Citizens group sues Plymouth Township
November 23, 2011 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
The Citizens Action Group of Plymouth Township has filed a suit in Wayne County Circuit Court against Plymouth Township.
The suit, filed by Plymouth attorney Lisa Stempien, alleges the township officials have violated, “The rights of the Elecorate of Plymouth Township for failure to honor petitions submitted by citizens seeking a vote on a dedicated 1-mill assessment to fund the fire department.
An initial hearing was scheduled for yesterday, Nov. 22, in the court- room of Judge Wendy M. Baxter.
The outcome was not known at press time. Township Clerk Joe Bridgeman was served with a subpoena in the matter at township hall on Friday, according to a source close to the situation.
The legal documents seek an order from the court requiring the township to show cause for not allowing the issue to be placed on the ballot and for the court to issue a Writ of Mandamus, requiring the township officials to place the question on the Feb. 28, 2012 ballot. The court documents cite MCL 41.801 and include affidavits, maps and claims that the board members and officials have unlawfully denied the public their right to vote on the issue. The documents also cited the “personal animus on the part of some of the members of the Township Board toward the firefighters union.
In addition, the documents seek litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees “because of the recalcitrance of the Township Board of the Defendant township in its failure to perform its clear legal duty under MCL 41.801.”
The Citizens Action Group is an unincorporated association of residents of the township registered with Wayne County as an assumed name of Thomas Kelly. He and Jennifer Mann have been outspoken critics of the action of the township board and officials and have led the petition drives to ensure a vote on the fire millage issue.
The court documents relate the history of the dispute back to December of last year when the suit claims that members of the board of trustees began a search for a measure to provide fire protection and emergency medical services to the public that would allow them to reduce or to entirely eliminate the fire department.
The documents further claim that actions of the board and officials would end the town- ship membership in the Mutual Aid Association and eliminate full-time paramedics 24-hour service in favor of a private ambulance company for medical emergencies for which the township will pay $1.6 million per year.
Township officials have claimed that their actions are in response to the withdrawal of the City of Plymouth from the joint fire protection service which left a budget deficit of $1 million in the fire department.
The lawsuit further cites the refusal of the township to accept an $880,000 federal grant for public safety services.
It includes documentation from unsuccessful negotiations between the township and both the City of Livonia and Canton Township seeking to transfer fire services to those communities “so that the fire department of the Defendant township and all of its firefighters, paramedics and other employees could be eliminated entirely.”
The suit also includes details from an April 6 report from Mitchell Research & Communications, Inc. which stated “It is clear that there is a very strong support for a 1-mill fire millage in Plymouth Township, 73 percent to 24 percent. We believe if the issue is put before the voters, it will pass with strong public support. We recommend the Plymouth Township voters place this proposal on the ballot.”
The township board members and officials refused to consider the study, according to the court brief.
The paperwork submitted to the court further details the legitimacy and accuracy of the petitions seeking the millage which were submitted to the township, but rejected.
The court documents also seek an injunctive order prohibiting the township from reducing or changing the fire protection services and emergency medical services in the township, or making any changes in the fire motor vehicles, apparatus, equipment and housing and fire protection employees of the fire department until after the results of the vote of the electors of the township is certified by the Wayne County Clerk.
The suit further requests that the court retain jurisdiction of the case to insure that the township board carries out the orders of the court, if any.
Township attorney Tim Cronin has previously stated that he does not comment to the press on legal matters pertaining to the township.