Stories indexed with the term ‘litigation’

County Board Handles Lawsuit, Art, Budget

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (March 5, 2014): A light agenda at the March 5 meeting was punctuated by a relatively rare closed session to discuss pending litigation. The specific litigation wasn’t cited.

Jim Casha, Mary Jo Callan, southeast Michigan regional transit authority, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jim Casha shows Mary Jo Callan, director of Washtenaw County’s office of community & economic development, a map of the Michigan state fairgrounds. Casha is advocating for the southeast Michigan regional transit authority to develop the site as a regional transit hub. (Photos by the writer.)

However, in the previous week, a jury had awarded nearly $1.2 million to a former Washtenaw County employee, Ali Aboubaker, who had filed a discrimination lawsuit against the county in 2011. Responding to a query after the March 5 meeting, corporation counsel Curtis Hedger told The Chronicle that the county would be evaluating its options for appeal. The administration would also be meeting with the county’s insurance carrier to discuss the situation.

In other action, the board gave initial approval to hire a contract position that would support budget-related work for the board and administration. The item had been originally considered, but postponed, at the Feb. 5, 2014 meeting. The vote on March 5 was 7-1, over dissent from Dan Smith (R-District 2). Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) was absent.

Commissioners also voted to accept a grant from the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs for the Youth Arts Alliance (YAA). Washtenaw County is the fiduciary for this five-county collaborative, which provides creative arts workshops to youth in the juvenile justice system. The county also provides office space for YAA.

The grant will pay local artists to install public art at each of the five county juvenile facilities, made with help from the youth at those facilities. The youth will also work with local musicians to create an original album. The alliance’s director, Heather Wilson, told commissioners: “We are seeing huge transformations with the kids experiencing creative arts as an outlet.”

During his communications to the board, chair Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) laid out the application process to fill the seat on the Washtenaw County road commission board left vacant by the recent death of long-time road commissioner Fred Veigel. The deadline for submitting applications is Sunday, March 16. Rabhi hopes to make a nomination at the board’s March 19 meeting. The appointment would be to fill the remainder of Veigel’s term, through Dec. 31, 2014. During the March 5 meeting, commissioners passed resolutions honoring Veigel as well as local activist Lois Mayfield, who died on Feb. 21.

Commissioners also scheduled a public hearing to give input for the Washtenaw Urban County 2014-15 action plan. The hearing will be held at the county boardroom in downtown Ann Arbor during the March 19 meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. It’s intended to solicit feedback about proposed projects and programs that the county intends to implement with federal funding – through community development block grant (CDBG), HOME and emergency shelter grant programs – from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

The March 5 meeting included an update from Diane Heidt, the county’s human resources and labor relations director, about a proposal to offer autism health care coverage for county employees. A formal resolution is expected to be on the March 19 agenda for the board’s consideration.

Public commentary included advocacy from Jim Casha, who has previously addressed the board regarding the southeast Michigan regional transit authority. Washtenaw County is a member of the RTA, and the county board appoints two representatives to the RTA board. Casha’s remarks focused on the benefits of using the former state fairgrounds as a regional transit hub, instead of private development. [Full Story]

County Board to Consider Settlement Deal

A proposed $1.375 million settlement in two lawsuits against Washtenaw County could close another chapter in a 2006 incident that occurred in the Ypsilanti Township neighborhood of West Willow. Clifton Lee died after a struggle with sheriff’s deputies there; his brother, Bruce Lee, was injured. Bruce Lee and his mother, Beatrice McKeown, both sued – Washtenaw County commissioners will vote on a proposed settlement agreement on the lawsuits at their Wednesday, Sept. 2 board meeting.

The county had previously settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the heirs of Clifton Lee. For that $4 million settlement, the county paid $250,000 and insurance covered $3.75 million. Insurance will cover all but $125,000 for the current proposed settlement. The county plans to cover that remaining $125,000 out of attorney reimbursement funds from its insurer.

At the commissioners’ Aug. 26 administrative briefing, the county’s attorney, Curtis Hedger, said the settlement proposal was along the lines of what had been discussed with commissioners in a closed executive session they’d had about the pending litigation. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor to Face Environmental Lawsuit?

In a letter to Ann Arbor’s mayor and city council, Noah Hall, executive director of the The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit, has raised the specter of an environmental lawsuit filed against the city of Ann Arbor. At issue is whether the city’s planned underground parking garage on Fifth Avenue violates the Michigan Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). The bond issuance for the project, for an amount not to exceed $55 million, was approved by city council at its Feb. 17, 2009 meeting. As of Friday, May 15, 2009, bonds have still not yet been issued, according to Tom Crawford, the city’s chief financial officer. [text of Hall's letter]

Joining Hall as signatories to the letter are Henry L. Henderson (Natural Resources Defense Council), Stuart Batterman (environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan), David Yves Albouy (economics at the University of Michigan), Doug Cowherd (Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group), Tom Whitaker (Germantown Neighborhood Association), as well as two other Ann Arbor residents.

In an emailed response to The Chronicle reacting to a previous draft of Hall’s letter circulated two months ago (which covered substantially the same issues), Leigh Greden (Ward 3) stated: “A lawsuit alleging that the parking garage violates MEPA would be frivolous,” contending that the standard suggested by Hall would make any construction project non-compliant with the MEPA.

Still, based on background sources for The Chronicle,  the project has been slowed somewhat by the extra unknown of a lawsuit. We’ll track this dispute as it evolves, and will hopefully be able to gain some insight into any planned next steps from councilmembers at their Sunday night caucus.

Meanwhile, what exactly is the MEPA standard to which Hall appeals in his letter to the Ann Arbor city council? Two key aspects to consider in evaluating a MEPA claim are (i) standing, and (ii) cause. The first relates to those who are allowed to bring a suit in a MEPA case. [Full Story]