State Briefs

Associated Press • Apr 27, 2019 at 6:00 AM

Here’s what’s making news around Michigan today:

Michigan cop returning to job after veteran arrest uproar

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — Western Michigan police say an officer accused by activists of racial profiling by notifying immigration officials about the arrest of a mentally ill Latino war veteran did not violate department policy through his action.

The Grand Rapids Police Department said in a release Friday Capt. Curtis VanderKooi will return to work Monday. He was placed on leave Feb. 28.

Activists called for VanderKooi's firing after Immigration and Customs Enforcement held Jilmar Ramos-Gomez for three days in December before releasing the Michigan-born man and U.S. citizen. VanderKooi told ICE about Ramos-Gomez' November arrest at a hospital, referring to him as "loco," or crazy.

Officials say it was "appropriate to coach" VanderKooi after an investigation found "unprofessional conduct."

An appeal will be heard by the Civilian Appeals Board on May 15.

Former Michigan sheriff wins pension case for on-duty injury

CHARLOTTE (AP) — A former county sheriff in southern Michigan could soon receive a pension related to the epilepsy he developed 20 years after he was beaten in the head with a metal flashlight during an arrest.

The Municipal Employees Retirement System board voted Thursday to award a duty-related disability pension to former Eaton County Sheriff Sgt. Jim West, the Lansing State Journal reported. The approval also opens the door for the 49-year-old to receive health care coverage for the seizures he developed two decades after the 1997 beating.

"Honestly, I'm speechless," West said on Friday. "This is a tremendous relief."

West has spent two years fighting to get benefits from Eaton County. He said he's fallen into debt while paying for his own health care.

After West's seizures developed, he asked Sheriff Tom Reich for light duty because he was 18 months shy of meeting the 25-year service qualification for retirement. He also requested a duty-related disability pension and worker's compensation.

The county opposed all of his requests, arguing that West didn't qualify for the specific duty-related pension because his epilepsy wasn't connected to the beating. The county's collective bargaining contract requires health care to be provided to those with a disability connected to a job-related injury.

But doctors at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan said the former sheriff's seizures were the result of a lesion on the brain where he'd been struck.

An individual can develop epilepsy months or years after a traumatic brain injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The county has 60 days to file an appeal of the retirement system board's decision, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Mausolf.

Eaton County Controller John Fuentes said he doesn't expect an appeal.

"I will not recommend further pursuit and would expect the board to accept that recommendation," Fuentes said. "The county's position was heard and ruled upon."

Universities, nonprofit group join Great Lakes partnership

ANN ARBOR (AP) — Three universities and a nonprofit group have joined a regional consortium that studies problems facing the Great Lakes and nearby communities.

The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research is based at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Its 12 members work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on research and development activities.

The four new partners are the Cleveland Water Alliance, Lake Superior State University, Michigan Technological University and Wayne State University. Officials say each brings a critical new element to the consortium, such as expertise in fisheries, environmental health and other areas.

The Cleveland Water Alliance coordinates a network of businesses and researchers to promote growth of the water-focused "blue economy" by bringing ideas for new technologies from the drawing board to the market.

Catholic group sues over Michigan policy on adoption

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — A Roman Catholic social services agency that declines to place children with same-sex couples has filed a lawsuit to stop Michigan from penalizing the group if it sticks to its policy on foster care and adoption.

Catholic Charities West Michigan in Grand Rapids filed the lawsuit Thursday. The group says Michigan law allows it to practice its religion by turning down same-sex couples. But the group says services will be threatened by a recent change at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The department can terminate contracts with faith-based groups if they discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. Catholic Charities says the department has "blindly followed" the instructions of Attorney General Dana Nessel.

The department declined to comment on Friday. St. Vincent Catholic Charities has filed a similar lawsuit.

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