King claims wrongful firing in suit against sheriff
ALPENA –Former Alpena County undersheriff Terry King has sued the Alpena County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski directly for what King believes was an unlawful termination in June.
The summons, filed Thursday and obtained Friday from the county Clerk’s Office, says King, who is being represented by the Mastromarco Firm in Saginaw, is seeking damages in excess of $25,000, plus costs, interest and attorney fees.
The summons claims King has suffered financial damage from the loss of past and future wages, raises, bonuses, insurance, and pension. King also claims to suffer from emotional stress, mental anguish, disruption of lifestyle, and denial of social pleasures.
King, who was forced to resign in June in the face of termination, claims his ouster was a violation of the Whistleblowers Protection Act and was done in retaliation for reporting a pair of incidents that concerned him.
As of Friday, Kieliszewski had not been served, but the plaintiff has until Nov. 2 to do so. Once Kieliszewski formally receives the summons, he has 21 days to file a written response to the court or take counter legal action.
The sheriff said Friday he is unable to comment on the accusations until further attorney review on the lawsuit is complete.
In June 2018, King had a conversation with 26th Circuit Court Judge Michael Mack about a company providing tether services to the county, according to King’s lawsuit. He claims he told Mack that individuals on tethers were not being monitored properly and discovered a way to bypass the tracking system using tin foil. Mack later issued an order requiring all further tethers be managed by a specific company. The company wasn’t named in the suit.
King’s attorney, Victor Mastromarco, said he is unsure if Mack will reside over the case or choose to recuse himself because of the interactions he had with King, his order over the tether issue, and the relationship he has with both King and Kieliszewski.
“Judge Mack is part of the fabric of the facts in this case, but the judge will ultimately make that determination,” he said. “If that were to happen, they would likely get a judge from an adjoining county to oversee it.”
A second alleged incident involved a former police officer who was utilizing the county’s radio system in a county-owned vehicle and used the lights on the vehicle to make it appear as a police car, King’s suit claims. King reported the matter to then-911 firector Bert Francisco, who retired last month. The radio traffic was detected by Michigan State Police 1st Lt. John Grimshaw, commander of the Alpena Post, who brought to Kieliszewski’s attention the state statute which may have indicated the officer was in violation.
King said that “infuriated” Kieliszewski, who had an angry exchange with King, allegedly pointing at King and telling him to “let it go.”
Because King reported those incidents, which were named as reasons for his potential termination in a letter written by Kieliszewski, King believes the Whistleblower Protection Act was violated, making his forced resignation retaliatory, illegal and eligible for restitution.
King was hired by Alpena County in 1997 as a deputy and led the local Drug Abuse Resistence Education program.
He was appointed by Kieliszewski as undersheriff in 2006.
The state is also investigating allegations that King wrongfully billed the state for work performed as part of the county’s contract to provide security at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, an allegation King denies. The county lost that contract this year because a private company submitted a lower bid.
The CRTC issue is not mentioned in King’s lawsuit.
King announced on the day of his resignation that he intends to run against Kieliszewski for sheriff in the 2020 election.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.