Judge Finds Settlement "Fair" In Brighton Twp. Sewer Lawsuit
August 14, 2018
Brighton Township officials are looking forward to closure when it comes to a class-action lawsuit filed against the municipality by a group of residents, though some represented in the suit are dissatisfied.
The township was served with the lawsuit in June of 2016 by a group of original sewer system users who claim they were overcharged in assessment fees for a number of years. A settlement agreement was negotiated this past January, which requires the township to pay $1.5 million from the general fund to a sewer settlement fund for a payout to those represented in the lawsuit. The remaining funds would be used to purchase REU’s, or Residential Equivalent Units, and the loan from the general fund will be forgiven. The township would then sell the REU’s and the profits would go back into the general fund.
However some of the plaintiffs were unhappy with the agreement, which came before Judge Michael P. Hatty in Livingston County Circuit Court last month. Judge Hatty gave residents time to express their opposition and concerns at the hearing before adjourning the matter. Judge Hatty then on Friday ruled the agreement was “fair”, approving and signing the settlement. Township Manager Brian Vick says if everything goes according to plan, then the township will soon be required to make a payment into the settlement escrow and from that escrowed money the class administrator will discharge the funds.
Reflecting on the allegations asserted in the lawsuit, Vick says nothing illegal took place and that the township is just looking for closure with the settlement. Vick says, "It’s been two years… the plaintiff's counsel got $500,000 out of the settlement fund and the township has incurred about $500,000 as well. The township continues to maintain there were no improper charges. The expenses and distractions and the risk of protracted litigation and the protections from the future claims support entering into the settlement agreement."
Bob Potocki is one of the plaintiffs represented in the suit and says if the township had done things the right way, there would have been no legal fees and everybody would pay their fair share. Still, Vick says it’s “interesting”, considering the number of staff hours and tax dollars that were spent, in addition to the costs associated with the lawsuit, as the provisions of the settlement agreement are nearly identical to the proposal the township was scheduled to adopt over two years ago. Potocki fired back, saying, “Crooks blame everyone else for the mess they create.” (DK)