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Bloomfield Township, ex-clerk sued over fatal crash

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against former Bloomfield Township Clerk Janet Roncelli and the township over a fatal accident in September in which she was driving a township vehicle.

The lawsuit was filed in Oakland Circuit Court on Dec. 29 on behalf of Karissa Duff, a personal representative for the estate of Bradley Bauer, 32, of Rochester, who was crossing Maple Road in Birmingham at 3:30 a.m. Sept. 22 when he was struck by a Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Roncelli of Bloomfield Hills.

Bloomfield Township Clerk Janet Roncelli addresses trustees during a recent Board of Trustees meeting at Bloomfield Township Hall in Bloomfield Township, Mich.

Police reports indicate Roncelli stopped after the collision and made a 9-1-1 call to report the accident. She was interviewed by police at the scene and submitted to both a breath test and blood draw, which were both negative for alcohol, according to Birmingham police reports.

Roncelli was not criminally charged in the incident.

But according to the lawsuit, Bauer’s estate believes she may have been driving at a high rate of speed, ran a red light and either didn’t see Bauer as he crossed Maple  near Coolidge Highway or was unable to stop in time.

The lawsuit alleges gross negligence by Roncelli and says the township should have known of her driving practices, habits and history and “reasonably should have known” by allowing her to drive the township vehicle “she would likely be involved in a traffic collision.” No specifics were provided in the lawsuit.

Attorney Kevin Riddle, who filed the complaint, did not return telephone calls Tuesday from The News to clarify the allegations.

Reached Tuesday, Roncelli declined to comment on the lawsuit or its allegations.

“Our practice is to not discuss pending litigation,” Bloomfield Township Supervisor Dani Walsh said. “I know the accident was reviewed by the Birmingham Police Department and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for several months and she was not charged with any crimes.”

Roncelli, 72, had previously announced she was not running for re-election in November 2020 and retired as the township’s clerk.

A check of Michigan Secretary of State’s records Tuesday show Roncelli has a current operator’s license that will need to be renewed in December but no history of driving violations.

Walsh said the township eliminated its practice of providing vehicles for elected officials in November.

“I was the first to say I didn’t want one and my colleagues turned their vehicles in as well,” she said.

Walsh said the change was made “because of expense and the potential liability.” Township department heads are still provided with a car “allowance” and the police chief, fire chief and head of public works still have take-home vehicles, he said.

The lawsuit seeks in excess of $25,000 in damages to be determined and attorney fees. It is assigned to Judge Michael Warren.

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