Judge delays decision in Warren whistleblower case

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Detroit — Warren officials were in court Wednesday a third time to ask a judge to dismiss a whistleblower lawsuit, but they will have to wait until a judge makes a decision.

Former city planner Kenneth Bouchard alleges in the lawsuit he was forced out of his job by officials who retaliated against him for making a presentation to City Council about illegal practices by the administration. Bouchard, who served as city planner from January 2011 to August 2014, said his colleagues used tactics to induce him to quit.

District Court Judge Denise Page Hood said she will provide a written decision on the motion to dismiss the case, but she did not say when she would issue it.

Sheryl Laughren, an attorney who represents the city, argued in court there was no evidence of materially adverse employment action against Bouchard. For example, he was not terminated, demoted, reassigned to a less desirable position or forced to take a pay cut, she said.

Instead, Laughren said Bouchard received a suspension when he refused to make copies of a public subdivision document per his manager’s order in May 2014. She also noted Bouchard was written up when a female employee complained he was stalking her at the office.

“No one was ever rude or impolite to him,” Laughren said. “He was not demoted, his duties never changed.”

Bouchard accused his former supervisor, planning director Ronald Wuerth, of making him feel “terrible” during a Sept. 27, 2013, meeting after the presentation to City Council.

Bouchard recorded the meeting and a transcript of the conversation between the two men shows Wuerth telling Bouchard his job was in danger.

“The transcript alone provides enough direct evidence of retaliation,” said Jennifer Lord, Bouchard’s attorney.

However, Laughren said she interpreted the conversation differently.

She said Wuerth wanted Bouchard to focus on helping the planning department instead of being concerned with practices in other offices.

Lord said the way city officials treated Bouchard was “shocking.”

“What the city subjected Mr. Bouchard to was much, much more than harsh words,” Lord said. “They did everything they could to make it impossible for him to do his job.”

Laughren disputed Lord’s claim that city employees began to alienate Bouchard after he made the presentation. She said during a deposition Bouchard never stated he was given the “cold shoulder” by his colleagues.