated.
Tefalski denied impersonating a police officer and says Dearborn council members used to be provided with badges. If someone confused him with an officer, he said, that’s not his problem.
“This one is a document from 2005, but no one knows and has ever talked to me or spoken to me,” Tafelski said. “I never said I was a police officer, I was never counseled, I was never charged.”
Tafleski asked for "a favor," officer says
A more recent allegation against Tafelski can be found in a deposition stemming from a discrimination lawsuit filed by a then-Dearborn police officer. According to the deposition, and in police records, the officer said under oath that Tafelski asked him for “a favor,” to surveil the home of his wife that he was divorcing because he thought she might be dating a drug dealer.
The officer complied, sending cops to surveil her house 10 times and to dig through her trash. They found no evidence of drugs and the officer involved was later fired, in part according to police officials for doing the councilman a favor.
Tafelski denies ever asking for it and that says the disgraced officer shouldn’t be trusted.
“I think what we need to do is focus on the real issues of the city of Dearborn, we need to make sure that the city of Dearborn is moving forward,” Tafelski said.
Government ethics experts say the pattern of allegations raise questions about Tafelski’s fitness for office.
“They indicate a pattern of character that most people would say not appropriate for an elected public official,” said William Giovan, the former chairman of the Wayne County ethics board and a former Chief Judge for the Wayne County Circuit Court.
In a statement, Tafelski denies the allegations made by several police, citizens and under oath:
My opponent's camp has resorted to spreading unsubstantiated falsehoods from more than a decade ago 11 days before an election is not surprising. These same baseless accusations always seem to surface around election time in Dearborn and they are as untrue now as they have been in the past. While it is unfortunate that others feel the need to resort to dirty political tricks, I remain committed to discussing real issues that matter to Dearborn residents like accelerating economic development, making our streets safer and improving service delivery.