Former Dearborn city clerk still gets pension, despite being caught stealing

Posted at 10:22 PM, Sep 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-27 23:40:12-04

Caught red handed, new video obtained exclusively by 7 Action News shows Michigan State Police busting the former Dearborn clerk stealing cash from city hall. 

Despite her taking hundreds, we've discovered the city is still paying Kathleen Buda a sizable pension. 

Maher Muhammad Ali, a citizen of Dearborn, is among those outraged by what we've uncovered. 

"Surprised really. I'm not expecting this in the United States" says Ali.

MSP conducted a thorough investigation, that led to the former clerk's career coming to an end. 

City Council President Pro Tem Thomas P. Tafelski says this was a clear sign a system of checks and balances was broken. 

"It's a problem and so it needs to be addressed. The public needs to know what's going on," says Tafelski. 

People we talked to are even more shocked to learn the city still pays Kathleen Buda more than $3,300 a month in pension. 

Randa Abdulhadi, another citizen of Dearborn says she finds that to be totally inappropriate given what took place. 

"Stealing is stealing. Regardless of the situation. I don't think she should receive a pension," she says. 

MSP strategically placed the hidden camera inside the former clerk's office after getting complaints back in 2015. Only 7 Action News was there in December of that year, as troopers raided the clerk's office.

Shortly after in January 2016, Buda retired from the job that paid her $72,555 a year. She had worked for the city for more than 20 years.

"When something like this goes out, it puts the city in a bad light no matter who it is," says Tafelski.

He says the city law department required Buda still be paid roughly $11,000 in unused time off. Then, in court on June 22nd this year, Buda pled no contest to felony embezzlement, as part of a plea deal to avoid prison time. 

She was sentenced July 21st to 2 years probation and a small restitution of roughly $1,600. Her monthly pension was only reduced by roughly $50 by the court. 

Peter Henning, a highly respected former federal prosecutor and Law Professor at Wayne State University explains, "What the rule is in this state, is that it's only from the date of your first criminal act that you start losing your pension benefit."

Henning adds it might be the law, but may also be unfair to taxpayers. 

"You earn your pension because of work over a long period of time, but how long was she also dipping into the till? These are the people that have to be the most accountable," says Henning. 

We called and emailed Buda for a response to our story, but she refused comment. She also would not open the door after we visited her at home. 

The city's Mayor, Jack O' Reilly Jr. also declined to do an interview about the city's plans to prevent further abuse. 

Council President Pro Tem Thomas P. Tafelski however did agree.

"One of the things Plant & Moran said was we needed better control of cash disbursements and receivables," he says.

He points out a recent audit found flaws in how the city handles money. A city spokesperson now says they've stopped accepting cash payments. 

The city's deputy clerk is now running the department, prior to the upcoming November election. 

We made several attempts to reach Kathleen Buda as well as her attorney. Neither of them would agree to an interview.