By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – A former 19th District Court probation officer was awarded more than $400,000 in lost wages and benefits following a civil lawsuit that ended June 3.
In the lawsuit against the Court and Chief Judge Mark Somers, Simone Calvas, who Somers fired in 2007, claimed her dismissal was discriminatory, and that Somers did not have just cause when he fired her.
The trial, which began May 31, was heard by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Jeanne Stempien.
During the trial, the defense maintained that the court did not follow progressive discipline, a practice meant to help an employee improve their job performance before they are fired.
“We’re elated. That might even be an understatement,” said James Fett, a Fenton-based attorney representing Calvas. He added that Stempien will determine at a later date if Calvas will be reinstated as a city employee.
Julie Pucci, who also has a lasuit pending with Somers, testified at the trial. In an email, she said that the case comes down to Somers exceeding his authority.
“It’s an abuse of power at the expense of the taxpayers,” she said. “Somers is dealing with human beings. This is about people’s careers, livelihood and reputations.”
The lawsuit, filed in 2008 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division, claims that her firing was without just cause and that Somers was targeting her because she was not married when she began a relationship with a man who was a friend of her ex-husband, and that a Detroit-based law firm representing Calvas sent two letters to Somers in August and September 2007 accusing him of discrimination.
Somers did not return phone calls seeking comment by press time.
Court Administrator Gary Dodge was also named in the lawsuit, which alleges that he harassed Calvas, and gave her an excessive workload, “in excess of 1000 individuals” despite the fact that she was pregnant with twins at the time, according to court documents.
According to published reports, Somers testified that Calvas was an at-will employee, and he would not need just cause to fire her.
The jury in the civil lawsuit determined that the court had a policy in place in which Somers would need just cause to fire Calvas.
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected])