Mayor Chief Lose Appeal in Cops Suit

Detroit Free Press
March 9, 2006

A lawsuit accusing Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings of slandering a pair of cops who pulled over the mayor's chief of staff in 2004 got the go-ahead Wednesday from the state Court of Appeals.

The court denied Kilpatrick and Bully-Cummings' claim that critical comments made about the Detroit police officers - Zack Weishuhn and Patrick Tomsic - were covered by governmental immunity.

The officers stopped Kilpatrick aide Christine Beatty for speeding in a city-issued Ford Crown Victoria in June 2004.

In comments to the media after Beatty was pulled over - and allegedly asked the officers, "Do you know who the (expletive) I am?" - The chief said the officers "harassed" Beatty.

Kilpatrick said in a radio interview that the officers "set up" Beatty and called the traffic stop "the biggest piece of crap."

Attorney Mike Rataj, who represents the officers, said Wednesday that "these were gratuitous comments ... that slandered my clients.

"Now I'm going to take some discovery to find out what investigation they did before they made their comments, and the answer is they did none."

Both officers are still on the job, he said.

James Canning, a city spokesman, declined to comment Wednesday.

The three-judge appeals panel ruled unanimously that the comments were not protected because they were personal opinions. The ruling upholds a July 2005 ruling by Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Callahan. The case now returns to Wayne County Circuit Court.