Tingleys Appeal Bell’s Decision

August 22, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — William Tingley and William Tingley III have decided to appeal a recent decision made by U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell that dismissed a complaint the Tingleys brought against developers, builders and financial backers of the Boardwalk, a commercial and residential building at 940 Monroe Ave. NW.

The Tingleys alleged that the defendants removed 21,000 cubic yards of toxic soil from the construction site, home of the old Berkey & Gay furniture factory, and took most of the dirt to the former city-owned water filtration plant at 1430 Monroe Ave. NW.

In the decision Bell made in June, the judge ruled that the Tingleys did not have the right to file a qui tam action. A qui tam action occurs when a private citizen brings a lawsuit against someone that he or she feels has violated a government regulation and then files it on behalf of the government and him or herself. Because the Tingleys are not licensed attorneys, Bell ruled that they couldn’t pursue a claim on another’s behalf.

Bell also ordered the Tingleys to pay the attorney fees and expenses of the defendants because he felt the suit was frivolous.

The Tingleys counter that Bell was mistaken in ruling that they do not have legal standing to file the complaint and that the judge was mistaken about when they filed the complaint. They also argue that their suit is not without merit.

Although the Tingleys own and operate Proto-CAM Inc., an automotive parts supplier at 1009 Ottawa Ave. NW, they filed the complaint as individuals. The Boardwalk is just west of the Proto-CAM building.

The judge also enjoined the Tingleys from taking any civil action against any defendant until they have paid all the attorney fees and expenses related to the suit and have filed a $25,000 cash bond to cover additional litigation.

Named as defendants in the suit were 900 Monroe LLC, 940 Monroe LLC, Pioneer Inc., Dykema Excavators, Fifth Third Bancorp, Superior Environmental Corp., Prein & Newhof Inc., Dickinson Wright PLC, Frank D. Marshall, William J. Fischer III, Mayor John Logie, and Thomas R. Beckering.

In a related decision made last month, Kent County Circuit Court Judge H. David Soet ordered 940 Monroe LLC and Pioneer Inc. to pay Proto-CAM $8,900 for illegally using and blocking a private drive and loading dock area owned by the auto parts supplier during the renovation of the Boardwalk. Proto-CAM filed the lawsuit and sought larger damages.

Soet ruled that the defendants trespassed 89 times during the work, which started three years ago, and fined the defendants $100 for each incident. The judge also granted Proto-CAM a permanent injunction that prohibits 940 Monroe LLC and Pioneer from using the drive without permission. The defendants are appealing that decision.

Proto-CAM has an exclusive easement on the vacated Walbridge Street. The easement runs east from the railroad track to Ottawa Avenue. The company uses the drive for deliveries and shipments.

The Tingleys claimed that the defendants used the Proto-CAM easement to transport the contaminated soil from the work site to the filtration plant and a gravel pit on the city’s far-northeast side. But investigations conducted by the Department of Environmental Quality found no contaminated material at either location. The Tingleys contend that the investigations were not properly conducted.

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