NEWS RELEASE   3/31/2011

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CITY OF FLINT LEGAL DEPARTMENT QUIETLY RACKS UP A STRING OF COURT VICTORIES
Flint, Michigan - March 31, 2011 – During the past year, the City of Flint has quietly racked up a series of victories in lawsuits and grievances filed against it. The most recent victory came in a case where the parent of a Flint high school student claimed Flint police violated the student’s constitutional rights by arresting him for assaulting another student. On March 30, 2011, federal Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed all claims against the City and police officer Mark Williams.

Other cases and dates are as follows:

On March 9, 2011, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Richard Yuille dismissed a lawsuit filed by Harold D. Jones against the city and police officer Harlon Green, in which Jones claimed Officer Green violated his constitutional rights during an arrest.

On February 9, 2011, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah dismissed the claims of Flint resident Sonia Zaroo, whose lawsuit sought over $25,000 for falling on a city sidewalk.

On February 10, 2011, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected a claim by Tejune Carroll against the City for an accident in which he fell on a snow covered pothole.

On January 24, 2011, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah threw out a lawsuit filed by former Flint Fire Chief Theron Wiggins, who claimed his pension was miscalculated and should have included 320 “special leave bank hours”.

Flint Fire Department Captain Robert Christensen claimed the City breached an agreement by former Mayor Donald Williamson to pay him for sick and annual time. However, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Judith Fullerton concluded Mayor Williamson’s agreement was unenforceable and dismissed Christensen’s claims.

A federal lawsuit filed by Flint police officer Connie Johnson alleging sex discrimination and retaliation was also dismissed. The case arose from a decision by former Mayor Donald Williamson shortly before his resignation to provisionally appoint Johnson to deputy police chief. A month later, the deputy chief position was eliminated in an attempt to address budgetary issues, with Johnson being “bumped” back to patrol officer. In dismissing Johnson’s lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds concluded the city had “a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason” for the decision.

In December of 2010, Genesee Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah dismissed a whistleblower’s claim by former Flint police officer Chris Mark, who alleged the city terminated his employment in retaliation for reporting a dispute with a senior officer. The court held the city had legitimate reasons for his termination, noting the officer was terminated for his decision to delay responding to a priority one call while he delivered lunch to his girlfriend at the Men’s Club, a local strip bar.

In July, 2010, a federal Judge Thomas Ludington dismissed a lawsuit filed by Joncey Smith, who claimed Flint Police Chief Alvern Lock and officers Ronald Nelson, Brian Coleman and Jeffrey Collins violated his constitutional rights when they arrested him. Judge Ludington concluded the officers had probable cause to make the arrest.

On April 19, 2010, Genesee Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut dismissed a lawsuit filed by Ryan Cabell against Flint police officers Rodney Cooper and Nelson Hadley, alleging the officers used excessive force when arresting him. In addition to dismissing the claims, Cabell was ordered to reimburse the city $5,000 for attorney fees incurred.

In April of 2010, federal Judge Arthur Tarnow dismissed the claims of Jatora Sanders and Herman Bell alleging false arrest and unreasonable search. Judge Tarnow held the police were justified in entering Sander’s home and arresting him because they had reasonable suspicion that a rape victim was inside.

Also in April of 2010, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of lawsuit filed by the Estate of Leon Smithers and others alleging Flint police officers Brian Murphree and Terrence Walker violated their constitutional rights. The case arose from an incident in which Flint police arrested Shirley for trespassing at the residence of Leon Smithers. After being released from custody, returned to Smithers residence and shot and killed him.

In February of 2010, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah dismissed a lawsuit filed by Flint resident Troy Williams. Williams claimed two Flint police officers assaulted him after a 2008 incident in which Williams was restrained while having a seizure. It was undisputed that Williams had smoked crack earlier that day, and that he resisted arrest and bit a paramedic on the chest. The court concluded the officers’ efforts to restrain and subdue Williams were objectively reasonable.

In addition, during the past 6 months, the City’s Law Department has prevailed in multiple union arbitrations involving grievances filed by individual employees or the union.

Flint City Attorney Peter Bade noted these cases were handled by in-house counsel. “I’m proud of our ‘litigation team,’ that includes attorneys Thomas Kent, Angela Watkins, I’Lanta Robbins, John Postulka and Crystal Carter. They take a lot of pride in vigorously defending the city.”

For more information contact: Peter M. Bade, City Attorney, (810) 766-7146.

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