Michael Lange, who was fired May 7, 2009 as a Sumpter Township police officer after 16 years on the job and then filed a Whistleblower law suit, recently accepted an out-of-court settlement of $90,000 to drop the case.
The board voted to approve the settlement at its Nov. 22 meeting, Lange agreed to the settlement Dec. 16 and the final paperwork was delivered to the township on Jan. 24.
The details of the settlement were obtained by the Independent through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Besides giving Lange $90,000, the township agreed to furnish a letter of reference to anyone who inquired about Lange. If a verbal reference is requested, the response has to be consistent with the letter of reference.
• All discipline will be expunged from Lange’s personnel file;
• The township board will rescind Lange’s termination and reinstate him long enough so he can resign, as of May 7, 2009;
• The police chief will amend the MCOLES separation notice to reflect that Lange resigned; and
• The terms of whether there is a payment and the size of the payment is confidential and shall not be divulged to any third party.
However, the settlement agreement is available through the Freedom of Information Act.
In his law suit, filed June 16, 2009 in Wayne County Circuit Court, Lange claims he was fired in retaliation for investigating a fellow officer on narcotics allegations and for protesting the improper promotions of five officers to sergeant, among other reasons.
Lange’s suit refers to a mysterious Sgt. X and a suspect M.
The law suit said Lange worked for Sumpter Township from June 9, 1993 to May 7, 2009 when he was terminated. He spent eight years as a canine officer and 13 years on narcotics.
The suit claims Police Chief James Pierce told Lange he could no longer use his own dog Henry on canine patrol and he would have to “donate” the dog to the township, but pay for the food, etc., himself.
Lange’s suit claims another officer got to keep his dog and got paid for caring for it.
Lange’s suit claims federal narcotics officers contacted Lange about Officer X and suspect M and illegal narcotics distributions. The suit said the federal agents conducted surveillance and confirmed allegations on X and M.
The suit said Lange learned through his contacts that in March of 2007, X attempted to take his personal gun through airport security.
The suit claims Chief Pierce heard of the investigations into X and pulled Lange from narcotics duties and told him not to contact M.
The suit said in October 2007, Pierce promoted five officers to sergeant, including X. By doing this, he bypassed promotion procedures set forth in CBA.
Lange said he filed a union grievance on the promotions, which was successful, but Pierce again promoted the same five to sergeant in June 2008, including X. The suit said the grievance “withstood challenge” because the officers had been tested.
The suit said on Sept. 30, 2008, Chief Pierce ordered Lange to cease narcotics investigations and Lange was given one day to turn over his reports and other items to Det./Sgt. Mike Czinski.
The suit said a September 2008 audit of the canine program found that Henry failed on “aggression” and Lange was given eight weeks to fix that and he did it on his own time.
The suit said that in November 2008, Lange put in for two hours of overtime for a mandatory fitting for a bullet-proof vest and this caused Chief Pierce to become angry and swear.
The suit said Lange filed a grievance on the overtime and was paid less than 75% of his overtime pay.
Lange’s suit said that in the fall of 2008, he was under increased scrutiny. The suit said he confronted Pierce, charging that Pierce was retaliating against him, but there was no response.
On Dec. 5, 2008, the suit claims, a sergeant told Lange that Pierce wanted him to come in early for a meeting. The suit said Pierce was there with three sergeants, including X, and Lange was put on paid administrative leave pending investigation into alleged criminal acts.
The suit said that it was alleged by X that Lange was untruthful in written police reports. The suit said Sumpter Township sought criminal charges against Lange, but they were denied by the prosecutor.
The suit said Pierce charged him with unprofessional conduct and falsifying records.
A disciplinary hearing was held April 23, 2009 and findings were issued April 30, sustaining five charges with X a critical witness for each charge, the suit said.
The recommendation was to terminate Lange and the Sumpter Township Board finalized the termination at its May 7, 2009 special meeting.
The law suit claims violation of the Whistleblowers Protection Act and a second count of Abuse of Process against Chief Pierce for perceived retaliation.
Lange demanded a jury trial and wanted to be compensated for lost wages, benefits and earning opportunities lost resulting from his termination, attorney fees, and more.
He also wanted money for harm to his reputation, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John H. Gillis, Jr. handled the suit.