Washtenaw County agrees to settle $1M legal fight over police services with Ypsilanti and Augusta townships
Washtenaw County officials are taking steps to end a nearly six-year legal fight with Augusta and Ypsilanti townships over contract police services.
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners voted 9-0 Wednesday night to approve the settlement of the county's counterclaim stemming from a lawsuit originally filed by Ypsilanti, Augusta and Salem townships in 2006.
County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, said the parties in the lawsuit recently decided they wanted to put the issue to rest.
"What it really boiled down to for both of us is it's old news," he said. "We need to get this thing settled. We need to move forward so we can look at the challenges we have in front of us today, and this lawsuit was sort of hanging between us and creating bad blood."
The three townships originally filed suit against the county in January 2006, alleging a number of claims concerning the county's contractual provision of police services to the townships.
The county and the townships stipulated at the outset that the sheriff's office would continue to provide road patrol to the townships at a cost of $53 per hour for each police service unit.
In February 2006, the county filed a counterclaim against the townships seeking what it considered the reasonable value of the police services provided to the townships beginning on Jan. 1, 2006. The county argued it was entitled to an additional $24 per hour ($77 per hour minus the $53 per hour the townships voluntarily paid for contract police services).
A circuit court judge ultimately ruled in the county's favor on every substantive claim brought by the townships but dismissed the county's counterclaim.
A judge ordered the parties to attend facilitation before former Wayne County Circuit Judge James Rashid two weeks ago. Following an all-day session on June 22, Rashid issued a non-binding recommendation that the county's counterclaim be settled for the amounts subsequently approved by the county board at Wednesday's meeting.
"The most compelling reason to accept the facilitator's recommended settlement is to end this litigation, which has now lasted for five and a half years," reads a memo from County Administrator Verna McDaniel and Curtis Hedger, the county's corporation counsel.
"While either the county defendants or plaintiff townships could point to possible scenarios where they might reach a better result should they continue the litigation," they wrote in the memo to commissioners on Wednesday, "such scenarios are speculative at best and would result in the continued accumulation of attorney fees and costs on both sides."
Smith said the county now gets to close out a lawsuit that otherwise would have continued to suck money from both the county and the townships. The county's legal expenses related to the lawsuit are estimated to be more than $1 million.
"It's been a bumpy road and it's created a lot of bad blood amongst a lot of us on both sides, and unnecessarily," Smith said. "We're on the same side and we have the same mission to serve the people of Washtenaw County and I think we lost sight of that for a while."
Commissioners also voted 9-0 Wednesday night to give final approval to the price that municipalities in the county will pay for a contract sheriff’s deputy through 2015. The price per deputy — including salary, benefits and other costs — is proposed to remain at $150,594 in 2012, increasing 1 percent each of the following years, reaching $155,157 in 2015.
Commissioners Rolland Sizemore Jr. and Yousef Rabhi were absent.