3 Highland Park City Council members walk out of meeting as residents wait for overdue water bill update

As Highland Park residents waited for an update on overdue water bill mediation, three City Council members walked out of Monday's meeting.

"Grow up, leave your personal problems aside," resident Anita Bates said.

Councilmember Khursheed Ash-Shafii said what happened is a result of political infighting.

"The council president saw it prudent to send out an email insulting the two females who walked out, calling them incompetent, saying that they were not intelligent enough to come up with an ordinance on their own. And they wanted a public apology. He refused to apologize, so they did not approve the agenda," Ash-Shafii said. 

In addition to Ash-Shafii, Council Members Kallela Martin and Sharmaine Robinson also walked out of the meeting. 

Residents and community leaders are outraged at what happened.

"They just walked out of a council meeting. We’re fighting for our city. We’re fighting for our survivability, our budget, and they walked out," resident Ken Bates said.

Residents who wanted to speak were unable to as a result.

"I was denied the right to speak as a citizen. I am a homeowner, a taxpayer in the city, and I was denied the right to speak because the council people walked out. Because they walked out, there are no public comments this evening," Anita Bates said.

The City Council turmoil comes as Highland Park is steeped in about $19 million in unpaid water bills. Mediation has been taking place between the city and the Great Lakes Water Authority, according to sources familiar with the discussions. 

A judge ordered both sides to get a payment plan together by May 31, but questions remain.

"The bottom line is we have to do our part as Highland Parkers to make sure that we hold up our end of the bargain. Get into a solid and sound contrast with GLWA so that the state can come in and do their part," Ash-Shafii said.

Ash-Shafii said he hopes taxes do not increase over the unpaid bill.

"I’m hoping that the Governor will help us in that department but as I’ve said as long as we have the governor’s attention and once you have Gretchen’s attention, it’s always good. It’s always a great opportunity for the City of Highland Park," he said.

FOX 2 reached out to the GLWA for comment.