Grosse Pointe Park salutes its former longtime law firm

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 19, 2022

 Former Grosse Pointe Park City Attorney Thomas “Jake” Howlett, of Bodman PLC, reflects on his time working for the city he calls home during a Nov. 28 Park City Council meeting.

Former Grosse Pointe Park City Attorney Thomas “Jake” Howlett, of Bodman PLC, reflects on his time working for the city he calls home during a Nov. 28 Park City Council meeting.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE PARK — Although Grosse Pointe Park recently parted ways with its longtime former law firm, it wasn’t done out of ill will.

After seeking bids earlier this year for legal services, the Park City Council selected Auburn Hills-based Kelly Law Firm. New City Attorney Dan Kelly participated in his first council meeting Nov. 28.

For serving Grosse Pointe Park for more than 70 years, the mayor and Park City Council presented a resolution thanking Bodman PLC on Nov. 28. Bodman is headquartered in Detroit.

Former City Attorney Thomas “Jake” Howlett, of Bodman, was on hand for the meeting. Howlett served as the Park’s attorney for about three years and is also a Park resident.

“I very much appreciate the resolution,” Howlett said. “Grosse Pointe Park was one of the foundational clients to the firm.”

Grosse Pointe Park City Councilman Martin McMillan praised Howlett’s community service, noting that one of the things he does is coach for the city’s Little League team.

“He gives of his time,” McMillan said.

Howlett is also active with the nonprofit Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education, which raises money for programs and purchases for the Grosse Pointe Public School System.

“It’s personally been an honor and a privilege,” Howlett said of representing the Park. “It really was an opportunity to serve my community, not just my law firm. … A lot of progress was made. … The city is in good hands.”

The Park was one of Bodman’s first clients.

“We filed the papers that incorporated the city,” Howlett said. “It’s been a great relationship.”

Bodman’s first client was Henry Ford, and the firm has represented a number of other prominent metro Detroiters and businesses during its history.

“Obviously, we’ve been in good company all those years and in good hands,” Mayor Michele Hodges said.

As the resolution noted, Howlett and his predecessor, Dennis Levasseur, are both Park residents, and Levasseur’s predecessor, Herold “Mac” Deason, is a former Park resident.

“We salute the service Bodman brought us all of these years,” Hodges said after the meeting.

Hodges said the Kelly Law Firm should also do a good job for the city because of its municipal law expertise.

“It’s in their DNA, and it’s all that they do,” Hodges said.

City Manager Nick Sizeland said the Park put out a request for proposals, or RFP, earlier this year to see if any law firms were interested in submitting a bid to represent the Park.

“We thought it was a good opportunity to see if there were other opportunities out there,” Sizeland said.

He said approximately six to eight firms sent in proposals. The city’s Personnel Committee reviewed those and whittled them down to a few finalists for consideration by the council, which ultimately selected the Kelly Law Firm. As the city faces budget challenges, the fact that the Kelly Law Firm’s bid was lower than the Bodman bid — a $100,000 annual retainer as opposed to a $120,000 annual retainer for Bodman — was a big factor in the selection of the new firm, officials said. Sizeland said the annual retainer covers the costs associated with the work the attorney does for the City Council as well as the work done as the city prosecutor. Sizeland said that Bodman’s annual retainer and Kelly’s annual retainer both covered the same scope of work.