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Flint, MI—Councilman Eric Mays filed a lawsuit against the city on Sept. 11, alleging mistreatment and violations of his constitutional rights.
He’s suing the City of Flint as a Michigan municipal corporation, along with every member of city council, Flint City Attorney Angela Wheeler, Flint Police Officer William Metcalf, Mayor Sheldon Neeley, and Neeley’s Deputy Chief of Staff DuVarl Murdock.
The lawsuit cites multiple incidents where Mays was removed from meetings, silenced during meetings, arrested, assaulted, and suspended.
From those incidents, the lawsuit identifies nine counts of alleged crimes against Mays by the city including: denial of property/liberty rights without substantive due process, denial of equal protection, unreasonable seizure, and assault and battery.
Each count seeks $100,000 for a total of almost $1 million. But the lawsuit is about more than just money, Mays said.
“Money is one thing but reputation is another,” he said. “And if you do wrong to me, you’re damaging the people I represent. This is about reputation, representation, and the ability to move money and make law.”
Mays said the 30-day suspension was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“In my opinion, it was illegal and wrong,” he said.
In March, city council removed Mays from a meeting and then voted to suspend him for one month.
The issue was taken to the Ombudsperon, Tané Dorsey, who recommended council update its rules for the City of Flint charter to clarify how to handle situations like this one and set rules for progressive discipline.
She said that without written policy, punishments can seem “arbitrary and capricious,” which is what Mays felt the 30-day suspension was.
In addition to the suspension, the lawsuit cites “forcible, unlawful…removal” of Mays in January, February and November of last year, and a muting of Mays’ microphone during an electronic council meeting in May of this year.
In January of last year, Mays was arrested by Officer Metcalf in what the lawsuit refers to as a “rogue arrest.” He was arrested again in March of this year, and received “criminal charges of disorderly conduct.” The lawsuit claims “no cognizable rule violation by Mays existed.”
But Mays is not the only plaintiff.
Three of his constituents are listed as co-plaintiffs: Liberty Bell, Johnny Billings, and Larry Tarlton.
The lawsuit alleged that when the city had Mays removed from Council proceedings, they essentially “silenced [him] in his capacity as the representative voice of the First Ward.”
“There were that many people unrepresented for thirty days,” Mays said. “They don’t have the right to leave the First Ward unrepresented.”
The lawsuit claims the plaintiffs “will suffer irreparable harm to their exercise of civil and political rights,” as a result of the listed incidents.
Mays also claims to have suffered physical harm during an altercation with Murdock at Rube’s bar in February of last year.
The lawsuit alleges Murdock “confronted Mays, at first with crude taunts, insults and verbal abuse,” making fun of his exclusion from meetings.
It states that Murdock struck Mays and threw him to the floor, and that he sustained physical injuries afterward. A statement from the city told a different story.
“Yet again, there are reports of even more inexcusable behavior by Councilman Eric Mays,” Neeley said in a statement about the incident. “This behavior is shameful and he is an embarrassment.”
It also states that Murdock acted in self-defense after “Mays unleashed a series of insults and threats of violence at him…then approached Murdock in a hostile fashion.”
Mays said Neeley’s statement was “false” and that Neeley did not talk to him or the police about the incident.
“I don’t file false police reports and complaints,” Mays said.
A statement from the city called the lawsuit a “frivolous…unfortunate and costly attempt by Councilman Mays to disrupt and distract.”
“This is a waste of time and money at a time when we are literally fighting for our lives in the midst of a worldwide pandemic,” the statement said. “Councilman Mays needs to take personal responsibility for his actions.”
Mays said the lawsuit was “notorious, not frivolous.”
“This lawsuit won’t be litigated in the media it’ll be litigated in federal court, so let’s see what [Neeley] says in a sworn deposition about him…and others who he’s manipulated and conspired with to do wrong,” Mays said.
The city also stated that it will ask the court to order Mays to “reimburse the city for the costs of defending against this frivolous lawsuit.”
Mays said that is “putting the cart before the horse.”
“If this lawsuit is notorious, which I know it is, it has merit, the City of Flint might have to pay our attorney fees and damages,” Mays said. “The court will decide that, not Mr. Neeley.”