GRAND BLANC TWP. — Former Grand Blanc Township Superintendent Dennis Liimatta has filed a $750,000 lawsuit against the township and the five trustees who voted to fire him.
Liimatta is seeking damages for actual loss of wages and benefits, as well as loss of earning capacity, emotional distress and mental anguish, extreme embarrassment and humiliation, and stress that affected him physically, causing him to suffer a heart attack.
The action, which comes two weeks after Liimatta was abruptly dismissed during a Board of Trustees meeting, claims the board violated the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act. It also alleges breach of contract.
The Whistleblower Act protects employees, even at-will employees, from dismissal for reporting or preparing to report a violation or suspected violation of “a law or regulation or rule promulgated pursuant to law of this State, a political subdivision of the State or the United States.”
The lawsuit claims Liimatta reported trustees Al Mansour and Ken Thomas for contacting individual police officers directly while Liimatta was involved in contract negotiations with the police union.
In doing so, Mansour and Thomas violated Michigan law and “important rules, policies, and regulations,” the suit alleges.
In addition to naming Mansour and Thomas individually, the suit also names the other three board members – Clerk Cathy Lane and trustees Al Massey and Lonnie Adkins – who voted to fire Liimatta.
The vote came at the June 23 Board of Trustees meeting after Mansour introduced a motion to “immediately exercise the termination clause of (Liimatta’s) employment agreement.”
Supervisor Scott Bennett and Treasurer Earl Guzak cast the dissenting votes. Bennett has said the township’s labor attorney has advised against commenting on the reasons for Liimatta’s dismissal.
The lawsuit further claims that Thomas told Liimatta he would be sorry for reporting Thomas and Mansour.
It further alleges that Bennett and township attorney David Lattie “more than once” assured Liimatta that he would have his job as Grand Blanc Township superintendent as long as he wanted it, prompting him to forgo other employment opportunities.
Liimatta, who earned $150,000 annually, is entitled to severance equivalent to three month’s pay, or $37,500.