Bio

Dennis G. Cowan is a member of the firm's Real Estate/Transactional and Environment, Energy and Resources Law practice groups.

Mr. Cowan focuses his individual practice primarily on assisting clients in obtaining governmental approvals at the local, county and state levels. He has particular expertise advocating on behalf of clients seeking zoning, site plan and other land use approvals. He also represents clients before state administrative boards and the Michigan Attorney General's office.

In December 2001, Mr. Cowan completed 14 years of service on the Royal Oak City Commission. After six years as a City Commissioner, he was elected and served four consecutive two-year terms (1993-2001) as Royal Oak Mayor. As a result of his extensive experience as a public official, Mr. Cowan offers a unique perspective in advising clients on legal issues related to all levels of government.

In 2004, Mr. Cowan was elected to a two-year term as Chairman of the Oakland County Republican Party. He was re-elected to that post and served through the 2008 election cycle.

Representative Client Work

  • Representing state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager on behalf of a southeast Michigan city
  • First request under Michigan’s new Public Act 4 for a change in the City’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Police/Fire Dispatch Union under Section 19(k). The State Treasurer’s approval of the request and subsequent actions allowed the Pontiac Police Department personnel and operations to be transferred under contract to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department.
  • Negotiated and assisted in privatization of City’s water/sewer plant. Multi-year contract signed with United Water for operations. Transaction involved layoff of all Water/Sewer Department employees and subsequent rehire by United Water.
  • Negotiation of contract to provide planning, zoning, code enforcement and related services to Wade Trim, Inc.
  • Took necessary steps to provide appropriate insurance and indemnification for the Emergency Manager.
  • Prepared orders issued by the Emergency Manager to enact official actions including, but not limited to, employee layoffs, hiring of vendors, entering into contracts and similar matters.
  • Assisted in developing protocol for third party audit of employee and retiree healthcare insurance coverage. Actions resulted in annual savings of over $1 million to the City.
  • Negotiated contract with Oakland County Sheriff’s Department for providing police services. Actions included negotiating Contract Termination Agreements with Command and Police Officers Associations.
  • Assisted in termination of elected officials’ salary and benefits pursuant to Public Act 4.
  • Negotiated and assisted in transfer of animal control activities and services from the City to Oakland County.
  • Assisted in negotiation of management letters to be executed by the Emergency Manager, as requested by City auditor.
  • Reviewed, investigated and proposed recommendations to Public Act 4. Prepared list of questions for Emergency Manager to forward to Treasury Department upon passage of Public Act 4.
  • Assisted in negotiations of contract for new city auditors and request for specialized audits.
  • Assisted in development of changes to retiree health coverages by City.
  • Assisted in negotiation of healthcare benefits contract for active employees and retirees at the direction of the Emergency Manager resulting in significant cost savings and requested changes in coverage.
  • Assisted Emergency Manager in development of new City Ordinances and Ordinance amendments.
  • Assisted Emergency Manager in day-to-day operations of the City, as requested.
  • Provided form template for Emergency Manager orders, review of contracts and similar matters.
  • Assisted Emergency Manager in reviewing and interpreting Public Act 4, passed in March 2011. Assisted Emergency Manager in implementation of Public Act 4.
  • Assisted Emergency Manager in review of contracts with MSHDA, HUD and other State and Federal agencies with respect to expenditure of funds and City obligations.
  • Assisted Emergency Manager concerning reporting to the State of Michigan, as required under Public Act 72 and Public Act 4.Negotiated and prepared contract for transfer of assets to City Library and separate operations and functions of Library from the City.
  • Coordinated municipal approval efforts of $350,000,000 hospital project
  • Represented corporate clients during State Attorney General investigation
  • Represented national gaming operator in Detroit casino bidding process
  • Represented commercial landowners in annexation process and litigation
  • Headed legal team in client effort to stop state-wide ballot proposal

Professional Affiliations

  • Oakland County Bar Association
  • State Bar of Michigan (Real Property Law, Corporation and Business Law, and Public Corporations Law sections)
  • American Bar Association (Corporate, Banking and Business Law Section)  

Public Service

  • Chairman, Oakland County Republican Party (2004-2008)
  • Michigan Delegate, Republican National Convention (2008)
  • State of Michigan Building Authority (2002 – 2006)
    (Appointed by Governor Engler, March 2002)
  • Member, Attorney General Mike Cox Transition Team (2002)
  • Mayor, Royal Oak, 1993 - 2001
  • City Commissioner, Royal Oak, 1987 – 1993
    Mayor Pro Tem, 1989-1991
    Member, Chamber of Commerce Liaison Committee
    Member, I-696/Woodward Developer Selection Committee
  • Member, Royal Oak Plan Commission, 1993 - 2001
  • Chairman, Royal Oak Solid Waste/Recycling Committee (1990-1991)
  • Vice Chairman, Woodward Avenue Action Association (1999-2001)
  • Member, State of Michigan Site Review Board
    (Appointed by Governor Engler, March, 1993)

Community Involvement

  • Walsh College Board of Trustees (2009-Present)
  • Walsh College Foundation (2004-Present)
  • Ticker Club, Inc. – Children’s Hospital of Michigan (Board of Directors, 1987)
  • Notre Dame High School Alumni Association
  • Royal Oak Children’s Choir (Board of Directors, 2002-2005)
  • Royal Oak Optimist Club
  • Royal Oak Youth Assistance Committee
  • Royal Oak Shrine High School hockey team volunteer
  • Boys’ and Girls’ Club of South Oakland County (Board of Directors, 1989 - 2001)
  • Walsh College Presidents Advisory Council (2002-Present)
  • University of Massachusetts Alumni Association
  • Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites

Publications, Lectures and Awards

  • “Powering your Community’s Future/How to Ensure the Best Utility Infrastructure,” Michigan Municipal League Annual Convention, Dearborn, MI, September, 2002
  • “Home Rule for Cities and Senate Bill 653,” Michigan Municipal League Legislative Conference, February 1996
  • “Dealing With Governmental Entities in the Buying and Selling of Real Estate,” Homeward Bound Seminar, Real Property Section, State Bar of Michigan, Grand Rapids and Troy, November, 1990

Representative Client Work

  • Represented foundation clients in Detroit bankruptcy "Grand Bargain" transaction
  • Represented and served as primary counsel for state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager on behalf of a southeast Michigan city
  • Coordinated municipal approval efforts of $350,000,000 hospital project
  • Defended corporate clients during State Attorney General investigations
  • Represented national gaming operator in Detroit casino bidding process
  • Represented commercial landowners in annexation process and litigation
  • Headed legal team in client effort to stop state-wide ballot proposal
  • Amended county solid waste plan to facilitate client permitting for waste transfer station

Professional Affiliations

  • Oakland County Bar Association
  • State Bar of Michigan (Real Property Law, Corporation and Business Law, and Public Corporations Law sections)
  • American Bar Association (State and Local Government Section)  

Public Service

  • Royal Oak Township State Financial Review Team, Member (2013)
  • State of Michigan Building Authority (2002 – 2006)
  • Mayor, Royal Oak (1993 – 2001)
  • City Commissioner, Royal Oak (1987 – 1993)
    - Mayor Pro Tem (1989 – 1991)
    - Member, Chamber of Commerce Liaison Committee
    - Member, I-696/Woodward Developer Selection Committee
  • Royal Oak Plan Commission, Member (1993 – 2001)
  • Royal Oak Solid Waste/Recycling Committee, Chairman (1990 – 1991)
  • Woodward Avenue Action Association, Vice Chairman (1999 – 2001)
  • State of Michigan Site Review Board, Member

Community Involvement

  • Walsh College Board of Trustees (2009 – 2014)
  • Walsh College Foundation (2004 – 2012)
  • Ticker Club, Inc. – Children’s Hospital of Michigan (Board of Directors, 1987)
  • Notre Dame High School Alumni Association
  • Oakland County Republican Party Chairman (2004-2008)
  • Royal Oak Children’s Choir (Board of Directors, 2002 – 2005)
  • Royal Oak Optimist Club
  • Royal Oak Youth Assistance Committee
  • Royal Oak Shrine High School Hockey Team Volunteer
  • Boys’ and Girls’ Club of South Oakland County (Board of Directors, 1989 – 2001)
  • Walsh College President's Advisory Council (2002 – 2014)
  • University of Massachusetts Alumni Association
  • Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites  

Publications, Lectures and Awards

  • “Connecting the Region: Transit Development in the ‘D’;” Panelist; Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2015 Detroit Policy Conference; Motor City Casino-Hotel Soundboard; February 2015
  • “Powering your Community’s Future/How to Ensure the Best Utility Infrastructure,” Michigan Municipal League Annual Convention, Dearborn, MI, September, 2002

Credentials

Education

  • Detroit College of Law, magna cum laude, J.D., 1984
  • University of Massachusetts/Boston, magna cum laude, B.A., 1978

Admissions

  • Michigan, 1984
  • U.S. Federal Court, Eastern District of Michigan, 1984

Honors/Awards

Honors & Recognitions

  • Leading Lawyer in Land Use, Zoning & Condemnation Law, Leading Lawyers Magazine Michigan, 2015
  • Martindale-Hubbell’s highest rating-AV Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated
  • Michigan Super Lawyer in Land Use and Zoning, Michigan Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters publication, 2006 - 2011, 2013 - 2014
  • Top Lawyer Land Use & Zoning and Municipal Law, dbusiness Magazine, 2019 - 2020

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