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Suite Dreams Project Hats Off Luncheon
From the first sip of pink bubbly (in a split with a pink straw) to the Hat Crawl guests’ exit with huge, hot pink balloons, the 16th annual Hats Off Luncheon was a dreamy, Sweet/Suite Sixteen production. During the reception the sold-out crowd (400 @ $150, $200-patron) oohed and aahed each others’ hats and bought all of the 1,000 chance auction raffle tickets. The luncheon program emceed by Rhonda Walker had highlights. Ali MacManus, a songwriter/singer who was born prematurely with multiple birth defects and has survived 11 major surgeries, got a standing ovation when she sang her composition “Breaking Free.”
oakland confidential GET WELL SOON: We know others will join us in wishing Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson a speedy recovery after back surgery on June 1 in the green mountain state of North Carolina. Word is he had a pretty aggressive surgery to help him get out of the wheelchair he was finding himself bound to more and more, and one Republican said that he is already feeling better. Patterson was seriously ...more»
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Ben Graham was 25 years old, and thought he had hit the employment jackpot, having landed what he believed was a dream job as a legislative aide in the Michigan House of Representatives, for former Rep. Todd Courser (R-Lapeer). But that job soon turned out to be a nightmare, with Courser having an affair with fellow Rep. Cindy Gamrat (R-Allegan), with whom he shared an office and staff, and having asked his staff, including Graham, to create a rumor that he had had sex with a male prostitute in order to deflect attention from his affair with Gamrat.
Graham, along with fellow staffer Keith Allard, confidentially went to House leadership, including then-Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, to inform them of the affair and coverup. It soon appeared as if leadership turned on Graham and Allard, rather than Courser and Gamrat, in an effort to "protect their own."
"During the course of the investigation, they released my name, full address, Social Security number, full personnel file – it was released on the internet for 12 to 14 hours before they took it down," Graham said.
Eventually fired from their legislative positions, Graham and Allard filed a Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) lawsuit and a wrongful termination suit against both the state House of Representatives, Cotter and Courser and Gamrat, along with lawsuits citing slander, libel and wrongful termination.
While they ended up dropping their lawsuits against the two former disgraced legislators, who eventually left the House (Courser, by resignation, and Gamrat, by expulsion), Graham and Allard prevailed against the state House in their whistleblower lawsuit, settling for $515,000, which they split between the two of them, less attorney fees.
"I'm pretty young to have gone through something so crazy," Graham, who just turned 27, said. "It was unpleasant to say the least."
Graham admits he was nervous, and pretty conflicted about filing a whistleblower lawsuit against his former bosses, much less against a legislative body, "because I'm conservative and I believe in limited government. But I also believe in the courts and tort reform. I don't believe in suing just to sue people all the time. I believe only in suing people when you have to. It shouldn't be taken lightly. I wanted to do the right thing. They were supposed to protect me, and instead they just left me out there. I just wanted to be protected from workplace harassment, and a situation where I shouldn't have to deal with politicians' affairs and coverups."...continued on page 2
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