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Topic: County Commissioners waste money in lawsuits
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

Flint woman suing Genesee County Land Bank over commercial in a Walmart parking lot

Gary Ridley | gridley@mlive.com By Gary Ridley | gridley@mlive.com

on July 20, 2013 at 12:00 PM, updated July 20, 2013 at 12:37 PM

FLINT, MI -- A Flint woman is suing the Genesee County Land Bank Authority and a local production company after she claims she appeared in a Land Bank commercial in an "unflattering, casual state of dress and appearance."

Chelsea Dunn filed the lawsuit July 2 in Genesee Circuit Court. She is seeking in excess of $25,000 after she claims a videotaped interview of her was used in the commercial without her permission.

The lawsuit claims that Dunn was interviewed in January in the Corunna Road Walmart parking lot by representatives of production company Spencer Enterprises. Dunn claims that Spencer representatives verbally informed her that the interview was for survey purposes only and would not be published or commercially used.

Dunn's attorney, Grand Blanc-based Craig McAra, said his client never signed a waiver giving her permission to use the interview in a commercial.

However, Dunn claims portions of the interview were used in a commercial promoting the Land Bank without her permission. The lawsuit claims the unauthorized usage amounts to invasion of privacy and defamation.


McAra said the commercial included a portion of Dunn's interview asking her how much she pays in rent in an attempt to highlight the potential financial savings of doing business with the Land Bank.


Land Bank Executive Director Douglas Weiland declined to comment on the allegations. Spencer Enterprises owner Joshua Spencer could not be reached for comment.

However, the Land Bank has denied any wrong doing, according to its response to the allegations filed with the court. The Land Bank argues it is not liable for any damages because any injuries sustained by Dunn were as a result of others.

Furthermore, the Land Bank claims Dunn had no reasonable expectation of privacy since the interview was conducted in a Walmart parking lot -- a public place -- and Dunn was not placed "in a light that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person" as required by state law.

No response from Spencer's attorney is on file with the lawsuit.


No new court date is scheduled in the case.

»


Last edited by untanglingwebs on Thu Dec 18, 2014 8:52 am; edited 7 times in total
Post Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:54 pm 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

When to Use a Release :: Copyright Overview

fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/releases/when/

Use of the names and images of the members of ... effect was commercial and required permission






When to Use a Release Whether you need to obtain a release depends on why you want to use a person’s name or image. If your use is for commercial purposes—for example, using a person’s photo in an advertisement—you need to obtain a release.

If your use is for informational purposes such as a documentary film or news article, you may not need a release. However, even if a release is not required, you should be careful that your use does not defame or invade the privacy of the individual. If there’s any potential that your use might violate these laws, a release will provide legal protection.

Sorting out these differences can be confusing; examples are provided below. When in doubt, however, obtain a signed release

Informational UsesYou do not need release to use a person’s name or image for informational purposes. An informational (or “editorial”) purpose is anything that informs, educates, or expresses opinions protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution—freedom of speech and of the press. An informational use would include using a person’s name or photograph in a newspaper or magazine article, educational program, film, nonfiction book, or informational website.

If you use a person’s name or image in an informational publication, you may also use that name or image in incidental advertising for the publication. For example, in an advertisement for a publication that includes an interview, you may state “Featuring an interview with Johnny Depp.”

However, to use a person’s name in an advertisement posing as an informational publication, you need a release. Even if your use is informational, a release may be required if the person’s name or image is used in a defamatory manner or invades the person’s privacy. It may seem odd to seek a release for a use that may defame a person or invade privacy. After all, why would anyone sign a release for a use that would create a false impression?

Such releases are usually used in cases in which a model or actor is posing to illustrate an article, such as “The Horror of Date Rape. ”Commercial Uses: You need a release for the commercial use of a person’s name or image. A “commercial use” occurs when a name or image appears while a product or service is being sold or endorsed.
For example, if your website offers hair products and features photographs of people using the products, you would need a release from the people in the photos. You do not need a release if the person cannot be recognized in the photo: for example, if the photo only includes the person’s hands. Several decades ago, the failure to obtain such a release would have led to an invasion of privacy lawsuit.

However, the “right of publicity” has now become the more popular claim for those whose names or images are used for commercial purposes without their permission. Is Your Use Commercial or Informational? Unfortunately, there is no definitive test that tells you whether your intended use is informational or commercial.

Below are summaries of cases that straddle the border between informational and commercial uses. Cases with similar facts may seem to have different results because judges have broad discretion in making these determinations.

Informational use. A photo of football player Joe Namath was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and later used in advertisements to sell subscriptions to Sports Illustrated. No permission was required because the initial use of the photo was editorial and the subscription ads were “merely incidental” to indicate the nature of the magazine contents. (Namath v. Sports Illustrated, 371 N.Y.S.2d 10 (1975).)Informational use.

The National Enquirer and USA Today conducted telephone polls about the musical group New Kids on the Block. Use of the names and images of the members of the group to publicize the newspapers’ profit-making telephone numbers did not require permission because it was primarily for purposes of “news gathering and dissemination.” (New Kids on the Block v. News America Publishing Inc., 971 F.2d 302 (9th Cir. 1992).)

Informational use. Public domain film clips of Fred Astaire were used as a prologue to an instructional dance video. The use of Mr. Astaire’s name was permitted in the prologue based on the informational content of the video. (Astaire v. Best Film & Video Corp., 136 F.3d 1208 (9th Cir. 1998).)Informational use. A film company that acquired the rights to rerelease two 1950s films featuring actress Betty Page commissioned drawings of Ms. Page to promote the films. Ms. Page sued to prevent the use of her image and name to promote the films. A court permitted the use because the advertising was incidental to the rerelease and was “newsworthy” due to the reemergence of the two 1950s movies. (Page v. Something Weird Video, 960 F. Supp. 1438 (C.D. Cal. 1996).)

Informational use. Following a Superbowl victory, a San Jose newspaper sold posters of quarterback Joe Montana. Mr. Montana sued but, in a surprising ruling, a court permitted the use, claiming it was newsworthy because of the “relatively contemporaneous” publication of the posters with the news event. (Montana v. San Jose Mercury News, 34 Cal. App. 4th 790 (1995).)

Commercial use. During the NCAA tournament broadcast, an ad for Oldsmobile featured a voice asking who held the record for being voted the most outstanding player of the tournament. The answer printed onscreen “Lew Alcindor, UCLA, ’67, ’68, ’69.” (The basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was previously known as Lew Alcindor.) The ad stated that Oldsmobile was the winner of a Consumer’s Digest award three years in a row and ended with the statement, “A Definite First Round Pick.”

Abdul-Jabbar sued, claiming that his name was used without permission. The court decided in his favor, ruling that although the advertisement provided information, the overall effect was commercial and required permission. (Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corp., 85 F.3d 407 (9th Cir. 1996).)

Informational use. Los Angeles Magazine printed a fashion article that featured a digitally modified photograph combining Dustin Hoffman’s head with a male model’s body in a gown and woman’s shoes. The text stated: “Dustin Hoffman isn’t a drag in a butter-colored silk gown by Richard Tyler and Ralph Lauren heels.” The district court held that the use was commercial, promoting the specific designers. But the Ninth Circuit reversed and held that the use of Hoffman’s head on another model’s body did not violate the right of publicity and was permitted under free speech standards. (Hoffman v. Capital Cities/ABC Inc., 255 F.3d 1180 (9th Cir. 2001).)

Commercial use. A photo of Cher was featured in Forum Magazine and was later used in advertisements for subscriptions to the magazine. Beneath Cher’s photo in the advertisements was a caption implying Cher’s endorsement of the magazine. The implied endorsement created a commercial use of Cher’s name that distinguished it from the Sports Illustrated case involving Joe Namath, above. (Cher v. Forum Inter. Ltd., 692 F.2d 634 (9th Cir. 1982).)

Are Websites Commercial or Informational? Can a website be informational if its primary purpose is to promote a business? Websites raise many of the issues highlighted in the cases described in the previous section. Several factors determine whether the use of a name or image on a website is commercial or informational: If the use of the name or image at the website relates to a newsworthy event, the use is more likely to be informational. The more website space devoted to selling, the less likely the use is informational. The longer the person’s name or image remains at the site, the less likely the use is informational. The more separation between informational content and the sponsorship of the site and related advertisements, the more likely the use is informational.

Releases and Free Speech You can use a person’s name or image for commercial purposes without permission if the commercial use qualifies as free speech. Generally, this occurs when the use is categorized as a parody .

(For more information on trademark parodies see Chapter 10. For more information on copyright parodies, see Chapter 9).For example, a company sold trading cards featuring caricatures of major league baseball players. Text on the cards ridiculing player salaries and egos included a statement: “Cardtoons baseball is a parody and is NOT licensed by Major League Baseball Properties or Major League Baseball Players Association.” A federal court permitted the use of player’s names and caricatured images as free speech. (Cardtoons v. Major League Baseball Players Assn., 838 F. Supp. 1501 (N.D. Okla. 1993).)However, individuals wary of litigation should weigh the consequences and costs of a lawsuit before claiming a free speech right to use an individual’s name or image.

What Good Are Disclaimers? “Disclaimers” are statements advising readers about potential confusion or danger and disavowing legal responsibility. When using a person’s name or image, some businesses attempt to avoid liability for breaching a person’s publicity or privacy rights by providing a disclaimer, such as “Woody’s One-Liners is not associated with or endorsed by Woody Allen. ”A disclaimer by itself will never shield a business from liability. In many cases, disclaimers have been found to create rather than reduce confusion in the minds of customers or readers as to whether or not a celebrity is endorsing a product or service. Moreover, a disclaimer is an acknowledgment that the business admits the potential for confusion, a fact that may be used against the business in a lawsuit. To have any legal effect, a disclaimer must be in close proximity to the person’s image or name and as prominent as the name or image. It must also disclaim any sponsorship, endorsement, or association with the product or service involved. Because of the legally tenuous value of disclaimers, it is not wise to rely on them for protection. In this Section: Copyright Overview (NOLO) Releases When to Use a Release The content for the Copyright and Fair Use Overview section is from NOLO, with much of it taken from the book Getting Permission (October 2010) by Richard Stim. Thanks! Next PagePrevious Page Rich StimAttorney at law, Nolo Legal Editor, Blogger — Dear Rich: Nolo’s Patent, Copyright and Trademark Blog, Author, Nolo PressWebsiteTwitterFacebookGoogle+PostsPublished on: April 4, 2013 Updated: April 4, 2013 4:35 pm - See more at: http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/releases/when/#sthash.sOXDMN7P.dpuf
Post Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:57 pm 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

13-100456-CZ JUDGE NEITHERCUT FILE 05/20/13
GENESEE COUNTY

P 001 GENESEE COUNTY BOARD OF COMM, VS D 001 CHERRY,DEBORAH,
-GENESEE COUNTY TREASURER,,
1101 BEACH STREET 3RD FLOOR 1101 BEACH STREET 1ST FLOOR
FLINT MI 48502 FLINT MI 48502
ATY:HALLAHAN,LAURA
P-42101 248-731-3090

Actions, Judgments, Case Notes
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Num Date Judge Chg/Pty Event Description/Comments
---- -------- ---------- ------- ---------------------------------------------
1 05/20/13 NEITHERCUT SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT FILED
RECEIPT# 00383064 AMT $150.00
2 COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY
JUDGMENT FILED.
3 07/31/13 P 001 APPEARANCE
ATTORNEY: P-42101 HALLAHAN
SUBSTITUTION OF AUTHORIZED
COUNSEL AND ORDER GRANTING
SUBSTITUTION OF AUTHORIZED
COUNSEL AND PROOF OF SERVICE
FILED.
4 P 001 FROM: BELL,CELESTE D.,
TO: HALLAHAN,LAURA M.,
............................... END OF SUMMARY ..............................

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Post Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:50 pm 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

looks like the reconciliation time is over!
Post Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:51 pm 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

John Gleason


We are moving forward. We are changing many poor processes in the clerks office. There have been recent articles in the Flint Journal about our law suit against the county. Funny how Deb Cherry is using the same law team suing the county over taking her funds (treasurer's office) and the Journal hasn't pressed that office. We are transforming the office. We are pushing the commissioners to roll back the document fees to 2010 rates. Genesee County has the second highest rates in Michigan. Gratiot County is #1. They charge $26. Genesee County pays $25. Way to much for a copy. I am asking the board to lower the fees to $15. It seems of the 83 counties in Michigan $10 is about average. This is why the commissioners are begrudging us. They illegally want these high fees. And I am COMMITTED to lower these fees. The commissioners set the fees. I know it doesn't cost this much to produce them. Talk about tax and spend Democrats. The commissioners should be honest about the public assault on me and our office and quit balancing their budget off folks purchasing birth, marriage, and death certificates. This is shameful and we will not give up. Peace.
Post Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:26 am 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

John,
You won't get lower fees because the county raised the fees to increase revenue. Fair, probably not.

Didn't the courts rule that the county had to pay the legal fees of the Rose Bogardus when she sued the county on behalf of the Register of Deeds.?

Don't expect them to be fair as you are right. The commissioners don't like you.
Post Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:29 am 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

No decision on Genesee County fee rollbacks; Clerk-Register John Gleason muzzled at meeting


John Gleason ruled out of orderGenesee County Clerk-Register John Gleason attempts to address the Board of Commissioners today, Aug. 21.


Ron Fonger | rfonger1@mlive.com By Ron Fonger | rfonger1@mlive.com
on August 21, 2013 at 3:45 PM

GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- The county Board of Commissioners will take more time to consider Clerk-Register John Gleason's request for lower vital records fees, but commissioners were in no mood to listen to him Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Commissioners voted unanimously to refer a request from Gleason to roll back fees for birth, marriage and death records to a subcommittee. They would not allow the clerk-register to speak during the meeting.

"It's this simple," Gleason said after the meeting. "Follow the law. Either give us personnel to serve the office or roll back the fees."

Commissioners criticized Gleason for his request, saying his claim that the Clerk's Office ought to keep funds generated by the fees doesn't take into account shared services that the office uses, including janitorial, utilities and supplies.

"Until we get a grip on what these numbers are," a rollback decision can't be made, said Commissioner Tony Brown, R-Fenton Twp.

Wednesday's meeting was marked by an exchange between Commissioner Mark Young, D-Grand Blanc Twp., and Gleason after Young would not allow Gleason to speak.

When the clerk-register began to speak about "accusations that aren't true," Young told Gleason, "You're out of order. You've made allegations in the paper. You're out of order at this point and time .... We have never recognized you."

Gleason said later that Commissioner Archie Bailey was wrong to praise former Clerk Mike Carr for cooperating with the county board when Carr spent $5,000 in legal fees as he considered whether to sue commissioners for not funding his office at a serviceable level.

Gleason has sued commissioners, seeking the authority to hire his own attorney to represent him in disputes with the county board, including the level at which his office is funded.
Post Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:11 pm 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

John Gleason


Big support joined our debate today. Former Lt. Guv. John Cherry told me today he posted on his facebook page that you can't charge more for a document than it costs to produce or it's a tax. Thanks , LG Cherry! Prosecutor Leyton hired an attorney to defend his office against commissioners. Reg of Deeds Rose Bogardus just won an expensive suit against the commissioners. Clerk Mike Carr hired an attorney to defend his office. Deb Cherry is suiting the county board now. Me too. ME TOO. We independently hired the firm of Clark-Hill PLC. These bums don't appreciate the Michigan constitution. They are going to lose our suit (that should never happen) . Thanks to all you hero's that took our survey. We had 218 when we hit the office this morn. Can you help double that? YES! Yes you can. Thanks for your support. Blessings. Survey---johngleason.org
Post Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:05 am 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

I have been waiting for this issue to come up as I experienced this issue with filing Freedom of Information Act requests and overcharges.

John is correct and both Carr and Leyton consulted with attorneys. They wanted to work with the commissioners so there is a friendlier relationship associated with them and the commissioners. John on the other hand is combative.

There also seems to be some harsh beliefs that the UAW forced Gleason on the public. Carr had his reasons for not running. Gleason is known to be a formidable campaigner and he had a big war chest.

Sorry commissioners but you don't always get what you want.
Post Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:12 am 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

Genesee County Treasurer Deb Cherry objects, but commissioners approve policy for handling disputed tax fund

Ron Fonger | rfonger1@mlive.com By Ron Fonger | rfonger1@mlive.com
on August 23, 2013 at 3:00 PM, updated August 23, 2013 at 3:05 PM


GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- The county has a new policy for making transfers from a delinquent tax fund -- the same pool of cash that's landed the county Board of Commissioners and Treasurer Deb Cherry in a court fight for control of it.

Commissioners approved the policy Wednesday, Aug. 22, although Cherry, whose office oversees the fund, said she was never given the chance to see the policy or make suggestions about it.

The Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund policy spells out the commissioners' role in annual transfers of surplus money from the fund, which is used to pay off annual borrowing by the county.

The surplus from the fund has been used to help balance the county budget for several years.

Money that is borrowed and repaid to the DTR Fund is used to pay local cities, townships and villages uncollected property taxes. The county makes bond payments on the borrowing as those delinquent taxes and late penalties are paid.

The county filed a lawsuit against Cherry's office earlier this year in an effort to block her from making payments from the DTR Fund to the county Land Bank for the maintenance of county-owned properties that have been taken through tax foreclosure but not yet transferred to the Land Bank.

Commissioners agreed May 1 to pay the attorney fees of Cherry, saying a "friendly lawsuit" was probably the least expensive way to settle the issue of Cherry's authority to spend the delinquent tax funds.

The lawsuit is still pending in Genesee Circuit Court.

Cherry said in the meantime, she should have been consulted about the new policy on transfers from the fund.

"I have a role in the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund," Cherry said. "If there's a transfer of funds, we need to be a part of that."

Board Chairman Jamie Curtis said the new policy simply sets up the procedures for future withdrawls and should have been in place already.

"We have never had a (written policy)," Curtis said. "If we had a policy, we probably would not be where we are today."

Cherry said much of the policy describes the process by which the fund is already handled but said state law gives her the right to determine what the surplus funds are before turning the money over to the county general fund.

"The treasurer has to comply with state law and that's what I'm going to follow," she said.


The dispute between commissioners and Cherry comes as the county faces a separate dispute with Clerk-Register John Gleason, who filed suit against the county, seeking a judge's authorization to allow him to pay for an attorney to assist him in budget and other issues as he deals with commissioners.
Post Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:35 pm 
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tillmanwoods
F L I N T O I D

So now what is the update in this matter? What does Dunn's attorney McAra has to say after Douglas's comments.

_________________
Patents allow the owner or person who owns a license to generate revenue from it. More details about this are here.
Post Wed Sep 11, 2013 6:57 am 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

Genesee County treasurer, commissioners make short-term deal on delinquent tax funds

Ron Fonger | rfonger1@mlive.com By Ron Fonger | rfonger1@mlive.com
on September 26, 2013 at 11:00 AM, updated September 26, 2013 at 11:05 AM

GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- There's a short-term deal in place for handling a delinquent county tax fund, but still no agreement about who controls it from this point forward.

The county Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Wednesday, Sept. 25, ratifying a stipulated order for the use and management of the fund pending resolution of the commissioners lawsuit against Treasurer Deb Cherry.

Earlier this month, county officials said the fight for control of the fund has cost local taxpayers about $26,000 so far.

The stipulated order allows Cherry to pay all vendors on contracts currently in existence, including a payment of $335,000 to the county Land Bank.

The short-term agreement followed Cherry's transfer of approximately $4.3 million from the delinquent tax fund to the county general fund just this month.

The lawsuit brought by commissioners is pending in Lapeer County even though commissioners and Cherry have worked in recent weeks in an effort to resolve their disagreement out of court.

County officials have said the lawsuit over the delinquent tax funds has been friendly and contended it is the least expensive way to settle the issue of who controls the tax fund in the future.

Commissioners have used proceeds from the tax fund to help balance the general fund budget for several years, but Cherry has said not enough has been set aside for maintaining tax-foreclosed properties through payments to the Land Bank.

The issue of Cherry's authority to spend the funds flared earlier this year after the treasurer made two payments worth $335,000 to the Land Bank without asking for the commissioners' approval.
Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:10 pm 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

The Melissa Calvert case against Gleason is in discovery. According to Calvert, Gleason led her along by telling her she had the job and then told her he was pressured to hire a disabled minority.

The land bank-Cherry case is said to be winding down.
Post Sat Jan 04, 2014 5:59 pm 
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00SL2
F L I N T O I D

http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2014/03/genesee_county_off_the_hook_bu.html

mlive.com
Genesee County off the hook but lawsuit continues against Clerk-Register John Gleason
Gary Ridley | gridley@mlive.com By Gary Ridley | gridley@mlive.com
Follow on Twitter
on March 04, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Photo: 12407517-large.jpg Melissa Calvert poses for a portrait in her home with her Genesee County employee identification card. Calvert has filed a lawsuit against county Clerk-Register John Gleason, saying he pulled a promised job off the table after she went through orientation and training for new employees. Flint Journal file photo


FLINT, MI -- Genesee County is off the hook in a lawsuit over a jobs, but the case will still move forward against Clerk-Register John Gleason, accused of promising a former employee a new job when he moved into county government but never delivered.

Genesee Circuit Judge Geoffrey Neithercut ruled Monday, March 3, during a summary disposition hearing that allegations filed against Gleason by Melissa Calvert could move forward but that he would dismiss Calvert's allegations against the county.

"I think that's a good thing," County Commission Chairman Jamie Curtis said of the ruling. "The county Board of Commissioners did not act in bad faith."

Melissa Calvert of Flushing filed the lawsuit in April 2013 alleging that Gleason promised her a position with the county, had her train for the job and fill out paperwork for new employees. The lawsuit claims that she even took the required drug test and was issued an employee identification badge.

However, before the hiring was approved by the county Board of Commissioners, Gleason pulled the offer, telling Calvert he was under pressure to hire a minority or a disabled job candidate instead, the lawsuit claims.

Calvert worked for Gleason as a secretary when he served as a state senator. He resigned from the position when he was elected clerk-register in November 2012.

Attorney William Reising, who represented the county in the case, argued that the county never entered into an employment agreement with Calvert and was therefore unable to breach any contract. He also argued that Gleason's hirings are done independently of the county commissioners.

"As the county lacks control over Mr. Gleason's determination of appointments to his office -- which is an independent, constitutional office -- he cannot be said to be acting on behalf of the county for that purpose," Reising argued in his summary disposition motion.

The lawsuit claims Gleason assured Calvert she would have a job working for him in the county until commissioners were about to consider her hiring. At that time, Gleason asked commissioners to delay the decision because the application of a disabled veteran had come to his attention.

Gleason said in April 2013 that the veteran and Calvert were never candidates for the same job. The position was eventually filled by Leslie Raleigh.

Gleason defended his actions following Neithercut's ruling.

"I hired the most qualified person for the job," said Gleason, adding that he believes the lawsuit is politically motivated. "I should be able to hire who I'd like to work on behalf of the public."

The judge did dismiss a claim accusing Gleason of violating the Michigan Persons With Disabilities Civil Right Act that suggested Calvert, who is not disabled, was passed over for the position in favor of a disabled veteran.

Gleason's attorney, Timothy Winship, argued that state law does not support a "reverse" disability discrimination claim and that the disabled veteran who had applied was never hired.

Calvert's attorney, Tom Pabst, could not be reached for comment on the ruling decision.

The lawsuit seeks more than $100,000 over allegations that Gleason discriminated against Calvert during the hiring process, breached an express contract with her and that she relied on Gleason's promise of a job in making other decisions "to her great detriment."

A jury trial is scheduled for June 17.

© 2014 MLive.com. All rights reserved.
Post Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:36 pm 
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untanglingwebs
F L I N T O I D

Judge rules in favor of Genesee County Treasurer Deb Cherry on how delinquent tax funds are handled
Print Amanda Emery | aemery@mlive.com By Amanda Emery | aemery@mlive.com

on May 08, 2014 at 7:49 PM
GENESEE COUNTY, MI – Genesee County Treasurer Deb Cherry can spend delinquent tax funds to maintain tax-foreclosed property and she can determine how much of the surplus county government gets, a judge has ruled.

The County Board of Commissioners sued Cherry over her handling of the fund.

Because Genesee County 7th Circuit Court judges had recused themselves, Lapeer County Judge Nick O. Holowka ruled Wednesday, May 6, that as treasurer the law allows her to spend delinquent tax funds, which come from penalties collected by her office from property owners who are late in paying taxes, to maintain tax-foreclosed properties. Cherry can also set the surplus amount the county gets once the maintenance funds and bonds are paid, and when they will receive that money, she said.

"Basically, the judge ruled that, yes, I have the authority under the constitution and law to spend funds for maintenance of properties that we are foreclosing on," Cherry said. "That I don't need the county's approval on it, that I'm the one that determines the surplus on it, and I believe also that I'm the one that determines when that surplus is available, because it's after we pay off the bonds."

The commissioners sued Cherry claiming she was funding the county Land Bank inappropriately and illegally.

The two sides decided a "friendly lawsuit" would likely be the least expensive way to settle the issue of Cherry's authority. Taxpayers footed the bill on both sides of the argument, as the commissioners agreed on May 1, 2013, to pay the fees of an attorney for Cherry.

The treasurer said the law allows her to spend the funds to maintain tax-foreclosed properties before they are sold at auction or transferred to the Land Bank, while commissioners had maintained their approval of the spending is required.

"Now, I will be able to do my job without the County Board saying 'No you can't do it.'" Cherry said. "But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't work with people. It means we're, the Land Bank, folks that are involved in property foreclosure and maintenance will be able to do what we need to do to fight blight in our community and that's one of the most important things that we can do."

Previously, commissioners have used proceeds from the same delinquent tax funds to help balance the general fund budget for several years, while Cherry has said not enough has been set aside for cutting grass and keeping the properties boarded shut and secure.

County board Chairman Jamie Curtis declined to comment on the ruling until the board has had the opportunity to meet with its lead counsel on what it means for Genesee County.

The issue of Cherry's authority to spend the funds flared early 2013 after the treasurer made two payments worth $335,000 to the county Land Bank without asking for the commissioners' blessing.

Amanda Emery is a police reporter for MLive-Flint Journal. Contact her at aemery@mlive.com or 810-285-0792. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
Post Thu May 08, 2014 11:46 pm 
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