In the Media:
Michigan Lawyers Weekly: "Cops claimed chief retaliated, didn't promote - One said he was called liar, slanderer"
Type of Action: Whistleblower Protection Act, ELCRA Discrimination
Injuries Alleged: Lost wages, mental anguish, emotional distress and outrage
Name of Case: Phillip Randazzo and Booker Snow v The City of Inkster, Ron Wolkowicz and Hilton Napoleon
Court: Wayne County Circuit Court
Case No: 13-003917-CZ
Tried Before: Jury
Name of Judge: Hon. John H. Gillis, Jr.
Verdict/Settlement: $125,000 for Phillip “Chuck” Randazzo
$24,000 for Booker Snow
Special Damages: A Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs in the approximate amount of $50,000 is pending, which would bring the total award to approximately $200,000
Date of Verdict: September 10, 2014
Last Offer to Settle: ADR for $40,000 for each Plaintiff, Plaintiffs rejected, Defendants rejected. Defendants never made an offer to settle.
Most Helpful Experts: N/A
Key To Winning:
Allocation of Fault: N/A
Insurance Carrier: N/A
Attorney for Plaintiff: Tom R. Pabst, Michael A. Kowalko and Jarrett M. Pabst
Attorney for Defendant: Withheld
Description of Case:
TWO CITY OF INKSTER POLICE OFFICERS WIN THEIR WHISTLEBLOWER SUIT AGAINST CITY OF INKSTER, ITS EX-MANAGER AND EX-POLICE CHIEF HILTON NAPOLEON
Inkster Police Officers Chuck Randazzo, a white man, and Booker Snow, and African-American man, were good and competent and loyal police officers who received awards for courage and exemplary service from Defendant Police Chief Hilton Napoleon before they blew the whistle. However, both police officers voted “no confidence” in the leadership of Chief of Police Hilton Napoleon, because he was violating important rules and regulations regarding how to act in (1) hostage situations, (2) barricaded gunman situations and (3) shootouts in general, thus endangering the lives of police officers under his command, as well as the lives of the citizens of Inkster. This written vote of “no confidence”, which was backed up by a majority of the police officers in the City of Inkster, was then sent to various public leaders, including (1) Governor Snyder, (2) the Inkster City Council, (3) the then-Manager of Inkster, etc., trying to get someone to address these issues before police officers and/or innocent citizens of Inkster got killed.
Defendant ex-Police Chief Napoleon Hilton reacted with extreme anger to the written vote of “no confidence”, which included the following acts and/or omissions:
(1) Writing a response calling Chuck Randazzo a liar, a slanderer, and charging him with approximately 20 different charges of malfeasance and/or neglect as a police officer;
(2) Writing a letter to the head of the union (because Chuck Randazzo was the President of the Local) and alleging in writing that Chuck Randazzo’s motives were racial, meaning that he’s doing this because he doesn’t like a black man being police chief;
(3) Calling Booker Snow a “dumb black m-f for “stabbing (Defendant Napoleon) me in the back” and doing whatever these white guys (Chuck Randazzo) want you to do”;
(4) Giving a statement to the Free Press reporter, who published the comments in the Detroit Free Press, “That some of the police officers under my command should not be police officers. They are not fit to wear a badge”, etc., being an obvious reference to Chuck Randazzo;
(5) Telling other command officers, including Lt. Barry O’Brien, “Randazzo’s got to go” at a meeting to discuss the written vote of “no confidence”;
(6) Calling three “Chief’s Meetings” also known as “Loudermill hearings”, which means the Chief basically would have said to Chief Randazzo, “I’m going to fire you, you’ve got one minute to convince me why I shouldn’t”, each of which three meetings was cancelled at the last moment;
(7) Not promoting Chuck Randazzo and/or Booker Snow to positions of “acting Sergeant” when they had more seniority and more competency and experience than the three white men promoted to the acting sergeant position.
In fact, one of the three white men promoted to the acting sergeant position had been fired two times before, which came as a total surprise to Defendant Napoleon on the stand, which is ironic because he told the jury that he was one of the top five investigators in the United States, and even was so good as an investigator that he could objectively investigate himself. Yet, he did not know that one of the men he promoted to “acting sergeant” had been fired two times before!
In one of the most poignant moments of the trial, Chuck Randazzo actually broke down and cried when describing how Defendant Napoleon wrecked his police career by falsely branding him “a racist, a liar, incompetent, and someone who should not be wearing a badge”. Chuck Randazzo had previously received awards for catching bank robbers when shots were fired, showing courage in the line of fire, and being an exemplary police officer, all of which occurred before he blew the whistle.
Significantly, Defendant City hired an independent agent to investigate its own police department, whereupon Defendant City’s own independent investigator found (1) that the Plaintiffs’ whistleblowing vote of “no confidence” was “well-deserved”, (2) that the safety of police officers had been compromised by Defendant Napoleon, (3) that the police department was “leaderless” under Defendant Napoleon, and (4) Defendant City’s own expert recommended that Defendant Napoleon “must go as the police chief”, and a new police chief must be hired. All of these “findings” were exactly what Plaintiffs had said in their whistleblowing vote of “no confidence”. So the jury witnessed the spectacle of one co-Defendant, Defendant City, blaming the other co-Defendant, Defendant Napoleon, taking exactly the position the Plaintiffs were asserting in the litigation. Defendants hammered and pounded at trial to the jury that Defendant Inkster was broke, could not pay their bills, they were low on money, and they were so low on money that they had to reduce the police department to a skeleton crew of 25 police officers. This was Defendants’ major “defense” at trial.
The jury found in favor of Chuck Randazzo, and specifically found as follows:
Did Phillip Randazzo, Plaintiff, engage in protected activity under the Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act?
Was the protected activity Phillip Randazzo, Plaintiff, engaged in one of the reasons that made a difference in Defendants’ actions against Phillip Randazzo, Plaintiff?
Did Phillip Randazzo, Plaintiff, suffer any damages as a result of the Defendants’ actions against Phillip Randazzo, Plaintiff?
What is the total amount of economic loss to the present date suffered by Phillip “Chuck” Randazzo, Plaintiff?
What is the total amount of FUTURE economic damages to be suffered by Phillip “Chuck” Randazzo, Plaintiff?
What is the total amount of non-economic loss to the present date suffered by Phillip “Chuck” Randazzo, Plaintiff?
What is the total amount of FUTURE non-economic loss to the present date suffered by Phillip “Chuck” Randazzo, Plaintiff?
Total Damages: $125,000
The jury found in favor of Booker Snow, and specifically found as follows:
Did Booker Snow, Plaintiff, engage in protected activity under the Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act?
Was the protected activity Booker Snow, Plaintiff, engaged in one of the reasons that made a difference in Defendants’ actions against Booker Snow, Plaintiff?
Did Booker Snow, Plaintiff, suffer any damages as a result of the Defendants’ actions against Booker Snow, Plaintiff?
What is the total amount of economic loss to the present date suffered by Booker Snow, Plaintiff?
What is the total amount of FUTURE economic damages to be suffered by Booker Snow, Plaintiff?
What is the total amount of non-economic loss to the present date suffered by Booker Snow, Plaintiff?
Total Damages: $24,000
Plaintiffs were never disciplined, and did not lose their jobs. This case is significant because it shows that juries will protect police officers who have the courage to speak up and do the right thing to protect citizens in the community and their fellow police officers when their lives are jeopardized by incompetent police leadership at the top.
*For more than 30 years, veteran civil rights attorney Tom R. Pabst has been successfully representing people in Genesee County and surrounding areas. His vast experience has proven effective in protecting the rights of his clients, and thwarting the injustices they have been subjected to. Time and again, his track record has shown that Tom R. Pabst is one of the leading civil rights attorneys in the State of Michigan.