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Appeals court orders Holland to reinstate former clerk

9:28 PM, Jun 20, 2013   |    comments
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HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) -- She was fired in 2006, but now a former Holland city clerk could get her job back and hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city.

This week, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that Jenifer French was unjustly fired. She was accused of abusing the system by getting a tax break she didn't deserve on a home she owned in Holland.

The dispute over the Holland home led to a seven year legal battle and the latest appeal decision this week. Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra was visibly frustrated at Wednesday's council meeting, after the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that Jenifer French was unjustly fired in 2006 and ordered she be reinstated.

"It was an absurd ruling when it came out and it has not improved with age," says Mayor Dykstra. "The City of Holland is very serious about ensuring our employees exhibit a high degree of ethics. With her actions, Ms. French violated that trust and brought discredit upon the City of Holland and its employees, I believed so in 2006 when I voted to ratify the decision to terminate and I believe so tonight."

City leaders had accused French of receiving an $8,000 tax break on a Holland home, even though her primary residence was in Douglas with her husband. However, French's attorney says the appeals court found no evidence that French was intentionally trying to deceive the city.

"She thought she was entitled to the personal residency exemption she applied for," says Brad Glazier, French's attorney.

The court also ruled that French is entitled to back pay, estimated to be up to $600,000 by her attorney. He says she also plans to take back her job.

"It's her plan to return to that job , she loved that job," says Glazier.

WZZM 13 asked Glazier if there were concerns about workplace tensions if French returns to the job, considering the long legal battle.

"I have a concern about that, hopefully there won't be those sorts of tensions, but I do have concerns particularly after reading comments from the Holland mayor," says Glazier.

The city has 42 days to appeal the latest decision to the Michigan Supreme Court. City leaders say they're still weighing their options and haven't yet discussed what would happen to the current city clerk.

French's attorney says she no longer lives at the Holland home.

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