Michigan government corruption
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"Members of the Highland Park school board said Monday they are asking Gov. Jennifer Granholm to remove member Robert Davis, citing concerns about expenses and his conduct.
'We're sending a letter to Gov. Granholm to remove Mr. Davis,' said board President Jamille Edwards on Monday during a packed special meeting.
'They're just upset and jealous because (their actions have) been revealed,' [Davis] said. He said he has not been attending board meetings because he does not want to get involved in personal politics and bickering."
"It's not a difficult concept.
Public records that are paid for with public money, compiled for some public purpose and maintained as public property ought to be accessible for public viewing.
But over and over, in town halls and state capitols across the nation, public officials too often eschew openness in favor of secrecy, forgetting that they work for the people whose access they stall or block."
Lansing, MI Michigan state government is getting ready to launch a new comprehensive social media policy this coming August. The Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which is developing the policy, has announced that it will be completed in August and plans to include posts on all social media website, including Twitter and Facebook, as public records. Public records lawyers and activists are praising the upcoming policy. Herschel Fink, a media law lawyer told the press, "If government and officials are communicating on issues of government policy, using these new means of communication -- social media -- then the public has to have access to that as well." 
"For the second time in less than a year Traverse City residents who were not reappointed to positions on local boards have questioned whether Mayor Michael Estes has violated the Freedom of Information Act by not making public his personal e-mails.
In an age when so much of our communication is done via e-mail or voice mail or texting or tweeting or whatever, and some of us do work at home (as Estes does), the line between public and private is easily blurred, particularly for someone like the mayor -- a public figure who sends and receives a lot of e-mails in a given day, including some on his personal computer."
Two business owners, Larry and Dianne Mongo, in a Detroit building they were not notified that film crews would block the street that is their customers' main parking area. They say they lost substantial business because they could not prepare.
The Mongos rent a space they intend to turn into a restaurant in the building. They got into a verbal confrontation with some of the "Highland Park" crew, during which the police were called. The Detroit Film Office, a city agency that deals with movie crews, is looking into the matter.
"As far as this office is concerned, the film production companies had the permission," to film, said Film Office Director Erica Hill. "But if [businesses] weren't notified, then, that's an issue. It's incumbent on [film crews] to make contact with people and they indicated everyone was informed."
Hill said the crews obtained city permits to close a section of Washington Boulevard and got permission from building owners. The unclear issue is whether the film crew or the building owner informed the building's tenants.
Under this plea deal Mayor Kilpatrick will resign from office on September 18, 2008. His law license has been revoked as well as the pension he would receive from the Michigan state legislature. He will serve a total of four months in prison and will be on probation for a total of 5 years. During this time he may not run for any elected office. He must also pay restitution of $1 million. 
Governor Jennifer Granholm outlined several financial irregularities the state found and, in a five-page letter, announced that the state would appoint an emergency financial manager to run the city.
The review found that the city collected millions of taxpayer dollars for other entities, but it did not turn the money over. The review found that the city hasn’t submitted to the state a financial audit on time since 2003. It also found that Ecorse operates with a deficit, refusing to outline plans to correct the problem.
City officials responsible for the financial issues could face criminal charges.
“I have determined that a financial emergency exists within the city of Ecorse because no satisfactory plan exists to resolve a serious financial problem,” Granholm wrote in her letter to city officials.
Granholm's letter stated that city officials have gotten in a pattern of using money earmarked for specific purposes to pay for general city operations. This includes employee payroll.
The Board of Trustees said Clerk Matt Skiba and Treasurer Pat Evon are not performing their duties and so the board discussed emergency measures. The board said Evon has failed to disburse library, fire bond revenue, and special assessment funds into appropriate accounts. Several duties have been taken off Skiba’s hands, including handling the senior center and parks and recreation operations and last week he submitted a letter of resignation from his duty as FOIA coordinator, typically one of the responsibilities of township clerks.
Supervisor Pat Hohl said about seven “significant” financial problems related to this neglect in the township may have a negative influence on the township’s audit and bond rating.
Evon works part time as treasurer. He said his office needed the board to approve a salary for his deputy, Cindy Pine, in order for it to run more efficiently. The board had questioned Pine's accounting and other credentials and voted against a $27,000 salary for her. Evon voted against this figure too, saying it was not sufficient. Pine recently resigned.
Deputy Clerk Michael Zeglevski still works without pay.
Skiba did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, having Zeglevski, who cannot vote as because he is not an elected official, sit in for him. Clerk Skiba was also absent at a special board meeting held last week.
Skiba has not produced minutes from the last three board meetings, according to Trustee Michael Dolan, putting the township in legal jeopardy.
Granholm had proposed deep cuts in the budget such as 1,500 state employee layoffs, prisons closings, closing of a mental health facility and elimination of a state department. Now her plan is to hike taxes to bring in an additional $685 million from taxes on water bottles, cigarettes, sporting events, beer and other items.
Granholm is choosing to forgo negotiation in public. The budget will be written behind closed doors.
In July, tax collections were down over 19% from last year, while income tax collections are down nearly 20 percent this year, largely because the high tax structure causes business to shut down or lay off employees. With the state’s high unemployment rate, there is less income being generated in the state. Now, more than ever, Michigan taxpayers need to get back in the driver’s seat and hold their elected official accountable for the tax increases used to fund state programs.
The Westwood Heights School District in Flint, Michigan recently discovered that Sue Ann Ingersoll, 48, of Clio was working as the accounts payable clerk when she allegedly used school credit cards to make more than $41,000 in personal purchases. The purchases bought her things such as gasoline, groceries and clothing.
The charges come less than a year after Dana L. Bacon pleaded guilty to embezzling $1.2 million from the Montrose School District, while serving as pay supervisor.
The slight was caught by Dale Ingle, who served as treasurer for the district's school board and couldn't find any paper copies for taxes in files. Ingersoll has been given the choice to pay the school board back or face prison for one year. There has been no discussion of placing the rest of the schools finances under a more transparent system.
After the judge read the terms of Beatty's settlement, the former aide said, "I lied under oath." During the investigation, Beatty and Kilpatrick both gave testimony and court and in a deposition declaring they never had a sexual relationship and denying that two police officers were fired over fear the affair would be exposed.
Their testimony was directly contradicted when sexually explicit text messages, sent on city-issued pagers, came to public light. Beatty and Kilpatrick were charged with 15 felonies, including perjury and obstruction of justice. After the settlement, Beatty read a statement apologizing "to all of the people that were harmed in this ordeal," explicitly referencing both her and Kilpatrick's family, along with the residents of Detroit.
The three districts that agreed to the transparency measure include Bullock Creek School District in Midland County, Chassell Township School District in Houghton County, and Farmington Public School District in Oakland County. At least one other district has contacted the Mackinac Center about the project, and plans to post its register soon.
Superintendent of Farmington Sue Zurvalec said, "We are committed to transparency, and posting the check registry is just one example of how we do this."
Those already posting registers online include Waterford School District, Clawson City School District, Montrose Community Schools, Bloomfield Hills School District, St. Clair Intermediate School District and Oakland Intermediate School District.
Riddle is a former aide to Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, who pleaded guilty last month to bribery in the same case of contract corruption that Riddle faces. Jim Rosendall, a former representative of Synagro, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy, admitting he paid a Detroit council member prior to a vote on the Synagro contract.
Riddle is prepared for the indictment and believes he will be vindicated.
"I'm not cutting any (expletive) deal because they're going to do what they're going to do any (expletive) way," Riddle told the Free Press.
Riddle was also a political consultant for former Flint Mayor Don Williamson. He most recently helped Williamson with his gubernatorial campaign. Riddle also advised a mother of a boy who fatally shot a first-grade classmate in the Beecher School District in 2000.
Riddle had served as City Councilwoman Monica Conyers' assistant when the corrupt contract deal was made with Synagro Technologies, Inc between March 2006 and December 2007. He was charged with a seven-count indictment including conspiracy, extortion, bribery, mail fraud, and making false statements to the FBI. According to the indictment, Riddle conspired with Conyers in order to extort money from individuals having business before the Council and the pension board.
The indictment says he allegedly aided and abetted the councilwoman in receiving bribes in favor of the Synagro waste management contract with the City of Detroit. According to the indictment, Riddle and Conyers allegedly extorted $20,000 from the owner of a technology company seeking a multi-million dollar investment from the General Retirement System, extorted $20,000 from a Detroit restaurant owner who had business before the City Council, and extorted $25,000 from a company operating strip clubs seeking a change in licenses from the City Council.
The City Council member, 44, admitted to accepting bribes for her vote to sway the City Council to approve Synagro Technologies Inc.'s 2007 $1.2 billion contract. Synagro successfully gave Conyers, wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, money until December 2007.
The same day she received an envelope of cash from convicted Synagro consultant Rayford Jackson, she voted in favor of the contract for waste water treatment on November 20, 2007. In a McDonald's parking lot two weeks later, Jackson gave Conyers another envelope of cash.
"She was the swing vote in this deal," Berg said. "She used her power to get the deal done, and she acknowledged that." 
The EAG filed the FOIA request to try and find out what role the Wayne-Westland Education Association is playing in a recall of school board members who have stood up to union demands. In all, the Michigan Education Association has been accused of using publicly funded email accounts to rally support to recall school board members in about a dozen districts.
Facing the tough economy, many boards have faced difficult budget decisions, which has resulted in unions not getting everything they want. Several districts have also allowed competitive bidding for teachers' health insurance, allowing them to direct more funds to children. The release of these records could shine a light on these backroom activities. The EAG also seeks the records for information on a recent illegal strike.
One subpoena was issued to Adolph Mongo and his company, Mongo and Associates, with the second subpoena going to Bob Berg's firm, Berg Muirhead and Associates. Both men are said to be cooperating, but neither have issued any comments.
Berg was instrumental in planning Kilpatrick's first campaign for mayor in 2001, and has written some of his most important speeches. Investigators want to compare bank records from the Civic Fund with Berg's billing invoices to determine if the fund knew it was paying for political consulting.
Mongo became a top adviser to Kilpatrick during his re-election campaign in 2005. He also received payment for political work from the nonprofit fund.
An examination of the emails shows discussions of personal political campaign activity conducted during council meetings, jockeying over the politics of City Council salary increases and discussion of public business that keeps the public in the dark.
City Council member Leigh Greden sent an e-mail to another member in September 2008, while the council was making a $300,000 decision about funding a human-service agency, saying, "We didn't want the detailed finances discussed..."
"... Plus, we're trying to get the aff hsng (sic) community to understand that we're not a bottomless pit of money. The goal was to run down the Trust Fund," Greden continued 14 minutes later to Council Member Marcia Higgins.
Both of these e-mails spoke of material that the city's FOIA officer redacted before The Ann Arbor News received the requested records. The newspaper has been trying to speak with Greden about these e-mails since July 14, but the attempts have not been returned other than a phone message acknowledging receiving the requests. In this message he said he was unusually busy with business and with his campaign for re-election to the 3rd Ward council seat he has held since 2003.
The response to the FOIA request included Nov. 5, 2007, when city officials terminated an agreement for the redevelopment of the former Y property at Fifth Avenue and William Street. City Council member Margie Teall expressed regret about all the work that went into the project in an email to Greden. Teall thought the work was wasted and Greden voiced the opinion that the project would have failed at any point.
The other dates of meetings in which City Council members exchanged e-mails were Dec. 18, 2007, and June 2, July 21, Sept. 22, and Oct. 6, 2008.
Greden was the most frequent e-mail conversation initiator and not all council members participated in the e-mail exchanges. The FOIA office responsible for City Council information provided The Ann Arbor News with more than 170 pages of e-mail messages. There were about 45 conversations that Greden did not initiate. The News did not examine messages outside of the council meetings.
On March 24, 2008, Kilpatrick was charged with eight felony counts, including perjury, misconduct in office, and obstruction of justice. If found guilty of felony perjury, Kilpatrick would be disbarred and could be jailed for up to 15 years per count. He would also lose his mayoralty. The recent controversies have prompted calls for his resignation, an ethics probe, and a recall election campaign to have Kilpatrick removed from office.
On May 13, 2008, the Detroit City Council approved a resolution to request that Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm, remove Kwame Kilpatrick from office.
On August 7, 2008, Mayor Kilpatrick was incarcerated in the Wayne County Jail upon an order issued by Judge Ronald Giles for violating the terms of his bond (by traveling to Canada and failing to notify the court), becoming the first mayor in Detroit's history to be ordered to jail while in office.
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