DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Barely over a week after the City Council passed a resolution canceling the salary and benefits for two police department directors and the chief of police announced a leave of absence, both directors and the chief have filed a federal lawsuit against the city.
Directors Kevin Swope, Paul Vanderplow and Chief Jerrod Hart are named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed through their attorneys, Fausone & Grysko, PLC, for violation of their First Amendment right of free speech of public employees, violation of the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, breach of employment contract and declaratory and injunctive relief.
While the recent resolution canceling Swope and Vanderplow’s salary and benefits was stated to be due to Mayor Bill Bazzi violating the charter with their appointments, the lawsuit says that that the City Council had voted and approved those appointments on Feb. 28, 2023 through Resolution 23-099 while approving the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the city and the Dearborn Heights Police Supervisor’s Association.
The lawsuit alleges that beginning in Jan. 2023, Swope, Vanderplow and Hart collectively reported violations and suspected violations of the law concerning corruption in the city government, the Police Department and civil rights violations to the city through the mayor, City Council, Michigan State Police, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The lawsuit also alleges that in Jan. 2023, the three plaintiffs reported that the chain of custody for evidence and the evidence management system within the department were “so deficient as to jeopardize the right to a fair trial for every criminal defendant whose case relied on evidence retained” by the department.
Around Jan. and Feb. 2023, the plaintiffs also allegedly reported that nearly 900 pistol sales records had not been processed by the department and in March 2023, they allegedly reported that police overtime work was subject to an illegal ticket quota system.
The lawsuit states that after reporting these and other violations, the plaintiffs were allegedly threatened and retaliated against by not only the City Council publicly and privately, but also by citizens.
Another violation that the lawsuit alleges was reported by the plaintiffs include Councilman Mo Baydoun allegedly asking for a promotion for Sgt. Mohamad Bazzy outside of the established promotional systems that would violate the Firemen and Policemen Civil Service System Act, the CBA, and would constitute misconduct in office. The lawsuit also alleges that around June 16, 2023 an excessive force incident and civil rights violation occurred during the arrest of a criminal subject and following investigation of the incident, around July 21, 2023, the plaintiffs allegedly identified that Bazzy and other officers and supervisors “committed policy violations and suspected legal violations in their handling of the incident.”
This incident was reported to the city and referred to the Michigan State Police for a criminal investigation while the plaintiffs also conducted an internal disciplinary investigation that Councilman Hassan Saab allegedly told Vanderplow and Swope to drop the internal disciplinary charges against Bazzy, or else he would “release skeletons” from Swope’s and Vanderplow’s closets, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit seeks that the resolution to cancel Swope and Vanderplow’s salaries and benefits be voided, compensatory damages in an amount to be determined as fair, exemplary and/or punitive damages in an amount to be determined as fair, attorney fees, costs and interests, and other relief the court deems proper.
While Mayor Bazzi ordered the directors to continue in their roles until a court states otherwise and even gave them additional tasks, Baydoun stated that he would be making an appointment with the Michigan State Police to address the issues in an email included in the lawsuit.
“While there have never been any valid excuses for failing to comply with the entirety of Motion 24-017, there certainly can be no further excuses now for anyone affiliated with the city using or allowing the use of city resources to pay the directors or to provide them with benefits,” the email reads. “Any such use or allowing the use of city resources in this manner is clearly legally unauthorized and frankly criminal. If it continues, steps will be taken to ensure that it stops forthwith and that all who are responsible in any fashion for it happening will be held accountable both civilly and criminally for their blatant violations of the law.”
The lawsuit demands a trial by jury for all eligible counts listed in the complaint, a court date has not yet been set.