Local attorney Irv Mermelstein has long argued that the city’s Footing Drain Disconnection Program violates property rights–so far, with no success. In January, judge Tim Connors dismissed his lawsuit on behalf of two homeowners whose drains were rerouted from the city’s sanitary sewers to basement sump pumps.
A second suit on behalf of another homeowner is continuing. If it wins class action status and prevails, the Ann Arbor News calculated, the city could collectively owe nearly 2,000 affected residents more than $6 million for every year their drains were disconnected. But those are big ifs. The second suit is also before Connors–and the January decision wasn’t Mermelstein’s first setback.
According to an FBI case report obtained by the Observer, he previously tried to persuade the feds that the city and U-M were rife with corruption. In October 2014, he faxed the agency material including “e-mail messages, news articles, City of Ann Arbor Legislative Resolutions and charts purporting to establish corruption involving the City of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan and affiliated contractors.” The attorney claimed that engineers working on the disconnection program “lied,” that the city filed “fraudulent applications” for federal funds with “cooked” or “fabricated” numbers, that “a conspiracy existed” among top city and U-M officials, and “that criminal laws are being broken by a powerful and aggressive local government.”
The FBI found the charges “without merit” and “completely baseless” and concluded that “none of the allegations and/or arguments advanced provide a reasonable factual basis justifying a criminal investigation into this matter.” The attorney did not take that rejection well. “Mr. Mermelstein became very agitated and was incredulous that the information he provided was insufficient,” the report says–and “threatened to call Washington D.C. to report the FBI refused to open a public corruption investigation.”
Contacted by the Observer, Mermelstein declined to comment–as did city attorney Stephen Postema: “This office deals in the realm of facts and law,” the city attorney emailed with palpable irony. “Mr. Mermelstein’s actions with respect to the FBI do not merit any further comment.”