Ex-Waterford Twp. police chief sues to get job back
Pontiac – Waterford Township’s former top cop wants his old job back and is suing township officials in Oakland Circuit Court for wrongful discharge under the state Whistleblower Protection Act.
Daniel McCaw was the township’s police chief until March 2015, following a much-publicized criminal investigation for removing political campaign yard signs from a gas station lot.
McCaw was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing but the seven-person township board of trustees subsequently ordered his retirement under a civil service rule that a person 60 years old can be asked to retire and be ordered to stop working at age 65. McCaw was 61.
McCaw’s lawsuit, filed last week, alleges his forced exit was actually predicated by other factors, including complaining for two years that there were few, if any, minorities or women on the 58-man force. McCaw also claims his rights have been violated under the state’s civil rights law and persons with disabilities act because his dismissal came as he was recovering from surgery after a heart attack.
A similar federal complaint filed by McCaw in U.S. District Court was dismissed in August 2016, according to township supervisor Gary Wall, named as a defendant in the circuit court suit.
“Dan is going to be Dan, and nobody is going to stop him from doing what he wants to do,” said Wall, who declined to discuss any of the allegations contained within the 48-page complaint.
“This has all been booted out of court before and expect it will again,” said Wall, who referred other questions to Lou Feurino, the township’s human resources and risk management director.
“Everyone has the right to go to court if they feel they have been wronged,” said Feurino. “That said, I believe the township acted appropriately and did everything right.”
Feurino said McCaw served nearly 30 years on the department, was wounded in an on-duty shooting and spent the last eight years as its police chief.
Among the allegations in the lawsuit:
■ McCaw said his two-year advocacy for hiring African-Americans and other minorities on the police force angered Wall.
■ Following surgeries for a March 2014 heart attack and ongoing treatment for health issues, McCaw said Wall and township Clerk Sue Camilleri and Trustee Anthony Bartolotta had suggested and encouraged him to retire.
■ Wall had told McCaw the police union leaders would only discuss some bargaining issues if the township found a way to “get rid of” the police chief.
“This is the first I have heard of the lawsuit, but some of it sounds old, some of it new,” said Bartolotta, a trustee for seven years.
“I remember once having a conversation with Dan regarding the lack of minorities on the department and he explained, ‘They don’t apply (for the job).’ Which I know is not true.
“And I don’t ever recall having a conversation with him suggesting he retire,” he said. “That (discussion) never happened.”
Not in dispute is that controversy dogged McCaw after July 19, 2014. That’s when McCaw was videotaped on a patrol car camera removing election signs alongside a gas station. The signs urged voters to oppose a police millage.
The action angered some of the township’s 73,400 residents when it became public. But it was later found lawful under township ordinances, after an investigation found the signs were in a public right-of-way. A police millage renewal for $2.8 million subsequently passed on Aug. 5, 2014 with 74 percent of the vote.
While no action was taken against McCaw, he alleges that township information technology employees illegally accessed police data and a patrol car video of the July 19 incident. McCaw said he was defamed and suffered public humiliation and embarrassment over the sign incident.
The lawsuit, assigned to Judge Hala Jarbou, seeks a jury trial, in excess of $25,000 in damages, including back pay and benefits, and McCaw’s reinstatement as police chief.