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February 2015 Archives

Fausone Bohn Attorney Gets Detroit City Council to Agree to Renegotiate Police Lease

Paul Bohn, Esq.

After a heated presentation to the Detroit City Council by Fausone Bohn, LLP partner, Paul Bohn, the council unanimously agreed and directed City staff and the police department to meet with Mr. Bohn’s client, Sky Group, for a renegotiation of the police department’s lease of the company’s building for their police precinct.

Sky Group currently leases space to the Detroit Police Department on Woodward Avenue. Mr. Bohn explained to the city council that his client would be willing to meet all the city’s needs and outlined how Sky Group was blindsided by Detroit’s new deal to lease a different building.

The move to reconsider the contract comes after Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration rushed a new contract to city council for a new central police precinct on W. Grand Boulevard.

After hearing from Sky Group, city council made the rare move to vote for a renegotiation of the contract.

“We appreciate the opportunity for council to keep an open mind,” said Mr. Bohn after the meeting.

You can read the full article reported in the Detroit Free Press here: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/02/03/detroit-lease-renegotiated/22802345/


Fausone Bohn, LLP attorneys have been representing Detroit and Metro Detroit businesses – large and small – for twenty years. If you need a Michigan Business Lawyer who will fight to protect your assets, give Fausone Bohn, LLP a call today: (248) 468-4536 or visit us online at www.fb-firm.com.

Fausone Bohn, LLP serve clients throughout southeastern Michigan including the cities of Detroit, Ann Arbor, Northville, Farmington, Brighton, South Lyon, Livonia, Canton and Novi.


Do Disabled Veterans Have to Pay Property Taxes in Michigan?


A relatively new Michigan law does indeed give some disabled veterans an exemption on their property taxes. And the good news: it’s pretty easy to apply for the Disabled Veterans Exemption.

Disabled veterans, un-remarried spouses, or their legal designee can apply by completing the one page Form 5107 and filing that with your local assessor’s office. If the local Board of Review approves the exemption, then you will be granted a refund for that year’s taxes.

You can download form 5107 here to apply for the exemption:

Note – Michigan veterans must apply each year for this exemption.

Who qualifies as a “Disabled Veteran” under the law (MCL 211.7b)?

The law defines a disabled veteran as a resident of Michigan who meets one of the following criteria:

(a) Rated 100% for disability as a result of military service by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

(b) Has a certificate from VA certifying that the veteran is receiving or has received financial assistance due to disability for specially adapted housing.

(c) Rated by VA as individually unemployable.

This is a great money-saving benefit for disabled veterans in Michigan that you should try and take advantage of if you meet the criteria.


Do you need help with your VA disability rating or your VA claim? You can call the team at Legal Help For Veterans, PLLC today. We fight to make sure you get the benefits you deserve from VA. Call us today at (800) 693-4800 or visit us online at
www.LegalHelpForVeterans.com

VA Settles on a Single Map of the US in an Effort to Simplify the Agency

After several reports on the horrendous customer service of the Department of Veterans Affairs toward veterans in 2014, the VA is now celebrating some “good news” on that front for 2015: VA officials have settled on a single map of the United States.

Pop the Champagne for bureaucratic progress!

It should be noted, the Department currently uses at least nine maps of the US, which divides the country into dozens of regional networks and administrative duties for its hundreds of programs.

Later this year, all VA agencies will be on the same page, looking at the same map, coordinating efforts along the newly drawn five regions to allow veterans a single point of entry for a host of office offerings.

However, VA officials skimmed past specific details on what they called "the biggest organizational change in VA history," but said the work will not immediately mean cuts to the 340,000-plus workforce.

The new VA Secretary, Bob McDonald, has touted the MyVA programas an overall push to improve customer service toward veterans by trimming layers of bureaucratic waste and duplication, which has caused many a veteran headaches. 

To its credit, the program has improved signage at hospitals and given more independent authority to call center operators on veterans benefits issues. The map change, officials said, could potentially improve communication and coordination between offices that previously had little interaction, creating more one-stop shops for veterans.

But don’t hold your breath quite yet, as details on exactly how this change will all play out won’t be decided for months. (Agreeing on one map was hard enough.)

The Regional Offices, which oversee benefits processing, home loan awards, and health care services, among other items, will each have to decide how to realign their operations in light of the new map.

On a briefing call earlier this week, VA officials said the map announcement was intended to provide an update on the overall MyVA simplification efforts and to reassure veterans that work is taking place.

Secretary McDonald said in a statement that this is the "first step in empowering veterans to interact with one VA" and a way to "improve the veteran experience by enabling veterans to more easily ... access their earned care and benefits."

VA expects to have plans in place to ensure their structures are aligned within the new map by the end of June.

Read more on this story in the Military Times:

Changes to Michigan FOIA Law Coming in July 2015

Paul Bohn, Esq.

New legislation passed in the last lame-duck session in Michigan will take effect July 1, 2015 (PA 563 of 2014). Municipalities should begin preparing for the significant changes as to how they can charge for responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests now.

While the changes are meant to shed some sunlight on government and increase transparency, the FOIA amendments place many requirements on public bodies.

The changes require local governments to establish specific written procedures and guidelines for FOIA requests, including a separate written summary informing the public on how to submit FOIA requests, how to understand the responses to FOIA requests, deposit requirements, fee calculations, and avenues for challenging and appealing a potential denial of a request.

Note, these written guidelines must be in place in order for a public body to collect deposits and charge fees allowable under FOIA.

If your municipality has a website, which many now do, then it is required to post the procedures, guidelines, and written summary on the website. In addition, it is required to provide free copies of the procedures, guidelines, and written summary upon request, and to include a free copy, or a website link to the policies, in all FOIA responses.

The procedures and guidelines must include a standard form to detail the itemization of any fee the municipality estimates or charges under FOIA. The itemization must clearly list and explain each of the six fee components authorized under the new legislation.

There are a bevy of other changes just around the corner in 2015, including a 10-cent ceiling on charges for paper copies of public records. Municipalities may also provide public information on the website, and, instead of providing paper copies (unless requested) they can direct a FOIA requestor to that specific website link.

Perhaps the most notable amendments relate to the significant increase in penalties for public bodies failing to comply or violating the act. The new changes: 
  • Increase mandatory punitive damages to be awarded to a plaintiff from $500 to $1,000, and mandates a new $1,000 civil fine which a court must award if it finds the public body has arbitrarily and capriciously violated the act.
  • Require a court to impose an additional civil fine of $2,500 to $7,500 if it finds the public body willfully and intentionally failed to comply with the act or otherwise acted in bad faith.

Luckily, some municipalities already have some of these new requirements in place. However, now is the time to translate those practices into written guidelines for the public, in addition to other house-keeping items to come into full compliance with the FOIA amendment by July 1.

This blog is meant only as a brief summary of what is a policy-wonk piece of legislation. Fausone Bohn, LLP attorneys work with several municipalities across southeast Michigan and western Wayne County. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for consultation.

A New Year’s Resolution: Do Better for our Veterans

We Veterans had a tough news year in 2014: from the VA hospital scandals and questionable scheduling practices for appointments, to increasingly severe health problems, to rising reports of sexual assault in the military.

Yet, despite this seeming roller-coaster of bad news, I am hopeful for our Michigan Veterans in 2015. The two year old Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA), led by Director Jeff Barnes, has achieved progress on several fronts. And while some will argue progress has been slow, you have to start somewhere.

For starters, Michigan has seen a 10 percent increase in the number of Veterans signing up for benefits, and per-capita income for veterans receiving federal funds has increased by approximately $1,020 per veteran.

That puts the state at 48th among the states and territories in federal veterans expenditures. Clearly, there is much room left to grow, but we should not forget that Michigan ranked 53rdin the category at one point.

A pilot program, known as Veterans Community Action Teams (VCATs), which Governor Snyder’s administration has funded, has fostered beneficial collaboration with local organizations, allowing them to better serve Veterans. These VCATs connect various service providers in their area of expertise assist the Veteran.  Previously, these isolated organizations had no contact and no knowledge of each other’s skillsets.  The MVAA’s pilot programs in Detroit and Grand Rapids were successful enough to have the program expanded to four more communities in 2015, followed by another four in 2016.

Also, the legislature took positive action in 2014 to reverse the negative trend of rising unemployment among veterans, which ticked up to 10.6 percent in 2013 from 7.9 percent in 2012. The most recent bills ease licensing requirements in certain professions that can fast-track veterans and allow them to apply their military experience toward those credentials.

Some estimates show some 80,000 skilled jobs are available in Michigan. Meanwhile, there will be anywhere from 30,000-50,000 veterans returning home in the next five years. The training our Veterans receive from the military is the best in the world. Let’s tap into that potential.  I call on the legislature, the MVAA, and Governor Snyder to continue efforts to ensure our Michigan Veterans have their particular skillsets matched for these skilled jobs so that they can be plugged into these positions.   We can accomplish this goal by continuing to foster collaboration.

Lastly, Michigan leads the nation in “Veterans Treatment Courts,” which help reintegrate veterans into their communities. In 2012, Michigan had just six of these courts; today, the number is 20. Combining drug court and mental health court principles, these courts have yielded tremendously positive results toward helping veterans overcome addictions and other mental conditions.

So I look forward to the next 12 months with optimism. One New Year’s Resolution all of us – citizens, policymakers, and elected representatives – should have is to do right by our Veterans.


Brigadier General Carol Ann Fausone (ret.)

General Fausone began her military career in the U.S. Air Force, and ended her service as the first female Brigadier General in the Michigan National Guard’s history. Today, she continues to help veterans and their families nationwide with her husband, Jim, at Legal Help For Veterans, PLLC.


#Dronies Trending Upward, In the Air and on Twitter

Paul Bohn, Esq.

Much to Taco Bell lovers’ chagrin, the U.S. government blocked the launch of a taco-delivery via drone company known as “Tacocopter” in 2011-2012. That’s because current FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations prohibit the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), including drones, for commercial purposes.

But, you can still use them for fun!

And that fun, combined with current society’s obsession with selfies, has jumpstarted the hashtag “dronies” whereby people take selfies via drone. And indeed, in Michigan and throughout the U.S., drones are becoming more and more commonplace.

FAA regulations currently prohibit drones from being flown above 400 feet – higher than that, they interfere with national airspace. Drones also cannot be flown within five miles of an airport. And, generally, they cannot weigh over 55 pounds.

While these national guidelines have been set, some local communities are also beginning to impose their own regulations on drones. From Capitol Hill to City Hall, people are calling for further regulation.

New York City in particular has been dubbed the “Wild West of Drones.” Unmanned aircraft are flying all over the city, and according the hobby stores of the city, drones have been a boon to their business.

However, they have also been running into buildings, crashing on public sidewalks, and raising privacy concerns among residents. One Manhattan lawyer, Brendan Schulman, told NPR earlier this year that he believes the solution is to apply existing law to this technology.

Schulman cites trespass laws, anti-stalking laws, peeping Tom laws, and unlawful surveillance as current law that would apply to improper use of drones. He also notes the good that drones can do – for example, helping to find missing children or stranded hikers.

Local governments, however, are likely more concerned about public safety as it relates to drone crashes. While the topic of drone regulation seems to be accelerating at the local level, recent reports say the FAA won’t have their new drone regulations ready until 2017.

Amazon, which hoped to launch drone delivery (Amazon “PrimeAir”), in the near future, has been perturbed by the FAA’s slowness. As we are sure Tacocopter has been as well.

For now, we’ll have to settle for taking to Twitter and posting our “dronies.”

Read more on this story on NPR’s Easter Michigan University affiliate: http://wemu.org/post/where-can-drones-fly-legal-limits-are-air



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