Melvindale’s ousted police chief is suing the city, claiming he was unfairly fired and accused of misconduct last year for not supporting practices to meet an alleged towing and ticketing quota.
In August 2016, Chad Hayse was suspended then terminated after a disciplinary hearing that followed a third-party investigation, City Council members said.
According to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District, Hayse alleges an officer accused of brutality and procedural violations was responsible for most towing in the city and had been suspended shortly before Melvindale officials received reports about declining tows and tickets.
Hayse believed the city was “attempting to illegally use increased ticket and towing revenue to meet the expectations” under a debt elimination plan, according to the court filing. He also contends the head of Goch and Sons, the firm contracted to handle towing in the city, was friends with Melvindale’s mayor and administrator.
A day after the company reported lower than usual towing statistics for July 2016, Hayse was suspended. That suspension was extended after the City Council received a report about Melvindale’s tickets and tows, the lawsuit stated.
Within days, the chief was “served with a list of bogus charges against him,” including providing false statements to the Public Safety Commission and willful misconduct.
Some of the counts in the complaint regarded negative statements Hayse allegedly posted on the Police Department’s Facebook page about city officials mulling a central dispatch. He was accused of lying to the council about composing the comments, members said at the time.
Hayse denied the claims during the two-day disciplinary hearing but was fired, his lawyers wrote.
“If anything, Plaintiff was attempting to uphold the charter, preempt the corrupt malfeasance of others, ensure he was performing his duties fully, and prevent the injury of the public service,” the filing read.
The suit seeks punitive damages and a judgment for lost wages and benefits.
The lawsuit contends Melvindale officials disapproved of Hayse’s efforts to discipline the police officer involved with towing because in his absence, “they would not benefit from the increased revenue (the employee) brought in with his incredibly high numbers of tickets and tows. Accordingly, Defendants hatched a plan to get rid of Plaintiff so that they, and Goch and Sons Towing, could bring in the heightened revenue once more.”
Mayor Stacy Bazman and City Council President Nicole Barnes did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday night.
Lawrence Coogan, the city’s attorney, said the council voted to remove Hayse “for a plethora of reasons, none of which had anything to do with a quota.” He cited the former chief allegedly not following proper procedures when disciplining the towing police officer.
Coogan also denied Melvindale has a ticket/towing quota, which is illegal, or city officials having a relationship with the towing company, which was selected through a bidding process. He added that the city charter specified what Hayse could be terminated for.
But Deborah Gordon, Hayse’s attorney, maintains her client, who had been on the force for nearly 25 years, did not violate the charter and was targeted for disagreeing with city practices.
“This was a sham termination,” she said.