Rotta files federal suit against Ludington

September 14, 2012

LUDINGTON — Tom Rotta has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Ludington. The lawsuit was filed Sept. 11 in District Court for Western District of Michigan in Grand Rapids by Rotta’s attorney J. Nicholas Bostic of Lansing.

Rotta has been an outspoken critic of the city of Ludington since he was issued a ticket by Ludington Police Department in 2008 for disregarding a stop sign while riding a bicycle. Since that time he has started a blog, The Ludington Torch, which criticizes local government among other topics. Readers are allowed to post comments anonymously about the blog posts.

Rotta has especially been critical of City Manager John Shay, Mayor John Henderson, Police Chief Mark Barnett and Community Development Director Heather Venzke-Tykoski. Rotta has also been critical of Brandy Henderson, daughter of John Henderson, who serves as the Downtown Ludington marketing coordinator among other roles.

Rotta has filed several requests for information from the city under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. Many of the requests have been denied by the city, many others have taken up many employee hours. The city has the right to charge a fee for time and materials in FOIA requests, which it has.

In the lawsuit, Rotta claims his civil rights were violated and he is asking for a jury trial. The dispute centers around the “workplace safety policy” that was enacted in February 2011. According to the complaint the rule limited Rotta’s access to city hall. Thus, he asserts his First Amendment and civil rights were violated.

Last week Rotta lost a case in the local circuit court over his frequent FOIA requests with the city. Last November, Rotta lost against incumbent Kaye Ferguson Holman for the at-large city council seat. Holman has also recently been critical of Rotta and the amount of resources the city has spent with his FOIA requests.

See the complaint here. 

WMOM-FM 102.7 contributed to this story

Legally Speaking: Consent to search

Betten Baker Ford

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