Clinton TownshipJuly 10, 2012
Clinton staffer sues clerk, township
By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer
CLINTON TOWNSHIP — A Clinton Township staffer has filed a lawsuit against the township and its clerk over alleged assaultive and retaliatory behavior, claims the clerk said were “totally unfounded.”
The lawsuit was filed recently in U.S. District Court in Detroit by Clinton Township Clerk’s Office senior staff secretary Susan Brooks. She said Clerk George Fitzgerald’s behavior has caused her mental and physical anguish.
“I’ve been seeing a doctor, and the doctor is the one who advised me to seek legal counsel,” said Brooks, a township employee since 1999. “I cannot go on living like this.”
The lawsuit cites a number of alleged incidents dating back to early this year, including one in which Brooks said she believed Fitzgerald was trying to get her to deliver, on work time, a falsified image of his political opponent to a local newspaper. The lawsuit alleges that when Brooks refused to comply, Fitzgerald shouted obscenities and threats at her, and when she reported the behavior to the township, the threats only worsened.
However, Fitzgerald has denied this and other accusations.
The clerk said during a July 5 interview that he had yet to receive any official notice that he was being sued.
“It’s a dog-and-pony show,” he said. “Totally unfounded.”
On June 4, the Clinton Township Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to censure Fitzgerald, and request his resignation amidst accusations of bullying and threatening behavior toward township workers, sometimes threatening their jobs. Fitzgerald was the sole “no” vote.
The board’s vote came in light of a township report, in which Brooks and other Clerk’s Office workers reported feeling threatened by Fitzgerald in the past.
As an elected official, Fitzgerald is not obligated to comply with the board’s request to step down, which he has said he has no intention of doing.
Recently, a packet of information pertaining to the complaints was sent to the office of Gov. Rick Snyder, who township Supervisor Bob Cannon said can remove an elected official from office.
According to the lawsuit, Brooks is seeking monetary damages and the return of her job. Despite the Board of Trustees’ decision to separate Fitzgerald from the Clerk’s Office employees, she said she has not returned to work since a few days after the township board’s June 4 meeting.
“They may have moved his office, but he was still in charge of me,” Brooks said.
While Brooks, a union employee, was never directly fired, alleged threats by Fitzgerald amount to a “constructive termination,” said Brooks’ attorney, Sarah Prescott.
“Under the law, they’re treated identical,” Prescott said. “It’s because her job conditions were made so bad. It’s the same thing.”
Fitzgerald, on the other hand, said he is being made the target of an election-year effort to help his political rival win the clerk’s seat. Fitzgerald, a Democrat, is running for re-election against former state representative Kim Meltzer, a Republican.
Township Attorney Jack Dolan could not be reached for comment.
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