By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — Third Circuit Court Judge Annette Berry ruled Dec. 20 that the city council could move forward with a disciplinary hearing against Councilman Angelo DeGiulio.
DeGiulio filed for a restraining order and injunction against the city Oct. 16, after receiving notice the city council was prepared to hold a disciplinary hearing Oct. 30 and set the guidelines for the hearing.
One city official said the lawsuit was a “diversionary tactic used to postpone any potential consequences” after the Ethics Board of Review found DeGuilio guilty of violating ethical guidelines in the city charter.
The ethics board recommended the council members should decide on any consequences brought against DeGiulio because “he should be disciplined by a panel of his peers.” The council could simply require an apology from DeGiulio toward the residents and the two Allen Park police officers involved — retired Officer Russell Pillar and current Sgt. Wayne Albright — but consequences could involve removing him from his seat on the council.
Berry denied DeGiulio’s request for a preliminary injunction and lifted the restraining order against the city because he could not prove “the four-factor test” to grant an injunction — public interest, the balance of hardships, irreparable injury, and his likelihood to succeed based off merits.
“At least at this point, (DeGiulio) has not sustained any injury,” Berry said in the court order. “The apprehension of a future injury cannot form the basis for injunctive relief.”
In her filed opinion, she said DeGiulio “failed to establish that he will suffer irreparable injury if a special hearing is not stopped” because he continues to serve as a councilman, the city provided the necessary notice for the special meeting, and gave him the opportunity to have his attorney present during the proceedings.
“The plaintiff’s decision at this juncture to challenge the notice, the procedure, and the findings of the board does not otherwise compel the Court to interrupt what is an ongoing process,” Barry wrote in her opinion. “Based on the facts and issues presently before the court, a preliminary injunction would not be in the public interest. The public interest would be served by allowing a hearing to proceed since the conduct of a councilman is concerned.”
A status conference has been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday in front of Berry. In most cases a status conference is set prior to a pre-trial, so a judge can mediate on issues and avoid further legal action in a case. Mayor William Matakas said he could not comment on any potential unresolved issues because he has not seen the complaint made against the city.
Other city officials were unaware of any unresolved issues by the city or the status conference.
The city is able to move forward with its disciplinary hearing, Matakas said, and the council will discuss the future action against DeGiulio in a closed session during the council meeting Tuesday.
Calls to DeGiulio’s attorney were not returned by press time.
A copy of DeGiulio’s filed complaint and the city’s response — both obtained by the Downriver Sunday Times — alleged the ethics board did not provide DeGiulio with a copy of a written opinion or its findings, the board found him guilty of “only the introduction to the (City) Charter” and not “specific, applicable ethics provisions” in the charter, and the city could not remove DeGiulio from office without defined “misconduct in office,” which the complaint said the ethics board did not do.
Since Berry gave an opinion and ruled against the injunction and restraining order against the city, she still has to address the legality of whether the city can actually remove DeGiulio from his council seat during the upcoming status conference.
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])