Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 25, 2013

Officer employment battle costs Frankfort thousands

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com and AND GLENN PUIT gpuit@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Officials from the city of Frankfort said the municipality is close to settling an employment dispute with a police officer that has cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

Officer Tim Cavric was laid off in 2003 after residents complained he was too aggressive.

The city was later forced to rehire Cavric after he and a police union filed a grievance. The fight over what the city owes Cavric in back pay and benefits, however, continues, and records reviewed by the Record-Eagle show the city has spent more than $82,000 on the fight with Cavric since August 2006.

Frankfort Mayor Bob Johnson said some Frankfort citizens have criticized the city for rehiring Cavric.

“Of course the judge has ruled we have to take him back and we have to make him whole again, so that’s what we are doing,” Johnson said.

Cavric did not respond to a request for an interview.

City officials and Cavric’s attorney said this month the employment conflict is near a conclusion — the two parties are discussing a settlement agreement that will address how much back pay, including benefits and pension payments, the city will shell out. Neither party would discuss specifics on how much back pay Cavric is likely to receive, but Cavric’s attorney estimated the total will likely be in the “low six figure,” range.

”I don’t know that I’m comfortable giving a number,” said Martha Champine, assistant general counsel for the Police Officers Association of Michigan union. “There’s a lot that goes into this.”

Cavric filed a grievance in June 2006 after the city hired a part-time officer without offering him the position. An arbitrator ordered Cavric’s reinstatement with back pay, but the city filed a lawsuit to have the ruling tossed out.

The lawsuit eventually reached the Michigan Court of Appeals, which also ordered Cavric’s reinstatement. The city appealed the reinstatement order, but the state Supreme Court chose not to review the appellate court’s ruling.

Frankfort City Councilman Richard Haan, who wasn’t on the city council when the legal battle with Cavric began, questioned the decision to pursue the case to Michigan’s highest court.

”There’s no reason to take it to the Michigan Supreme Court after it’s been denied by the appeals court and a lower court,” Haan said. “That’s from a citizen’s standpoint.”

Haan called himself a “supporter” of Cavric, and said much of the criticism he drew during his original stint in Frankfort stemmed from a group of citizens upset over the number of traffic tickets he issued. Haan said he personally reviewed traffic tickets written by Cavric and didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

”(Cavric) was one who wanted to ensure the law was met,” Haan said.

Frankfort officials rehired Cavric last year. He is currently on desk duty because he needs to complete certification testing, Johnson said.