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Gala v. City of Fraser

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 16, 2018

ERIC GALA and CHESTER R. GALA, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF FRASER, CITY OF FRASER DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, MACOMB COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, GEORGE T. ROUHIB, JR., DAN KOLKE, JASON POOLE, CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY and DTE ELECTRIC COMPANY, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is presently before the Court on (1) the motion of defendant DTE Electric Company (“DTE”) for summary judgment [docket entry 41]; (2) DTE's motion for leave to file a second motion for summary judgment [docket entry 48]; (3) DTE's second motion for summary judgment [docket entry 53]; (4) the motion of the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office for summary judgment [docket entry 52]; and (5) the motion of defendants City of Fraser, City of Fraser Department of Public Safety, George Rouhib Jr., Dan Kolke, Jason Poole, and Christopher Ashley for summary judgment [docket entry 54]. Pursuant to E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2), the Court shall decide these motions without a hearing.

         Plaintiff Eric Gala is the owner of the Flamingo Motel in Fraser, Michigan. Plaintiff Chester R. Gala is Eric Gala's son. The Galas allege that defendants conspired to violate their due process and equal protection rights by subjecting them and their motel guests to years of harassment in retaliation for employing and renting rooms to African-Americans. They allege that members of the Fraser police department engaged in this harassment from 1962 to 1976, and that defendants renewed the harassment in 1999. Compl. ¶¶ 19, 23. The harassment allegedly took many forms, but in the years prior to 2013 it consisted mainly of “detaining, searching and ticketing Motel guests who had done nothing illegal.” Id. ¶ 34.

         In January 2013, plaintiffs' motel caught fire. Defendant Kolke and other public safety department personnel allegedly “allowed the fire to continue for six hours in an attempt to destroy at least half of . . . if not the entire Motel.” Id. ¶ 39. Allegedly at the behest of the Fraser Department of Public Safety, a DTE employee was called “to pull up the gas line across the street . . . and pinch off the line to shut the gas off from the Motel.” Id. ¶ 41. After the fire, defendant Ashley allegedly ordered an excavator operator to cause excessive damage to the motel's roof and guestrooms. Id. ¶ 44-45. A member of the Fraser zoning commission, Kent Stonebreaker, who is also “an influential DTE executive who is in charge of power restorations, deliberately hindered and delayed restoring power.” Id. ¶ 46. The city allegedly “withheld inspections and permits” to delay the reopening of the motel after the fire. Id. ¶ 51.

         In November 2013, Fraser police officers came to the motel and removed Eric Gala's elderly and infirm parents, who were living at the motel. Id. ¶ 61. Defendant Ashley allegedly told Eric Gala, “‘I hear you didn't like the way we handled the fire, ' implying that the police seizure of Eric Gala's parents was payback for complaining about the . . . handling of the fire and for keeping the Flamingo Motel in business.” Id. ¶ 65. In November 2013, Eric Gala was charged with “two counts of vulnerable adult abuse, one count as to each of his parents.” Id. ¶ 70. At the preliminary examination, defendant Poole and other prosecution witnesses allegedly gave false testimony against Eric Gala. Id. ¶¶ 77-79. Eric Gala was later also charged with embezzlement “in connection with insurance funds that were received after his mother's home was destroyed in a fire.” Id. ¶ 89. At the trial, he was convicted of abusing his mother and acquitted of abusing his father; the jury could not reach a verdict on the embezzlement charge. Id. ¶ 106. Eric Gala alleges that the charges were false and that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct by concealing certain evidence from the jury. Id. ¶ 105.

         In June 2015, two DTE contract workers turned off the power at Eric Gala's house, where his son Chester also lived. Id. ¶ 93. These workers allegedly attempted to hit Chester Gala with their truck when he attempted to get their names and license plate number. Id. ¶ 99. When Eric Gala called DTE to complain, DTE's head of security allegedly asked him “if he owned the Flamingo Motel.” Id. ¶ 101. Chester Gala was charged with assault “even though he and the Galas were the victims.” Id. ¶ 102. This charge, which was brought by the Macomb County prosecutor, allegedly was deliberately made after the sheriff's department records of Chester Gala's 911 call and his interactions with a sheriff's deputy were destroyed - records Chester Gala alleges would have exonerated him. Id. ¶¶ 103-104.

         The complaint asserts five counts, but the Court has previously dismissed Counts IV and V (see docket entry 20). In Count I, Eric Gala claims that all of the defendants violated his due process and equal protection rights, and in Count II he claims that all of the defendants conspired to do so. Specifically, he claims that defendants violated his rights by

A. Ticketing and threatening Eric Gala so that the Flamingo Motel would stop renting rooms to black people;
B. Interfering with Eric Gala's business and income by threatening, detaining, searching and ticketing black and minority guests of the Flamingo Motel who had done nothing illegal;
C. Interfering with Eric Gala's business and income by threatening, detaining, searching and ticketing employees of the Flamingo Motel who had done nothing illegal;
D. Interfering with Eric Gala's business and income by subjecting him to unfair scrutiny, inspections and applications of building ordinances;
E. Interfering with Eric Gala's business and income by unfairly withholding permits;
F. Interfering with Eric Gala's business and income by allowing the Flamingo Motel to be consumed by the fire instead of acting in accordance with their duty to put it out;
G. Forcibly removing Eric Gala's parents from their home in the Flamingo Motel;
H. Destroying evidence in the form of surveillance recordings that corroborated the wrongful actions taken to harm Eric Gala;
I. Providing and bringing false charges against Eric Gala;
J. Providing false testimony and evidence against Eric ...

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