On September 10, 2015, Dan Devine filed a Complaint in the Oakland County Circuit Court alleging that Bloomfield Township and Township Supervisor Leo Savoie intentionally discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of the Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act. (See Complaint & Demand for Trial by Jury Filed September 10, 2015).
About Dan Devine
Mr. Devine, 54 years old, was appointed Township Treasurer by unanimous vote of the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees in 1999. He was elected in 2000 and has been re-elected to the position for each of the three successive terms since then. Previously, he served as Oakland County Commissioner from January 1995 to January 2000.
Mr. Devine earned a Juris Doctor degree from Detroit College of Law (now Michigan State University College of Law) in 1987 and a Bachelor of Psychology from Notre Dame University in 1983. His is also a Certified Public Finance Administrator (CPFA), a Certified Public Funds Investment Manager (CPFIM), and a Michigan Certified Professional Treasurer (MiCPT).
In 2011, Mr. Devine sought appointment to the role of Township Supervisor by the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees following the retirement of then Supervisor David Payne. On July 25, 2011, the Board selected Trustee Leo Savoie to succeed Mr. Payne.
Dan Devine’s Role as Treasurer, Employment Provisions, and Job Performance
According to the Bloomfield Township website, in his role as Treasurer, Mr. Devine:
- Is responsible for the collection of real estate and personal property taxes,
- Manages the investment of Township funds and administers the pension plans and other employee benefits,
- Negotiates labor contracts involving the Township workforce,
- Formulates Township monetary policies,
- Is involved in the creation and implementation of the Annual Budget.
On May 24, 2011, Bloomfield Township entered into a written employment contract with Mr. Devine. The agreement, which runs from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2017, incorporates the Bloomfield Township Employee Handbook and makes clear that Mr. Devine’s position is subject to a majority vote of Township residents in regularly scheduled elections; his own resignation, retirement, or death; or “unless recalled pursuant to lawful procedure governed by prevailing law.” (See Dan Devine – Township Employment Contract Dated May 24, 2011).
Throughout the course of his tenure, Mr. Devine has performed his duties as Treasurer in an exemplary manner, as evidenced by:
- The Township’s “AAA” long-term bond rating and underlying rating from Standard & Poor, the highest rating possible for a municipality. In an announcement published on the Township’s website, Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie publicly stated, “This rating shows that Bloomfield Township is well-run at every level, from its elected officials to its front-line employees.”
- A balanced budget in fiscal years 2009 through 2014 despite a 22% decline in the tax base. (See Bloomfield Township Strategic Plan 2009-2014).
- Transition from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan for Township employees, as well as a change in health care plans for current and former employees, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in savings over time. (See Summary Annual Report 2014 Charter Township of Bloomfield Defined Benefit Pension Plan and Summary Annual Report 2014 Charter Township of Bloomfield Retirement Health Savings Plan).
Dan Devine’s Whistleblower Activities
The Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (Michigan Compiled Law §15.362) shields employees from retaliation by employers for reporting suspected violations of the law:
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 promulgated pursuant to law of this state, a political subdivision of this state, or the United States to a public body…”
On three separate occasions, Mr. Devine reported suspected violations of the law to a public body:
- On August 15, 2014, Mr. Devine filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of State in which he asserted that Mr. Savoie’s campaign finance committee known as “Retain Leo Savoie Bloomfield Township Supervisor,” accepted a $2,500.00 contribution from Hubbell, Roth & Clark, Inc. (“HR&C”), a corporate contribution prohibited by MCL §169.204, MCL §169.254, and MCL §169.271. (See Campaign Finance Complaint to Michigan Department of State Dated August 15, 2014). Mr. Devine lodged his complaint after the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees took up consideration of a $1.2 million sewer extension project known as “Upper Long Lake Estates Long Pointe Drive Sanitary Sewer Extension,” for which HR&C was to be paid fees for acting as consulting engineer and overseeing the work on the sewer extension project. No bids were sought or accepted for the consulting engineer work.
- Devine also asserted to both to the Michigan Department of State and the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees that the local ordinance upon which the Board relied to provide funding for the sewer extension project was being violated. The ordinance specifically limits funding to the “replacement” and “maintenance” of existing wastewater sewers, not to constructing extensions of the existing system to accommodate new users. (Sec. 38.256 and Page 3 of July 14, 2014 Meeting Minutes). The Township Board approved the sewer extension project on June 23, 2014 (See Page 5 of June 23, 2014 Meeting Minutes) and rejected Mr. Devine’s request for a motion to reconsider its approval of the project on July 14, 2014 (See Page 3 of July 14, 2014 Meeting Minutes). After investigating Mr. Devine’s complaint for more than 10 months, the Michigan Department of State issued an opinion finding that Mr. Savoie had not violated the campaign finance statutes by receiving the $2,500 payment from HR&C but made no finding as to Mr. Devine’s bribery allegation. (See Michigan Department of State Opinion Dated May 6, 2015).
- On May 1, 2015, Mr. Devine went to the Bloomfield Township Police Department to report that his 24-year-old daughter was missing, was not responding to telephone calls or text messages, and according to her employer, had not shown up for work that day. Based upon concerns Mr. Devine had regarding Mr. Savoie’s behavior toward him, Mr. Devine informed the police of his suspicion that Mr. Savoie may have been involved in his daughter’s disappearance. (See Police Report & Interdepartmental Communication Dated May 1, 2015). Mr. Devine’s daughter was found later that day safe and unharmed.
As defined by the Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, Mr. Devine is an “employee,” Mr. Savoie and Bloomfield Township constitute an “employer,” and Bloomfield Township and the Bloomfield Township Police Department are “public bodies” (MCL §15.361).
For purposes of the Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, the employee need not establish the truth of the employer’s violation of the law; the employee need only demonstrate that he “reasonably” believed that a violation of law occurred and properly reported it to a public body. (“Whistleblowers’ Protection Act: Good Faith Belief,” Michigan Model Civil Jury Instruction 107.04).
Retaliation against Dan Devine Whistleblower Activities
Mr. Savoie and the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees engaged in various actions directed at Mr. Devine:
- At the April 13, 2015 Board of Trustees meeting, Mr. Savoie proposed that the Treasurer position be reduced from a full-time job to part-time job without any prior independent review or analysis of the Treasurer position or any of the other executive positions within the Township government. Mr. Savoie indicated that he had conducted secret surveillance of Mr. Devine over an 11-month period and accused Mr. Devine of not working full-time, “carelessly” performing his job duties, and failing to “perform a full range of administrative duties.” (See Page 6 of April 13, 2015 Meeting Minutes and Video of Board of Trustees April 13, 2015 Meeting Beginning at 37:28).
- At the July 13, 2015 Board of Trustees meeting, the Board passed “Resolution of Censure of Dan Devine, Township Treasurer” claiming a “series of irregularities attributable to the Township Treasurer” and conduct by Mr. Devine that “brought both ridicule and embarrassment” to the Township. The Board cited various actions by Mr. Devine in support of its determination that he engaged in “official misconduct,” in particular:
– “Baseless allegations that the Supervisor had kidnapped his daughter” and
– “Baseless allegations to the Secretary of State that the Supervisor had violated campaign finance laws and had accepted a bribe from a long-time vendor.”
Mr. Devine was not made aware of the proposed “Resolution of Censure” prior to the meeting, and his request that “the matter be postponed to have time to properly respond” was denied. (See Page 8 of July 13, 2015 Meeting Minutes and Video of Board of Trustees July 13, 2015 Meeting Beginning at 43:41).
- The Board’s passage of the Censure Resolution triggers a statutory provision that allows the Governor of the State of Michigan to remove Mr. Devine from the Office of Treasurer (MCL §168.369).
Purpose of the Mr. Devine’s Lawsuit
Mr. Devine claims that the actions of Leo Savoie and the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees have destroyed his reputation and ability to effectively function as the Treasurer. Additionally, by approving the Censure Resolution and false claims of “official misconduct” that would enable the Governor of Michigan to remove him from office, the Defendants have threatened his employment and caused him to suffer damages including loss of career opportunities, loss of reputation and esteem in the community, and mental and emotional distress. (See Complaint & Demand for Trial by Jury Filed September 10, 2015).
Mr. Devine is represented in this lawsuit by Daniel D. Swanson, a senior shareholder and member of the board of directors with the law firm of Sommers Schwartz, P.C. Questions and inquiries about the pending litigation can be directed to Mr. Swanson at (248) 355-0300.