GRATIOT COUNTY — The lawsuit filed by Shiawassee County which sought to have Durand City Council member, and Mayor Pro Tempore, Matt Schaefer removed from those positions has been dismissed with prejudice by a Gratiot County judge.
Schaefer called the lawsuit “frivolous” in a statement provided Thursday, adding that he believes the suit was politically motivated.
“Since the case is finally closed, I am comfortable talking about this issue at length,” Schaefer, who previously declined to comment on pending litigation, said. “The civil case against me by Shiawassee County has been dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be re-filed, but it never should have been filed in the first place. It was without merit and not at all based in fact or law.”
The lawsuit, which was filed by Shiawassee County, claimed that Schaefer had a conflict of interest in voting as a member of the Durand City Council to approve $160,000 for the purchase of SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) equipment for firefighters in January 2021 as a city council member, because Schaefer is also a member of the Durand Fire Department. The case was transferred to Gratiot County because of conflicts with local officals.
Schaefer never personally benefitted from the vote, and said the lawsuit was retaliation for speaking out against the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners voting themselves “hazard pay” bonuses from federal ARPA relief funds in June 2021.
“While I knew I had never done anything wrong to justify the county’s action, this lawsuit has caused me extreme stress and I believe that the only reason it was filed was as retaliation against me because I have been so outspoken against the county and its extremely irresponsible use of ARPA funds. There are other firefighters serving on municipal boards in this county, including in Corunna, where the county government is based, yet they chose to go after me, even going as far as to use a special prosecutor to try to remove me from office, which I find absolutely morally repugnant. To go after me was nothing more than another corrupt backroom deal in a county well-known for its corruption.”
Schaefer thanked Durand Mayor Ken McDonough for his support, along with attorney Justin English, who served as his counsel.
In a court filing, English echoed Schaefer’s claims of political retaliation.
“There are local political motivations of filing on this complaint against Mr. Schaefer,” English wrote. “The complaint’s only purpose is to harass, embarrass, or injure Mr. Schaefer as a local political figure.”
McDonough, who is himself running for the District 4 county commissioner seat, said the process was a poor use of county resources. “I think the whole thing was a waste of county money. That’s why I’m running for county commissioner, to stop things like this from happening. How many other lawsuits don’t we know about?”
“I also want to thank the citizens of Durand and of the county who have believed in me and have been so patient while we waited for this to be resolved,” Schaefer said.
“To the county and the people who run it, I want you to know that I will not be silenced. I will not back down in defending what is right and just and I will continue to fight on behalf of the people of my city.”
It is unclear who precisely filed the complaint regarding Schaefer, since only Shiawassee County is listed as the plaintiff in the case.
Shiawassee County Coordinator Brian Boggs referred a request for comment on behalf of the county to Prosecutor Scott Koerner, who declined to comment except to say he was never involved with the filing of the lawsuit, and recused himself from the case.