A decision could come soon in a defamation lawsuit against a Shelby Township resident, filed by city Trustee Lisa Manzella.
During a motion to dismiss the defamation case, Macomb County Circuit Judge Matthew Switalski said he would take the case under advisement Monday and issue a legal opinion.
Shelby Township resident Michael Ward filed the motion for summary disposition with Switalski, asking him to dismiss the case against him because it lacked merit, said Ward’s attorney Bob Beaupre.
Manzella filed the lawsuit against Ward in January seeking damages in excess of $25,000. She claims the seven recall petitions Ward filed against her—although, only one made it through–were defamatory.
Ward filed petitions against Manzella, accusing her of being “pro police” with her September vote against a one-year contract for Police Chief Robert Leman. Ward claims the police department helped her cover up a 2005 single-car crash in which she had been drinking, according to police reports. According to a police report, Manzella took a breathalyzer and was under the legal limit to drink and drive.
Manzella’s attorney Vincenzo Manzella, who is related by marriage, said the statements in the recall that “Lisa Manzella has alcohol issues and is a danger to township residents and their property when she drives a motor vehicle” are not true.
Vincenzo Manzella said the legal action against Ward does not stem from the fact that he filed a recall, but the libelous and slanderous language used in the recall petition.
"I feel the process was abused by Mr. Ward, and he did so solely to defame me, damage my character and upset my family," Lisa Manzella told Patch in a previous statement.
Three days after the petition was approved by the Macomb County Elections Commission, Vincezo Manzella sent Ward a letter demanding he publically retract the statements he made on the petition.
"This is an opportunity to limit the exposure of damages," said Vincenzo Manzella had told Patch. When Ward refused, the lawsuit was initiated.
Ward has asked Switalksi to disregard the lawsuit and he will try to recover attorney fees from Manzella if the court finds the defamation lawsuit against him was frivolous.
“We’re very confident that the facts are on our side, and we fully expect to prevail at some point,” said Beaupre.