Supervisor attempts to switch Clinton Township’s attorney

By: Nick Powers | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published May 9, 2024




CLINTON TOWNSHIP — At the Clinton Township Board of Trustees meeting on April 29, Supervisor Bob Cannon attempted to bring an end to the use of attorney Jack Dolan as the township’s legal counsel.

All board members, except for Cannon, voted to table the change in the legal services contract. Dolan forcefully pushed back on all of Cannon’s accusations at the meeting, calling them “completely and totally inaccurate.”

In a statement to the board, read at the meeting by Township Clerk Kim Meltzer, Cannon outlines several areas where he feels Dolan has fallen short. He cites Dolan’s part-time residence in Florida; a high retainer for services provided; issues in “arrangement and access” between the firm and the township; and the depth of the firm compared to others. He also alleges that Dolan worked with former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds’ defense. Cannon recommended the services of The Kelly Firm.

Dolan’s firm, York, Dolan & Tomlinson, represents other municipalities including New Baltimore, Roseville, Macomb Township and Grosse Pointe Woods. There are three attorneys at the firm: Dolan, Linda McGrail and Tim Tomlinson. Fred York died in 1989.

Dolan, a lawyer who has worked with the township for 47 years, said he believes Cannon has a personal grudge toward him. He said Cannon also led the charge to get rid of him in the early ’90s and again in 2022.

“Each time it happens there’s never anything, that I think, that he can point to that warrants getting rid of an attorney,” Dolan said.

Cannon said the first attempt to discontinue Dolan’s services was brought forward by then-Supervisor Mark Kohl at the board’s meeting on May 13, 1991.

“Mr. Kohl at the time, who was supervisor, felt it was time to take a look at other alternatives and I did, too,” Cannon said in an interview following the meeting.

Robert Steiner, Dennis Tomlinson, Nancy Dedenbach, Kay Howard and James Sinnamon voted to keep Dolan on; Kohl and Cannon voted against it.

For Cannon’s part, he said he doesn’t have anything against Dolan.

“I like Mr. Dolan as a person, as a father,” Cannon said. “He’s done a great job, but I disagree about how much money we pay him, and I disagree with the fact that he’s running the business out of Florida and that he’s got a really small firm. I believe we can do much better and pay less money.”


Dean Reynolds connection?
At the crux of Cannon’s request for change is Dolan’s alleged involvement in Reynolds’ criminal defense. Cannon, in the statement, said he was “deeply disturbed” by Dolan’s alleged actions.

“Mr. Dolan provided Reynolds’ attorney the lengthy document in order to allow the defense attorney to argue before the federal judge overseeing the Dean Reynolds corruption trial that Mr. Reynolds’ sentence should be set aside,” Cannon said in the statement.

In 2019, the former Clinton Township trustee was sentenced to 17 years in prison and ordered to pay $15,000 on four counts of bribery conspiracy and ten counts of accepting bribes. The charges stemmed from bribes Reynolds allegedly took as a trustee to award township contracts.

Dolan, who is the township’s Freedom of Information Act coordinator, said he was providing Reynolds’ attorney Barry Powers with information he asked for via a FOIA request. Dolan said Powers wanted an explanation about the documents he received.

“My intention there was to present factual information, so that the court had before it what I thought were accurate facts,” Dolan said.

Dolan said he never personally represented Reynolds. He said, if he did, it was when Reynolds was still a member of the Board of Trustees.

Reynolds’ attorney, Barry Powers, agreed that Dolan didn’t directly assist him with his defense. He said Dolan authenticated documents having to do with the bid process for the township in a declaration to the court.

“Mr. Dolan by implication or some vicarious principle should not be associated with that in any way,” Powers said.

Deputy Supervisor Dan O’Leary disputes this characterization of Dolan’s assistance.

“This was hardly a simple FOIA response,” O’Leary said in an email sent to Meltzer. “A FOIA is a release of previously existing documents, not the authoring of a defense strategy.”

In O’Leary’s email, he states that he and Cannon had a meeting with Dolan to discuss his involvement with Reynold’s case. In the meeting, O’Leary alleges that Dolan said, “Was I supposed to ignore an injustice? I have the right to correct an injustice if I see one,” with regard to assisting Reynolds’ case.


Dolan said he has two residences: one in Fort Myers, Florida, and one in Birmingham, Michigan. He said he’s been splitting his time at the residence in Florida since 2018 due to his son’s health issues.

“I’m there because I have a son, who’s the absolute light of my life, who suffers from some medical conditions that make it difficult for him to be comfortable in winter conditions in Michigan,” Dolan said at the meeting.

Dolan said working remotely doesn’t impact how available he is for the township. He said a lot of communications with attorneys are done electronically these days.

“This is what I consider to be an inexplicable red herring,” Dolan said of Cannon’s accusation that he isn’t available.


Dolan explained that while the $900-a-day retainer sounds like a lot, it’s less costly than what neighboring townships spend annually on legal aid. He said, on the year, this adds up to about $334,000 for the township. Canton Township spent $810,617 on legal services in 2022 and Sterling Heights spent $960,270 in the same year.

“What matters is what’s actually being paid,” Dolan said.

In 2022, bids were sent out to see if competitors would offer better services for a better price. Clinton Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem, who was a member of the committee tasked with selecting a legal firm, said he was looking for a firm that would work on retainer instead of hourly. This would allow departments to call the attorney when necessary without wondering what the legal fees would do to their budget. He said questioning whether or not to use an attorney can lead to problems.

“I think that’s when mistakes happen and, oftentimes in local government, mistakes turn into lawsuits and increased cost exposure for the township,” Gieleghem said.

Cannon said in his statement that The Kelly Firm is highly qualified, offers the best value, is recommended by the township’s peers, offers greater bench strength and is growing but is not too big to keep the township from being a priority. The firm is located in Michigan.

Unlike York, Dolan & Tomlinson, The Kelly Firm would not be on a retainer. The firm charges $170 per hour (plus cost-of-living adjustments) and has eight lawyers, according to a document Cannon produced at the meeting.

McGrail said in an interview following the meeting that York, Dolan & Tomlinson has three experienced municipal attorneys. This makes the firm unique compared to competitors.

“When you look at some of these other bigger firms you might have one experienced attorney, but then you’ve got a bunch of attorneys who only have a year or so of experience,” she said. “They take longer to get things done. They’re still learning, they’re still cutting their teeth.”

Following the 2022 attempt to end Dolan’s legal services, the board unanimously voted for York, Dolan & Tomlinson to provide hourly breakdowns of its services to the township. McGrail provided a summary of these reports to the Fraser-Clinton Township Chronicle with comparison pricing for The Kelly Firm. A summary shows a projected savings to the township each month. For example, in August 2023, Dolan’s firm logged 177.1 hours for the township, making it a slower month, according to the report. If converted to an hourly cost, the rate would have been $157.54. The Kelly Firm would have reportedly cost the township $30,107 for the month. Dolan’s firm charged $27,900.

Following the meeting, Kim Meltzer said she was concerned about the legal services the firm could provide while balancing contracts with other municipalities. She said she didn’t want the township to discontinue services with York, Dolan & Tomlinson, just maybe reassess them. She also said the attorney’s services are needed less these days since officials are veterans at their jobs.

“We should pay for what we use, not for what we don’t,” Meltzer said.


A secret meeting?
Cannon said that during a 2022 reassessment of the township’s legal services, a more qualified and less-expensive firm should’ve been picked. He alleges that there were behind the scenes meetings that went against the agreement of the bid process. These meetings were between Gieleghem, Dolan and McGrail. At the time, McGrail was an attorney with the firm O’Reilly Rancilio. She now works for York, Dolan & Tomlinson.

“The hijacking in the process resulted in a higher cost, lower impact firm being selected to the detriment of taxpayers,” Cannon said.

Dolan said this part of the bid agreement was to ensure there was no collusion among the attorneys in the process. He said this didn’t happen prior to the bids becoming public.

“I never spoke to anybody at O’Reilly or Ms. McGrail prior to the proposal being submitted,” Dolan said following the meeting.

Gieleghem said, as a member of the committee, he met with all the firms competing for the bids. Other members on the committee included Meltzer, Cannon, Finance Director Mary Hein, Human Resources Director William Smith and O’Leary.

“Bob’s suggesting there was some kind of nefarious intent,” Gieleghem said. “My intent was to make sure we got the best possible service at the best possible price.”

The attempt to change attorneys failed at a meeting on Feb. 28, 2022. Cannon, Trustee Tammy Patton and Meltzer voted to go with O’Reilly Rancilio. Trustees Mike Keys and Joie West voted no, along with Gieleghem. Trustee Laura Cardamone was absent.

According to previous reporting by the Fraser-Clinton Township Chronicle about the meeting, Cannon accused McGrail of a switch in firms at the last minute. Then-trustee Joie West pushed back on this assertion.

It failed again at a meeting on March 14, 2022, and York, Dolan & Tomlinson was kept as the township’s firm. The board also unanimously voted to get the hourly breakdown about how York, Dolan & Tomlinson spent its time doing legal work for the township.

Looking back, McGrail said it was difficult hearing the accusation of collusion.

“Obviously, it’s hard hearing anyone saying anything about yourself when you try to do good work for a client,” McGrail said.

Back in 2022, she said she read the collusion agreement that was part of the bidding process to make sure she wasn’t breaking it by switching firms. She said her decision at the time came from knowing half the board wanted her to be the township attorney and the other half wanted Dolan. Dolan reached out to McGrail, once the bids were public, to see if she wanted to join his firm.

“To me, it just seemed like a win-win,” McGrail said.