By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Parks & Recreation Deputy Director Kim Constan filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city, Mayor Daniel Paletko and mayor’s chief of staff Kristina Laslo in response to her not being appointed Parks & Recreation director.
The complaint, filed on July 1, claims that the city, Paletko and Laslo did not appoint Constan because she reported former Parks & Recreation Director Ken Grybel was conducting an eBay sports memorabilia business on his city computer during working hours in 2016.
Nothing was done to address the concern, and in April 2017 she again let Paletko know that Grybel was conducting the business, according to the complaint.
Constan then informed Council members Denise Malinowski Maxwell, Bill Bazzi and Ray Muscat about the business, leading to a meeting with Paletko in June 2018, according to the complaint.
Paletko claimed to be aware of the business and assured the council members he would look into the issue. Instead, Constan says Paletko and Laslo retaliated against her by issuing her a “baseless written reprimand and forcing her to see a psychologist, who determined that there was no need for the referral.”
When Constan attempted to challenge the written reprimand through a city civil service hearing, Laslo and Paletko withdrew the reprimand to prevent Constan from exposing its falsity, the complaint said.
In addition, Constan claims Paletko informed her husband, Councilman Robert Constan, that he would not appoint her to the director position because she reported Grybel’s misconduct to city council members.
Grybel retired in October 2018 and Paletko appointed Brian Haddad Parks & Recreation director in April even after Kim Constan informed Paletko she would be applying for the position.
The complaint claims that Haddad was far and away less qualified for the job than Constan, who has 36 years of relevant work experience and a master’s degree compared to Haddad’s three-and-a-half years of experience and a bachelor’s degree.
During the April 16 City Council meeting, Constan spoke during the public comment portion of the budget hearing as a private citizen informing the council that she has a new boss who was hired by Paletko. Constan added that she learned the person hired has a major in sports studies with a minor in recreation.
“I have done my job and have exceeded my expectations for this position by at least 150 percent,” she said during the meeting. “I am being lashed out politically and it’s not because I haven’t done my job, I have been written up by the administration, and they’re all lies.”
Constan has held her current deputy director position since March 1988. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in parks and recreation administration.
When Councilman Tom Wencel suggested the hire could be political, Paletko responded by saying it was not a politically driven decision.
Paletko also said Haddad is trained, and has a background in the field after graduating from Central Michigan University in recreation.
The complaint cites that when Constan spoke out during the meeting, Laslo summoned the police to remove her from the meeting. Council members escorted Constan to her vehicle as the police officers arrived.
According to the complaint, Constan “suffered emotional distress, including outrage, loss of reputation, humiliation and embarrassment and the physical effects associated therewith, and will suffer in the future.”
The $25,000 Constan seeks is for economic damages, including past and future lost wages and benefits; noneconomic damages she is found to be entitled; and costs, interest and reasonable attorney fees.
A status conference regarding the complaint is scheduled at 8 a.m. Sept. 27 in front Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Hathaway.
When contacted for comment on the complaint, Paletko and Laslo did not return phone calls by press time.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])