Former city manager sues Flushing, alleges wrongful termination

FLUSHING — Former Flushing City Manager Brad Barrett has sued the City of Flushing, alleging that he was wrongfully removed from office by the Flushing City Council last year.

Barrett, who was fired in April 2020 and replaced with current City Manager Clarence Goodlein, has filed suit in Genesee County Circuit Court and is seeking more than $100,000 in damages related to the termination of his contract. In addition to the city, Flushing Mayor Joseph Karlichek, Mayor Pro Tem Edward Sullivan and Councilwoman Brooke Good have been named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Barrett is being represented by Attorney Tom Pabst of Flint Township, who specializes in civil lawsuits and civil rights cases. The case is being heard by 7th Circuit Judge Celeste Bell, and depositions are being gathered.

As part of the lawsuit, Barrett has alleged that the city council violated the Open Meetings Act by holding secret deliberations and meetings to replace him before his official termination. Last April, the city council voted 3-1 to terminate Barrett’s contract, with Karlichek, Sullivan and Good moving to fire Barrett. Interim Councilman John Olson represented the lone dissenting vote.

Prior to Barrett’s firing, Flushing City Council members Dick Bade, Lynne Black and Patrick Scanlon resigned from the council last March, while Councilwoman Karianne Martus also stepped down last January. This left the council without a quorum to conduct business and required the Genesee County Election Commission to step in and appoint at least one interim council member.

According to Barrett’s attorney, Barrett was fired in part because he spoke during public comment at a special county election commission meeting, in which the commission selected John Olson to serve as an interim member of the Flushing City Council.

At the commission meeting, Barrett stated that although the city council could not vote on items or make decisions without a quorum, he could still conduct day-to-day operations in accordance with the city charter.

“One of the reasons they (the city council) fired (Barrett) was because he spoke at the meeting,” said Pabst. “They didn’t like being showed up and called it ‘insubordination.’”

Pabst also said that his client was fired when he tried to enforce compliance with the city charter.

“The city charter provides the same function as the U.S. Constitution does for us as Americans…it’s the rule of law for the city council to follow, and it was up to Brad to make sure everyone stayed in compliance with the charter,” said Pabst. “The new council members didn’t like that and wanted to do things their own way, so they took it out on him.”

Pabst said that his client’s firing ties in with violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act, which states in part that “An employer shall not discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment because the employee, or a person acting on behalf of the employee, reports or is about to report, verbally or in writing, a violation or a suspected violation of a law or regulation or rule…”

In addition to seeking job loss related damages, Barrett is suing the city for an alleged breach of contract, saying that the city still owes him severance pay.

In response to the lawsuit, Flushing officials issued the following statement:

“The City of Flushing strenuously denies the allegations made by Mr. Barrett in his lawsuit and are aggressively defending the baseless lawsuit he has filed. It is our belief that the best interest of justice and the City of Flushing are not served by responding to his allegations in the press but instead by using the legal process he has chosen to make these claims. We will continue to expose the lack of support for his claims in the legal process and look forward to a full and complete judicial resolution.”

Shortly after his firing in 2020, Barrett ran for an open Flushing City Council seat but was defeated in the August primary. He was hired by Flushing in January 2015 after serving as the city manager for the City of Vassar for four years.