Squabble over Oxford mounted reserve unit sparks suit
Oxford – This northern Oakland County village is known for its annual Lone Ranger festival but it may soon be “Hi-Yo Silver, Away” – maybe forever – for three volunteer police reservists.
Kallie Roesner-Meyers, her husband Bruce Meyers of Oxford Township and Eugenia Calocassides of Metamora, all unpaid volunteers, have filed a federal lawsuit alleging violation of due process of their constitutional rights.
Specifically, the complaint seeks a “name clearing hearing” under federal law, alleging the three were publicly embarrassed at a January village council meeting and wrongly accused of improper conduct, including impersonating police officers.
Named in the complaint are the village of Oxford; village manager Joe Young; Village President Sue Bossardet; acting Police Chief Michael Solwold and attorney Robert Charles Davis.
“It was horrible,” Roesner-Meyers said of the January meeting. “We weren’t even on the agenda – we thought we were going into a normal informational council meeting and suddenly found ourselves and the police chief being verbally attacked and accused of all kinds of things.”
Councilman Erik Dolan peppered then-police Chief Michael Neymanowski with questions, including whether proper background checks had been done on the three. Dolan said he learned the three had been investigated by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for impersonating deputies during a missing person case.
The probe never led to criminal charges, according to Roesner-Meyers, who said she and the others had been given permission to try and help find the missing woman.
“I’m disappointed at how we were treated,” she said. “I don’t understand it. My husband has been the Lone Ranger in the parade for several years. He is the Lone Ranger.
“Is this how you would treat the Lone Ranger?”
They are among 13 police reservists in the Oxford police department, which services 3,400 residents. Their main duty is to supplement patrols by foot, bike and patrol car in the downtown area and on special traffic assignments for parades and special events, including the annual “Home of the Mask” event honoring the Lone Ranger.
The late Brace Beemer, who provided the character’s voice on a WXYZ radio program broadcast nationally in the 1950s, lived in Oxford.
But at the Jan. 10 council meeting, the three faced an upset village council. Members expressed concern about the credentials of the three, what if any supervision they were given in Oxford and elsewhere, and what liability Oxford would have in the event anyone was ever injured by their horses or their riders.
Council members demanded to know who gave them uniforms, the Oxford badges and patches, and most of all the authority to represent the village at President Donald Trump’s inaugural parade Jan. 20 in Washington.
Despite the council refusing to provide permission for the trip, the three went to the event as part of the Michigan Multi-Jurisdictional Mounted Police Drill Team and Color Guard representing Michigan. They removed all patches, insignias and badges with Oxford on them.
“The three had been introduced to the council in October and thanked for their service, even congratulated for winning an award in Kentucky,” their attorney, Phillip Ellison, said Thursday. “Everything was going well until Trump was elected and they got the invite. Next thing they are being publicly embarrassed at a meeting. And within a couple weeks, the police chief retires and the village manager is fired.
“Some might call it coincidence,” said Ellison. “I don’t believe in coincidences.”
Neymanowski could not be reached for comment. Village police chief for 17 years, he was permitted to wear his Oxford Police uniform at the inaugural, representing Michigan police chiefs at the event. He retired last month.
Joseph Young, whose last day as village manager is March 31, was reached Thursday but declined to comment and directed all questions to village attorney Robert Charles Davis.
“There is no merit to this (lawsuit),” said Davis. ...The village has no record of the plaintiffs being sworn in and approved reserve officers. We investigated. The village clerk has no such resolution. the village clerk has no swearing-in log entries.
“They want a “name-clearing hearing,” said Davis. “Under the law, the name-clearing hearing process applies to employees who are terminated and stigmatized at a public hearing during the employment termination process. Again, the village has no record of employing any of the plaintiffs in any capacity. There is no record of the plaintiffs being sworn in as reserve officers.”
Neymanowski appeared before the village council on Jan. 10 and while he said some mistakes were made, he also believed the three were reservists who could be considered as “possible reservists for a future mounted unit.” He noted they had put in time working at special events, including the Lone Ranger and Scarecrow festivals.
He described all three as “certified reservists” who had previously served as reservists on the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office mounted division but now wanted to serve their more immediate community.
The lawsuit, assigned to U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood, seeks damages for the three and for then to be recognized as reservists in Oxford.