A lawsuit filed by Emmett Township Building Inspector Steve Buller has been dismissed but isn’t dead.
Buller filed the suit in October 2018 arguing that he was misclassified as a contract employee rather than as a full-time worker for the township.
He was seeking thousands of dollars in retroactive benefits including retirement.
Buller, who also is a trustee since 2012, was hired in 1996 as a building inspector but always as a contract employee. He has also provided similar services to the city to Battle Creek, Springfield, and Convis Township.
At a township meeting Thursday, Emmett’s labor attorney, Tom Derderian said the suit was dismissed Dec. 23 by Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge John Hallacy.
Buller, representing himself, filed an appeal in January with the Michigan Court of Appeals. No proceedings are scheduled and Derderian told the trustees it could be a year or more before a ruling.
Buller did not attend the township meeting and could not be reached Friday for comment.
In a motion to dismiss the original suit, the township argued that Buller has always been a contract employee and, as a trustee, even voted a few years ago with the six other members to continue his status as a contract employee.
In his ruling, Hallacy said he found no evidence that Buller ever qualified as a full-time township employee.
“It is very clear to me that he is and has been an independent contractor and he has held himself out as such,” Hallacy said. “If I had to, if this was a criminal case I would say that this is fraud and that he is trying to get the benefit. He is gold digging for the benefit that he wants to get because he sees a huge benefit for him so he is trying to present himself in a position that he never was.”
Trustee Pat Dougherty said that defending the suit has cost the township $100,000, which is not covered by insurance.
“It has been very, very expensive,” he said. “It was a terrible thing to have to go through.”
Contact Trace Christenson at 269-966-0685 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @TSChristenson
Read or Share this story: https://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/story/news/2020/02/14/lawsuit-against-emmett-township-dismissed-but-not-dead/4761947002/