Amicus Brief

Bruce Whitman, former Police Chief v City of Burton and Charles Smiley

Case Year: 2012
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), Whistleblower, public concern
Amicus Counsel:

Rosalind Rochkind (P23504) | Garan Lucow Miller, P.C. | 1000 Woodbridge Street | Detroit, MI 48207-3108 | 313-446-5522 | [email protected]

CoAmicus Parties:

1. Michigan Townships Association (MTA)
2. State Bar of Michigan Public Corporation Law Section (PCLS)


Plaintiff, who was appointed Chief of Police by defendant, the Mayor of the City of Burton, filed suit after he was not reappointed by defendant at the beginning of his next term. Four years prior, Plaintiff threatened to report the City of Burton’s lawful denial of his accumulated vacation pay as a violation of law. Plaintiff contends that threatening to report the above referenced matter is the reason Defendant did not reappoint him. Plaintiff filed suit under Michigan’s Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). Counsel argues that the WPA is intended to protect whistleblowers who report violations in order to promote the public interest, not individuals in “bad faith” who only wish to advance their own interests. Plaintiff’s threat was made in an effort to secure his job, not to act as a whistleblower. Therefore, the court should follow case precedent set in Shallal, that plaintiff’s actions do not fall under WPA protection. Should plaintiff’s actions fall under WPA protection, public employees would be able to dictate policy decisions of their employers, which is especially problematic for government employers. Counsel also argues that even if the WPA protects plaintiff’s actions, the adverse employment action was not a result of the plaintiff’s actions.


Michigan Supreme Court:
We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand this case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of all remaining issues on which that court did not formally rule, including whether the causation element of MCL 15.362 has been met.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

Plaintiff sued defendants under the WPA after defendant city of Burton Mayor declined to reappoint plaintiff as the police chief for the city in November 2007. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that defendants terminated his employment because, in
January 2004, plaintiff complained to the mayor and a city attorney that it would be a violation of Burton City Ordinance 68-25C (Ordinance 68-C) if defendants failed to pay plaintiff for
unused sick and personal leave time plaintiff accumulated in 2003.

Case Number: 2011-18
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