City faces lawsuit over civil service proposal

By DANIEL HERATY
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – A proposal to remove the Civil Service Commission could face resistance from a former city employee.

Former Civil Service Commissioner Marjorie Powell filed a request for an injunction Oct. 5 against the city, claiming the ballot proposal seeking to eliminate the Civil Service Commission violates the Michigan Home Rule City Act passed in 1909, which states that any proposed charter amendment needs to be limited to one subject per ballot question, and any other subjects need to be placed on a separate ballot proposal.

The election will be held Nov. 8.

The city is looking to do away with the commission and replace it with a human resource commission, which would merge the two departments.

The injunction also states that the city is using the proposal as a reason to “rid itself” of Powell, a pending case she has against the city and Human Resources Administrator Valerie Goodrich. The lawsuit states the potential elimination of the Civil Service Commission is an attempt to remove Powell and Goodrich, paving the way for appointment of unqualified staffers.

“Over the last several years, both Powell and Murphy-Goodrich have been a thorn in the side of city officials,” the lawsuit claims. “By intervening in attempts to use political influence in hiring and staffing decisions.”

City spokeswoman Mary Laundroche said it’s not likely that any legal proceedings will happen before the election. She said the language was also approved by the state attorney general’s office Aug. 17.

“People have already voted on this issue,” she said. “The absentee ballots have already been sent out, so its very late to challenge a ballot proposal.”

The injunction also questions the language in the proposal that claims Dearborn is one of the few cities in Michigan that has a Civil Service Commission. It claims that a commission is still used by 19 other cities: Detroit, Grand Rapids, Warren, Flint, Sterling Heights, Lansing, Livonia, Westland, Troy, Southfield, Kalamazoo, Wyoming, Pontiac, Taylor, St. Clair Shores, Saginaw, Royal Oak, Dearborn Heights and Muskegon.

The document also calls the city’s claim that it is one of a few cities to still use a commission “disingenuous,” and states the city will suffer “irreparable harm” if the proposal is passed.

Goodrich did not respond to phone calls seeking comment for this story.

A hearing for the request is scheduled for Nov. 2 before Third Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan.

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at dheraty@bewickpublications.com.)

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