County commissioner sues Lake County

Charles Vayda
Charles Vayda

BALDWIN — Lake County Commissioner Charles Vayda is suing Lake County due to his never having received a hearing for proper dismissal when he was fired from the Lake County Sheriff's Department earlier this year.

Following his election to the Lake County Board of Commissioners in November of 2014, circuit court judge Susan Sniegowski determined in March of 2015 Vayda could not remain both a deputy of the Lake County Sheriff's Department and a county commissioner as the two positions would be a conflict of interest. Following the ruling, the sheriff terminated Vayda after requesting Vayda step down in compliance with the court's decision.

"The circuit court found a county employee could not also be a county commissioner and the two positions were incompatible," explained Lake County prosecutor Craig Cooper. "When the decision came out, the Lake County Sheriff terminated Vayda."

Vayda, a Navy veteran, says under the Michigan Veterans Preference in Employment Act of 1897, he should have gotten a hearing to determine whether his dismissal was proper. He is suing the county to get this hearing. Vayda said he is moving forward with the suit, not only for his own sake but for the sake of other Michigan veterans.

"There are some personal reasons for me to go forward with this suit, but my main goal is to stand up for veterans and their rights," said Vayda.

Cooper said he believes Vayda's particular case did not warrant a hearing since the circuit court had already ruled he could not remain in the position of deputy.

"The Veterans Preference Act means the county has to have a just cause to terminate an employee who is a veteran," said Cooper. "Since the circuit court made its decision Vayda couldn't hold both positions, it means the sheriff had just cause to terminate Vayda, making a Veterans Preference Act hearing moot. Additionally, Vayda never raised the issue of the Veterans Preference Act when the circuit court heard the case."

Vayda maintains going forward with his suit is good for all veterans.

"I think it affects all veterans, not just me," said Vayda. "I think we need a wake-up call in this country regarding the treatment of veterans and I think a lot of veterans don't know this statute exists. They served their country and they have a right to be heard for their service."

The decision is now in the hands of Sniegowski as the case will go to the 51st Circuit Court. There have yet to be any dates set for the court to hear the suit.

"At this point, I don't intend on having a hearing," remarked Cooper. "I can't overturn the circuit court's decision in March. Vayda would have to have Sniegowski make a ruling in his favor with this suit, and if she told me to, I then would grant Vayda a hearing."