Municipal Law

Since 1965, Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. (CMDA) has represented municipalities – counties, cities, townships, and villages – and their employees. Such representation extends to municipality-created divisions, commissions, departments, boards, and authorities. Courts and judges, judicial councils, community colleges, county road commissions, public school systems, public libraries, and risk management pools are also among CMDA’s municipal clients.

Appeals, Research and Writing

CMDA has a group of highly skilled attorneys who exclusively handle appellate matters. An appeal gives a second chance to a losing party. However, appellate procedures can be complicated, confusing and time consuming. For these reasons, it is crucial that any person considering an appeal must have competent, experienced appellate counsel.

Appellate work is challenging and requires special skills. The experienced attorneys in CMDA’s appellate group have an excellent reputation for success. We have repeatedly won major victories in appellate courts, reversing judgments and overturning past precedent to achieve favorable results for our clients. Our attorneys have had unparalleled success in the public law arena handling cutting edge issues of constitutional and statutory law, including appeals involving governmental immunity, civil rights, FOIA and labor and employment law.

We are licensed in all Michigan appellate courts, United States District Courts, 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. We handle administrative agency appeals, driver’s license appeals, workers’ compensation appeals, social security appeals and liquor license appeals. Because our appellate attorneys focus their practice exclusively on appellate law, they gain increased familiarity with the appellate justices and judges serving on the state and federal courts.

County Road Law

CMDA has a long and proven track-record of representing county road commissions throughout Michigan in matters such as Act 51, Michigan highway law, labor negotiations, labor and employment law, land use and zoning, construction, condemnation, growth management, FOIA/OMA, tort law, public works, and many other municipal specialties.

CMDA understands the challenges currently facing many county road commissions. You want what is best for your county road commission — superior legal representation, yet at a fair rate. We price our legal services in a manner that reflects our appreciation of the desire of our clients to incur legal fees only for efficient and effective service.

General Municipal Liability

Since 1965, Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. (CMDA) has provided general counsel and liability defense to hundreds of municipalities. CMDA serves as defense counsel to many municipalities and to the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA), the largest municipal self-insurance pool in Michigan with membership of more than 300 municipalities.

CMDA attorneys assist municipal clients with analysis and management of intergovernmental relations, development of strategic plans, and facilitation of employee relations. Our Firm provides legal advice and consultation to boards, commissions, councils, departments, and other levels of government on virtually every issue that arises in the context of municipal governance. 

Some of the issues on which CMDA provides legal advice and consultation include intergovernmental operating agreements, government contracts, ordinance enforcement and prosecution, public works infrastructure projects and improvements, taxation, finance, environmental regulations, condemnation and eminent domain, sewer and water, elections, insurance, health care, labor and employment, zoning and land use, public disclosure obligations, telecommunications, administrative law, and public policy. Our attorneys frequently attend meetings to advise elected and appointed officials on complex and sensitive matters of public concern.

Given the challenging fiscal climate and the need to do more with less, many municipalities enter into intergovernmental agreements with neighboring communities or public agencies for the provision of public services and the operation of public facilities. Our attorneys are frequently called upon to draft intergovernmental agreements.

In addition to intergovernmental agreements, CMDA attorneys draft agreements between municipalities and vendors in the private sector. Our attorneys also draft resolutions, policies and procedures for municipal operations, and other legal documents designed to protect the interests of its municipal clients.

CMDA assists clients with creating new ordinances and reviewing, revising, and amending existing ordinances. Our Firm maintains a library of municipal ordinances and utilizes many other valuable resources to ensure that such ordinances comply with the law and advance the interests of its municipal clients. We also take an active role in enforcing and prosecuting violations of ordinances.

CMDA has vast experience in zoning, land use, and growth management. Our attorneys have successfully represented municipalities throughout Michigan in Circuit Courts, the Court of Appeals, and the Michigan Supreme Court. CMDA attorneys advise planning commissions on matters involving drafting of zoning ordinances and amendments, hearings for special use permits, rezoning, and site plan reviews. We counsel zoning board of appeals on variance requests, zoning ordinance interpretations, and appeals from planning commission decisions, where applicable. 

Several of CMDA’s attorneys are, or have been, members of planning commissions and zoning boards of appeals. They conduct seminars to educate municipal clients on ways to ensure that decisions of planning commissions and zoning boards of appeals coincide with the latest legislative developments and withstand legal challenges. The seminars are effective risk management tools aimed at helping CMDA’s municipal clients avoid future litigation.

CMDA experience in labor and employment law involves the investigation and handling of sex, race, age, religious, ethnic, and disability discrimination or harassment claims. CMDA is well-versed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Whistle-blower Protection Act, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, and the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act. 

CMDA appears before pension boards, administrative boards, and various agencies – including the Michigan Employment Security Commission, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the Act 78 Police & Fire Civil Service Commission, the Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Bureau of Workers’ Disability Compensation, and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Wage and Hour Division on behalf of its municipal clients. CMDA also participates in labor negotiations, conducts arbitration, and defends claims in court.

Our lawyers are well-versed in civil rights, negligence and intentional torts, public nuisance, various forms of immunity and statutory exceptions to immunity, municipal liability for official policies and unwritten practices or customs, supervisory liability, public works infrastructure projects or improvements, water and sewage disposal systems, tax-related issues and the Headlee Amendment, and statutes that create potential liability. CMDA’s success in handling claims against municipalities and their employees is unsurpassed.

Grant Administration

CMDA works with a client base as diverse as the array of recipients of federal funds, including for profit and not-for-profit organizations, local governments, colleges and universities, research institutions, and various health care and education entities. Our Firm has experience in pre and post-award matters, such as financial and program requirements, procurement’s, property, termination, and enforcement.

Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreements

Many municipalities throughout Michigan are still reeling from the affects decreased housing values have had on tax revenues. Counties, cities, townships and villages have all been forced to adjust budgets and, in many situations, cut back on services provided to residents. Countless municipalities are entering into intergovernmental agreements between two or more entities for the provision of services and programs. Attorneys at Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. (CMDA) assist municipal clients with intergovernmental cooperation agreements.

Although each agreement is unique, the law allows great flexibility in the establishment of these joint agreements between municipalities. Many examples of these agreements can be found throughout the state, including:

  • Joint operation of fire or police departments
  • Joint operation of dispatch systems
  • Joint operation of Parks and Recreation programs and facilities
  • Joint public transportation systems
  • Joint purchasing programs

Joint agreements are designed to allow participating municipalities to decrease the overall cost of administration, as well as create opportunities for better bargaining positions for the purchase of common goods and services used to carry out governmental functions.

Some communities have been hesitant to use such agreements because of a perceived loss of autonomy or control in the provision of services. That fear can be erased by a carefully drafted agreement that provides for input and oversight by all municipalities participating. Agreements are tailored to fit the specific local needs of the communities and reduce the cost of providing for those needs.

The Governor’s office has long touted the advantages of intergovernmental cooperation. Various programs have been initiated in Lansing to encourage the combining of services among municipalities and have even provided financial incentives for municipalities to do so.

Attorneys at in CMDA’s municipal practice group are ready to assist governmental entities who are in a position to take advantage of intergovernmental agreements.

Ordinance Drafting and Code Enforcement

The implementation of ordinances and codes can sometimes present issues of interpretation and application for departments within a governmental entity. A poorly drafted ordinance can result in costly litigation. Attorneys at Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. (CMDA) take an integrated approach by combining the resources of the enforcement officers and other municipal personnel. A coordinated effort among these groups helps to ensure the policies underlying the adoption of the State Codes, whether building, plumbing, mechanical or electrical, are implemented and enforced.

Public Act 312 Arbitration and Mediation/Fact Finding

CMDA has successfully represented several municipal police and fire unions in Public Act 312 compulsory arbitration proceedings. We have extensive experience in all phases of the process and are familiar with Act 312 arbitrators and their arbitral decision- making. We save governmental entities substantial fees and avoid costly awards by successfully negotiating resolutions to matters during Public Act 312 compulsory arbitration proceedings.

Special Assessments and User Fees

CMDA has extensive experience assisting municipalities throughout the state in a wide variety of special assessment projects. Our attorneys advise clients with the establishment of special assessment districts for various public improvements, including police/fire protection, sewer systems, water systems, road maintenance and construction, road lighting systems, sidewalks, garbage collection, and public parks. 

Our legal services involve guiding clients through the initial special assessment process, drafting all necessary resolutions required by Act 188 of the Public Acts of 1954, assuring all public hearing and notice requirements are satisfied, and defending special assessment challenges brought under the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

Further, our Firm assists municipal clients with establishing user fee systems and reviewing their existing user fee systems. Our attorneys are knowledgeable on the permissible rate structure, collection, and enforcement options available for user fee systems and equitable cost-based structures.

Zoning and Land Use

CMDA has vast experience in zoning, land use, and growth management.  Our attorneys advise planning commissions on matters involving drafting of new zoning and land use ordinances, rezoning, adoption and amendment of zoning ordinances, master plans, special uses, planned uses, development agreements, land splits, environmental concerns, building codes, and zoning appeals and enforcement.

We counsel zoning board of appeals on variance requests, zoning ordinance interpretations, and appeals from planning commission decisions, where applicable. Several of our attorneys are members of planning commissions and zoning boards of appeals.  Our Firm conducts seminars to educate municipal clients on ways to ensure that decisions of planning commissions and zoning boards of appeals coincide with the latest legislative developments and withstand legal challenges.  The seminars are effective risk management tools aimed at helping CMDA’s municipal clients avoid future litigation. CMDA also handles tax deferral exchanges and facilitates the sale, lease, or acquisition of property.

Our attorneys have successfully represented municipalities throughout Michigan before the Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court.

Meet The Team

Sue Bartos Practice Areas
Suzanne Bartos
Curt Benson Practice Areas
Curt Benson
Jeffrey Clark Practice Areas
Jeffrey Clark
Matt Cross Practice Areas
Matthew Cross
Owen Cummings Practice Areas
Owen Cummings
Tim Ferrand Practice Areas
Timothy Ferrand
Brian Goldstein Practice Areas
Brian Goldstein
Gregory Grant Practice Areas
Gregory Grant
Haider Kazim Practice Areas
Haider Kazim
Thomas Laginess Practice Areas
Thomas Laginess
Christopher McIntire Practice Areas
Christopher McIntire
Shane Nolan Practice Areas
Shane Nolan
Larry Opalewski Practice Areas
Lawrence Opalewski Jr
Elizabeth Rae O'Donnell Practice Areas
Elizabeth Rae O'Donnell
Jennifer Richards Practice Areas
Jennifer Richards
Gregory Roberts Practice Areas
Gregory Roberts
Allan Vander Lann Practice Areas
Allan Vander Lann