Michigan Court of Appeals Upholds Decision Against Emmett Building Inspector
Steve Buller worked as a building inspector for Emmett Township and even served as a Township Trustee. Nearly three years ago, Buller filed a suit against the Township, saying that he was a full-time worker, and was misclassified as a contract employee. He was looking for thousands of dollars in retroactive benefits, as well as retirement benefits.
In December 2020, Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge John Hallacy dismissed the suit, saying “It is very clear to me that he is and has been an independent contractor and he has held himself out as such. If I had to, if this was a criminal case I would say that this is fraud and that he is trying to get the benefit. He is gold-digging for the benefit that he wants to get because he sees a huge benefit for him so he is trying to present himself in a position that he never was."
On June 24, 2021, Michigan’s Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Hallacy and refused to hear the case.
After hearing the oral argument, the trial court granted the Township’s motion for summary disposition. The court stated in part that the agreement Buller had with the township was “a fee-basis situation throughout the time of his contact and his association with Emmett Township.”
Emmett Township Supervisor Deb Belles told WBCK that she considers the court ruling to be the end of it. “I am pleased with the Appellate court's decision and the township considers the matter closed. “ said Belles. Belles, who supported Buller and his lawsuit during her campaign in 2020 added, “This senseless lawsuit has caused the township residents over $110K in attorney fees.”
Buller started working with Emmett Township as a contract employee in 1996 and performed similar contract services for the City of Battle Creek, Springfield, and Convis Township. Buller served as an Emmett Township Trustee for 8 years, beginning in 2012, and even voted to make inspectors, including himself, independent contractors.