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Court grants writ of superintending control to enforce the Veterans' Preference Act

James Kiessel was terminated after he arrested a father and son in violation of their 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.  While the Sheriff termed the arrests "severe misconduct" punishable by termination, the County Prosecutor, responding to Kiessel's appeal of his termination under the Veteran's Preference Act, concluded that the arrests were not malfeasance, but rather the result of inadequate training of Deputies on the Sheriff's staff.

The Leelanau County Sheriff, the County, and the County's Risk Association lawyers tried to evade the intent of the Act and persuaded the local judge that the Act did not apply to Kiessel.  The Sheriff and his associates persuaded the judge that the Prosecutor lacked jurisdiction to hear Kiessel's VPA appeal as a "hearing officer" to fulfill his duties under the Act.    When the Prosecutor disagreed with their interpretation, they filed suit in Circuit Court to prevent the Prosecutor's opinion  from resulting in Kiessel's reinstatement.

The judge was persuaded that since Deputies serve "at the discretion" of the elected Prosecutor, the VPA did not grant jurisdiction to the Prosecutor to intervene.  The Judge therefore sustained the Sheriff's objection to the Prosecutor serving as a hearing officer and did not order Kiessel's reinstatement.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court judge, holding that Kiessel, an honorably discharged veteran, was entitled to the protections of the VPA.  It concluded that the Legislature is empowered to establish the rights and duties of a County Sheriff and therefore may subject the Sheriff to the terms of other limiting statutes.  The judges concluded that the VPA was a remedial statute which was intended to limit the rights and duties of even Constitutional officers in their interactions with former veteran employees.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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