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Man injured in scuffle at Royal Oak Elks club sues mayor, city


Royal Oak — A city businessman injured in an August shoving match outside an Elks club in Royal Oak has filed a federal lawsuit against Mayor Michael Fournier, zoning board president Clyde Esbri and the city alleging his constitutional rights were violated.

Greg Stanalajczo, a critic of Fournier and the City Commission over a controversial development involving a civic center and park near his office, claims in the personal injury lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan that Royal Oak officials "conspired to crash a private meeting," and assaulted him.

The alleged incident unfolded during an Aug. 7 meeting for members of the Royal Oakers 4 Accountability & Responsibility, or RO4AR, a group opposed to the city's controversial plans to relocate the Royal Oak Veterans War Memorial. 

Fournier has been openly critical of the group and its opposition to the monument relocation plan. Fournier is seeking reelection on Nov. 2. He's being challenged for the post by political newcomer Tom Roth. 

Fourier and Esbri allegedly attempted to crash the meeting, the suit contends, wearing a body camera, telling the RO4AR members they were filming in their “official capacities” as Royal Oak city officials.

According to Stanalajczo’s attorney, Ven Johnson, his client allegedly saw Fournier and Esbri harassing RO4AR member Erika Sykes while she was guarding the door.

Stanalajczo, the lawsuit alleges, then told Fournier and Esbri that the meeting was private and for group members only.

Esbri then allegedly assaulted Stanalajczo. When he attempted to defend himself, Esbri struck Stanalajczo again, the lawsuit claims, slamming him into the door jam and wall injuring his shoulder which required surgery.

Neither Fournier nor Esbri could be immediately reached for comment Thursday. 

“Apparently Mayor Fournier and Chairman Esbri had nothing better to do than crash a private meeting,” Johnson said in a Thursday new release. “They knew they shouldn’t be there, wore a body camera to record everything, and announced their presence as city officials. They knew exactly what they were doing and that a physical alternation was likely to occur.

“Their despicable conduct was designed to intimidate these citizens for having contrary views of the government,” Johnson argued. “Last I checked, the First Amendment still applies to freedom of speech, the right to congregate even to oppose the current government regime.”

Stanalajczo was also a plaintiff in a July 2017 lawsuit seeking to halt Royal Oak's civic center plans. The suit was dismissed by Oakland Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews who found Stanalajczo and others did not have standing to challenge the land deal. The decision was ultimately upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2018.

Stanalajczo has continued to speak out in public and at City Commission meetings on other issues, including a decision to move the city's war memorial, according to the federal complaint. Stanalajczo’s actions, the lawsuit claims, are all constitutionally protected.

After protests, petition gathering and legal challenges, an Oakland County Circuit Court judge ruled this summer that the location of the memorial should be decided by city voters. The decision, met with a challenge from the city, was upheld by the state Court of Appeal. The measure will appear on the city's November ballot. 

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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