Week of 4.24.17

Welcome to the home of Social Lights. New online reports with photos appear each week on the website and in the monthly print editions for the Birmingham-Bloomfield area and the Rochester-Rochester Hills area at the start of each month. If you want e-mail notification of when new Social Lights columns are posted to this site each Monday, sign up in the Newsletter Sign Up box at the lower right side of this home page.

JVS Trade Secrets

“And life goes on,” said Connie Holzer, honorary chair and keynote speaker at the JVS Trade Secrets fundraising dinner. (It attracted record attendance - 560 @ $150 and up – to the Troy Marriott.) Holzer’s unique business experience did not even begin until her car dealer husband of 52 years died when she was 70 years old. Although the economy was in the dumps, she mortgaged the home where she had raised six children, got concessions from their 130 employees, and rebuilt the Tom Holzer Ford dealership into the 4th ranked regionally and 10th ranked nationally. “You are never too old to begin a new life,” she concluded. Women to Work recipient Kimberly Baker, whose fairytale life crashed when her husband went to jail for tax fraud, praised Judy Richmond and the JVS computer program. She attended it on a scholarship. “And now..because of people in this room... I can feed my kids,” Baker said, apologizing for her tears. The venue provided ample space to display the event’s traditional pick-your-own-prize raffle of 62 items, the main cocktail hour diversion.
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This weeks social light photos…

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oakland confidential

May 2017

MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO NOWHERE: A budget proposal by the Trump administration may be the final blow to plans for a regional mass transit system for southeast Michigan. A proposed Regional Transit Authority (RTA) millage failed in November 2016, when voters in Oakland and Macomb counties rejected the four-county millage, while passing in Wayne and Washtenaw counties. Deal was, it had to win in three of ...more»
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The Whistleblower Act


By Lisa Brody
News Editor
Whistleblower
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(click for larger version)
03/28/2017 - 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."

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