Detroit— A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from a former graphics designer who sued Wayne County Robert Ficano and his aides, alleging he was fired last year for refusing to perform political work.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled Thursday evidence showed it was county budget constraints not “retaliation” that resulted in James Wallace’s ouster in January 2012.
“The deposition testimony conclusively establishes that the decision to discharge plaintiff was made by the county’s chief of staff, Matthew Schenk, a non-defendant who selected plaintiff and 12 others for discharge for budgetary reasons and not in retaliation for plaintiff’s refusal or objection to doing work plaintiff deemed to be political,” the ruling reads.
Wallace, who worked at the $55,000 a year job as a county graphic designer and photographer for 10 years, alleged in the suit his superiors “continually pressured” him to complete projects for Ficano’s political groups, including his political action committee. Along with Ficano, Wallace sued Nader Fakhouri, Ficano’s former assistant executive and top fundraiser and Lynn Ingram, former director of communications.
Wallace alleged he was directed to “actively volunteer as a condition of his employment, forced to spend days walking door-to-door handing out campaign literature, stuffing mailers, working the polls during elections cycles, walking in parades and working at phone banks.”
Ficano had challenged Wallace’s allegations from the lawsuit’s beginning and a spokesperson said in a statement Thursday “we stood our ground on this case because we knew that the allegations were unfounded.”
“It’s unfortunate that this kind of opportunism ends up costing the county and its taxpayers particularly in very tough economic times,” wrote June West, Ficano spokesperson.
Wallace’s attorney vowed to appeal.
“The judge clearly adopted the county’s version of the facts, which is legally improper,” Deborah Gordon wrote in a statement. “He accepted the county’s very dubious claim that the firing was part of a lay off (budget reasons). We presented a wealth of evidence that this was false. ... Schenk testified that Ficano was a decision maker and that Nader Fakhouri and Lynn Ingram, named defendants, were a part of the decision.”