State Roundup

State can appeal class-action status in case

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has put the brakes on a lawsuit that accuses state prison officials of failing to prevent the sexual assault of male teen inmates.

The court ordered a stay Friday and told the appeals court to consider whether it can be a class-action case, possibly affecting hundreds of people. The appeals court had passed on that question, although attorneys fighting the lawsuit call it a “monumental issue.”

Inmates, mostly 16 or 17, say they were forced to engage in sex acts with adult prisoners and staff. The alleged incidents occurred before August 2013 when all males under 18 were assigned to a prison away from adult inmates.

Lawyers defending the Corrections Department say there may be a “handful of isolated claims” but not a class-action.

GM ignition switch death count rises to 64

DETROIT (AP) — Families of at least 64 people killed in crashes caused by defective General Motors ignition switches will get compensation from the company.

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM to compensate victims, updated the total Monday. It was up from 57 last week.

An additional 108 injured people also are eligible for compensation.

The fund received a total of 4,343 claims by the Jan. 31 deadline. Of those, 1,571 are under review and 742 were deemed ineligible. Feinberg says the rest lacked documentation or were deficient.

GM knew about problem switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars for more than a decade but recalled them only last year. They can slip out of the “on” position, which cuts off the engine, knocks out power steering and turns off air bags.

State faces many  workers eligible for retirement

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — About 30 percent of Michigan’s workforce of more than 48,000 will be eligible for retirement by 2019, the largest share of employees on their way out since 2009, state officials said.

About 16 percent of the workforce is eligible to retire this year, while nearly a quarter of the workforce is 55 or older, up from about 16 percent a decade ago, the Lansing State Journal reported. State officials said they have succession plans and note an employee “eligible for retirement” won’t necessarily retire.

Union officials, however, worry that retirements offer managers a chance to cut the workforce by leaving positions unfilled or outsourcing jobs.

“It tends to be a way of balancing the budget,” said Ken Moore, president of the Michigan State Employees Association. “And the workforce, the front lines, already have to do more with less.”

A 2010 early-retirement incentive program ushered thousands of state workers off the payroll, but the share of employees nearing the exit has since climbed.

In October, the Michigan Civil Service Commission held a job fair at the Michigan State Police Training Academy in Dimondale. A big selling point was numerous job openings due to expected retirements and the commission is planning another such event.

Departments with technical oversight roles are among those expected to feel the effects of retirements. Over the next five years, two out of every five workers in the state departments of Agriculture & Rural Development, Environmental Quality, and Licensing & Regulatory Affairs will be eligible for retirement.

Grand Rapids
2 to face trial for abusing young boy charged in killing

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — The mother and stepfather of a 12-year-old boy accused of murder in the Grand Rapids area are scheduled for trial March 23 on child abuse charges.

They’re accused of striking the boy with an extension cord, months before he was charged with killing a 9-year-old boy at a Kentwood playground. The Grand Rapids Press reports the mother says the stepfather abused him.

A psychiatric expert said last month the 12-year-old is incompetent to stand trial. The opinion from an expert hired by the boy’s defense attorney conflicts with a state expert’s finding. Michael Verkerke was killed in August at a playground in Kentwood.

The Associated Press isn’t naming the 12-year-old because of his age and isn’t naming the mother and stepfather to avoid identifying the boy.

Vienna Township
Police closing case of 1970 death of girl, 16

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Police are closing the case of the 1970 strangulation death of a 16-year-old girl who vanished from a home where she was babysitting in Flint and whose body was dumped on a farm.

The Flint Journal reports  city police are officially closing a homicide investigation into the death of Jan Logsdon, whose body was found in Genesee County’s Vienna Township.
John Henry Harrison, who lived next door to a home where Logsdon was babysitting, was arrested for first-degree murder and convicted in 1971. The murder charge against him was dismissed and his conviction set aside, however, following blood testing.

Harrison was released in 1979. He maintained his innocence and died in 2013.

Logsdon’s slaying was classified as unsolved. Flint Police Sgt. Greg Hosmer says no other suspect emerged.

Bills would codify emergency rules for charity poker

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — New legislation would let charitable gambling events continue in Michigan once emergency rules expire this summer.

Republicans Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge and Rep. Tom Barrett of Potterville say their bills would put into law emergency rules in place since a judge barred the Michigan Gaming Control Board from enforcing other rules restricting the activities.

The Michigan Charitable Gaming Association and several charities sued last year to block enforcement of the rules, which they say will cost millions of dollars in revenue. Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration says charity poker rooms have run amok and need tighter oversight.

Both sides are awaiting a ruling from the Court of Appeals.

The gambling board has said it has no intention of shutting down licensing when the emergency rules expire in July.

St. Clair Shores
Woman’s family wins appeal in Kroger lawsuit 

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit over the death of a Kroger customer who tripped on a hose.

In a 2-1 decision, the court says it can’t be “seriously disputed” that a garden hose near a store entrance is unexpected.

Karen MacAskill was dropped off at a Kroger store in St. Clair Shores in August 2012. The 69-year-old tripped on a hose and later suffered a fatal heart attack linked to her injuries.

The hose was partially covered by a mat while a 16-year-old bagger was watering flowers outside the store. Appeals Judge Pat Donofrio disagreed with the majority and said the hose should have been obvious to MacAskill because an employee was watering plants.

The case now returns to Macomb County Circuit Court.