By SUE SUCHYTA
HEIGHTS – Police Chief Jerrod Hart and Directors Kevin Swope and Paul Vanderplow jointly filed suit against the city Jan. 29 claiming violations of the Whistle Blower Protection Act and other transgressions.
Following the City Council’s defunding of Swope and Hart’s positions at the Jan. 9 council meeting, Mayor Bill Bazzi and Hart intervened, keeping Swope and Vanderplow employed as Police Department directors.
The council’s rationale was that the mayor created the positions without the council’s consent, noting that the positions did not exist in the city charter.
Bazzi vetoed the resolution, which the city council subsequently overrode.
Hart, Swope and Vanderplow then filed suit against the city Jan. 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, claiming deprivation of their rights under the U.S. Constitution, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act and other laws arising from their positions with the Police Department.
The three contend that they were charged with rooting out corruption in the department, which included charges of improperly processed pistol sales, charges that police overtime was tied to an illegal ticket quota system, corruption involving forfeiture funds, and ticket fixing for friends of law enforcement officers and elected officials.
Hart, who recently experienced health problems, including a heart attack, is currently on medical leave for conditions related to job stress.
Swope is serving as acting chief in Hart’s absence.
On Feb. 1, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith enjoined the City Council from enforcing its resolution defunding Swope and Vanderplow’s positions. He cited the merits of the plaintiffs’ case, the irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction and stated that it is in the public interest to grant the injunction.
While Bazzi — who hired Hart, Swope and Vanderplow — may be sympathetic to their cause of action, and could pursue a settlement with City Attorney Roger Farinha, the council would have to approve any financial settlement which the mayor and corporate council reach.
It remains to be seen whether the city will attempt to settle the suit or let it go to trial.
The next council meeting is at 6 p.m. Feb. 13 at city hall.