New, old lawsuits flare in midst of crowded election

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — In the midst of what may be a record-setting election season well-populated with candidates for city council, political tensions in the city advanced again this month with familiar claims made in court.

For the second time this year the city council and mayor stand at opposite ends of legal issues — with a second court action going against the city and mayor — and at least one court date scheduled before the August primary election.

Former Fire Chief Bob Tompos filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the city of Taylor and Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand, a legal claim that in part argues Tompos was fired by Lamarand in April because he had criticized the department’s equipment and safety of firefighters.

According to Wayne County Circuit Court records, the case was filed on July 12 by Tompos, who is among a likely record number of candidates seeking a seat on the city council.

A primary election on Aug. 6 will ask voters to narrow the field of council candidates from 26 to 14. Seven seats expire and are being contested, as are the positions of mayor and treasurer.

A service review and status conference have been scheduled for October in the matter of Tompos vs. City of Taylor/Mayor Lamarand, which argues that Tompos’ First and Fourth amendment (fair and equal protection) rights were violated.

Tompos confirmed the substance of the lawsuit and deferred further questions to his attorneys.

A more timely court action may take place before the election. The city council had filed a lawsuit seeking a court order forcing Lamarand to reopen the closed north and south fire stations and reinstate Advanced Life Support services is scheduled for a Friday hearing, just four days before the primary election.

Two of Taylor’s three fire stations were shuttered in October 2011 as the cash-strapped city struggled with a mounting budget deficit. Financial pressures continued until Taylor officials began a state-approved five-year debt elimination plan to erase a $5 million deficit. Layoffs and service reductions continued during and after the process of finalizing the long-term stabilizing plan.

One option for reopening the stations had been a federal staffing grant that Lamarand rejected. He said the funds would have created additional costs not covered by the grant that the city couldn’t afford.

In May, the city had — for the second time this year — approved a resolution calling for the stations to reopen; for the second time Lamarand vetoed the resolution, and city council members sought legal relief in court.

The staffing grant — with provisions that Lamarand negotiated with fire union officials — was accepted and additional personnel restored to the department ranks, but the two stations remained shuttered and city council continued its argument in court.

Lamarand maintained that the city charter clearly indicates his authority and that his decisions were legal.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

Tags: