Lawsuit: Warren forced ex-city planner out of job

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Warren — A former city planner who resigned nearly two years ago is awaiting a federal judge’s decision on a whistleblower lawsuit that alleges Warren officials forced him out of the job.

Kenneth Bouchard, who served as planner from January 2011 to August 2014, said his colleagues used tactics to induce him to quit after he made a presentation to City Council questioning the legality of several practices by city administrative staff, according to the lawsuit.

Those practices included awarding federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant money to large bundle property purchasers instead of individual homeowners, issuing rental licenses to landlords in default to the city and failing to charge all property owners for city services.

After presenting these findings during a September 2013 council meeting with councilwoman Kelly Colegio, Bouchard said many of his colleagues gave him the “silent treatment,” refusing to speak to him at the office.

Bouchard also accused the city of asking him to make copies of copyrighted material against his will.

“He really needed to work with other departments to do his job,” said Jennifer Lord, Bouchard’s attorney. “It’s our theory that it was designed to get Ken to quit.”

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying it would be against city policy. He referred all inquiries to attorney Sheryl Laughren, who is representing the city in the case.

“Mr. Bouchard’s allegations that he was discharged from his job and otherwise retaliated against are untrue,” Laughren said in an email. “The city will defend itself against his claims in court.”

Lord said the city has filed three motions to dismiss the case and the hearing for the third motion is set for Wednesday in Judge Denise Page Hood’s courtroom.

On Sept. 27, 2013, Bouchard said his then-supervisor, planning director Ronald Wuerth, scolded him for making the presentation about city practices.

A transcript of the conversation between the two men shows Wuerth telling Bouchard his job was in danger and reprimanding him for making a presentation about illegal practices with city administration.

“I felt terrible, I felt sick,” Bouchard said. “My career was in jeopardy and it was clearly communicated that retaliation was imminent.”

Prior to the incident, Bouchard said he felt he had served the city well.

“I was provided with a nice raise,” Bouchard said. “I was well-liked and I was complimented regularly on the work that I did for the city.”

Bouchard said he remains unemployed.

If he wins the lawsuit, Lord said Bouchard hopes to be compensated for the stress and damage to his career and reputation.

“He was a rising star,” Lord said. “We are going to ask the jury to award an amount that they feel is fair.”