By Sharon Gittleman
DETROIT – A gay attorney who worked as an assistant corporation counsel for Wayne County has filed a civil suit against his former employer, alleging he was fired because he backed equal rights for LGBT people.
In his complaint, attorney Andy Grifka also alleges his employers accused him of advocating the legitimacy of pedophilia after Grifka represented a man charged with criminal sexual misconduct for having sex with a minor, a case that was outside of his duties as an attorney for the county. A spokesperson for the Wayne County Executive’s Office denied Grifka’s claims, arguing he was fired for representing a client against his own employer.
According to a copy of the complaint prepared by the plaintiff’s attorneys, Reosti, James & Sirlin, PC, Grifka worked as an attorney for the Wayne County Corporation Counsel’s office from Jan. 9, 1995 until Oct. 17, 2003.
“They handle civil cases. In Andrew’s case he represented the county in regard to probate court,” said attorney Ronald Reosti, a partner with Reosti, James & Sirlin. “In addition to working for the county, Andy had an interest in a statuary business – the kind you put on lawns.”
When an employee of that business was charged with criminal sexual conduct Grifka attended his arraignment, Reosti said.
“The guy had an attorney. The other attorney did not show up,” he said. “Andy entered an appearance. He was there, he knew the guy and it was no big deal.”
At the arraignment, Grifka entered a plea for the employee and made a request for bond, Reosti said.
“The prosecutor objected to the bond, the judge set the bond and that was the end of it,” he said.
Grifka was suspended when his employer claimed he was practicing law outside of his position, said Reosti.
“It turns out many other coworkers who are attorneys for the county have done this,” he said.
According to Reosti, Grifka’s employers argued that by acting as the defendant’s attorney during the arraignment, he opposed the prosecutor, creating a conflict of interest.
“It’s not a conflict of interest because he wasn’t opposing the prosecutor – the state is the prosecutor,” he said. “The only way you can have a conflict of interest as an attorney is if you represent one client against another client.”
Representing someone accused of a crime doesn’t mean the attorney approves of the alleged offence, said Reosti.
“Andy was very open about the fact he was gay,” he said. “In fact, he was treated differently because of the fact he was gay and was representing a gay person and was accused of being an embarrassment to the office.”
Sharon Banks, spokesperson for the Wayne County Executive’s Office said she could not respond in full because her office doesn’t comment on cases in litigation.
“I will tell you the dismissal is based on him performing work for a client against Wayne County,” said Banks. “He was representing a client against his employer.”
Banks denied Grifka’s allegations against his former employer.
“Let me state unequivocally he was not dismissed for sexual orientation at all,” she said. “It did not happen.”