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Topic: Another special deputy scandal

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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Sheriff's special deputy roster 'shades of Oakley,' attorney says

While a recent federal racketeering lawsuit against Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell questions the department's practices regarding an alleged play-to-play method of deputizing the county's process servers, records show the sheriff's list of "special deputies" extends beyond process servers -- featuring a variety of private citizens. Photo: Jake May I MLive.com
Oona Goodin-Smith | ogoodins@mlive.com
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Oona Goodin-Smith | ogoodins@mlive.com By Oona Goodin-Smith | ogoodins@mlive.com

on February 23, 2017 at 6:00 AM, updated February 23, 2017 at 7:34 AM

GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- It's a no-rules approach that's been compared to the Wild West: who becomes a sheriff's "special deputy" and what does the title mean?

In Genesee County, while a recent federal racketeering lawsuit against Sheriff Robert Pickell questions the department's practices regarding an alleged play-to-play method of deputizing the county's process servers, records show the sheriff's list of "special deputies" extends beyond process servers -- featuring a variety of private citizens.

While Pickell says the special deputy designation is honorific, some attorneys worry it can create confusion about who is and isn't a police officer.


"Every sheriff can do what he wants -- that's the danger of not having requirements," said Anthony Flores, professor of law at Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. "If you call a position 'special' rather than auxiliary or reserve, you put in a bucket where they can do anything a sheriff wants them to do without regulation."

'NO SPECIAL TREATMENT'

In the mix are former Red Wing Joe Kocur enlisted for "youth projects" and county commissioner Bryant Nolden for "homeland security," while Flint boxing patriarch Joe Byrd is a reserve deputy and National Roofing business owner Gary Sova was deputized for a undeclared reason, according to a Genesee County deputy roster obtained by MLive-The Flint Journal through the Freedom of Information Act.

"It's nothing special to me," said Nolden of his card-carrying "special deputy" status. "I don't get no special treatment, no special privileges. [The card is] in my drawer at home."

According to Pickell, the title of "special deputy" comes with little more than the honor of being a part of the sheriff's department.

"It's an honorific kind of thing," he said. "Every single person on that list is there because they help us out with special favors here. They get a little card that says they're a part of the Genesee County Sheriff's Department on it and that's about it."

Nolden said his special deputy status stems from his role overseeing the county commission's government operations committee, which he said includes homeland security.

"I very rarely carry [the card]," he said. "I actually forgot I had it."

Pickell referenced retired NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, who was recently named an honorary sheriff's deputy in Clayton County, Florida. He said no uniforms, badges or guns are involved in the special deputy status.

"It's the same kind of thing as Shaq," said Pickell, talking about four-time Stanley Cup champion Joe Kocur. "He brings around his Stanley Cup around to show the kids, so this is kind of our 'thank you' for that."

Kocur could not be reached by MLive-The Flint Journal for comment.



'SHADES OF OAKLEY'

The jurisdiction on who can become a deputy varies from county to county and is ultimately left to the discretion of the sheriff, said Blaine Koops, executive director and CEO of the Michigan Sheriff's Association.

However, said attorney Phil Ellison, even an "honorary" membership to the sheriff's department can be problematic, calling the Genesee County situation "shades of Oakley."

"It creates problems where none need exist," he said. "If this special deputy flashes their card and says they're a part of the sheriff's department, it creates confusion around the power of the citizens and the power of these special appointments."

In 2015, Ellison handled a lawsuit in the small village of Oakley between a resident and the village's police department after it was revealed the village's department held a secret reserve police force of nearly 150, including Kid Rock, a former Detroit Lion and wealthy businesspeople from across the state.

Millionaires, Kid Rock and a Detroit Lion found in Oakley police reserve applications

Millionaires, Kid Rock and a Detroit Lion found in Oakley police reserve applications

The paperwork is held in the files of the tiny village of Oakley, a one-traffic-light community of 300 in southwest Saginaw County. The documents are applications to join the village's reserve police force.

Eventually, it was revealed that the once-secret donors -- some also found on the list of reservists that the village eventually released -- helped Oakley pay the bills.

As a result, a law was put into effect starting in January that placed the state of Michigan in charge of any reserve police officers.

Police reserve officers, like the rich and famous in Oakley, will be regulated by state

Police reserve officers, like the rich and famous in Oakley, will be regulated by state

Move over police chiefs and local governments, because a new law puts the state of Michigan in charge of reserve police officers.

In Oakley, reservists were rewarded with uniforms and concealed pistol licenses.

In Genesee County -- where "special deputies" are regulated only by the sheriff himself -- Pickell said guns are not a part of the position.

'A LOOSELY KNIT ENTERPRISE'

Until January 2017, becoming a special deputy was a requirement for receiving work as a process server, according to the recent lawsuit which alleges that Pickell, executive director of Genesee County's process servers Scott L. Hope and his company Allen & Hope Process Serving Management Co.,Inc. were involved in a "loosely knit enterprise."

The lawsuit, which was filed Jan. 25, in Detroit U.S. District Court by attorney Scott Batey, alleges that over the course of 10 years, funds from Pickell's required fee to deputize process servers went "into a bank account for the personal gain/benefit" of the sheriff.

Pickell, however, has denied ever seeing the money.

"I didn't see that money, I don't even know where it went," Pickell previously told MLive-The Flint Journal. "I want to state clearly that this is a frivolous lawsuit that has no merit. This is more about the attorney getting his money than the truth. Anyone with $150 can file a lawsuit. I look forward to taking quick action."

Sheriff says he's 'never seen the money' alleged in federal racketeering lawsuit

As of January 2017, the system of deputizing process servers in Genesee County has moved into the courts, where servers obtain similar authority as officers of the court, Pickell said.

Batey said that his plaintiffs had already taken advantage of the switch and were deputized last week by Chief Circuit Judge Richard B. Yuille.

"He didn't charge a penny," said Batey. "And there's no problem with charging money for deputizing if the money is going to the county, but they're acting as a political office to get money for personal gain."

MLive-The Flint Journal Staff Reporter Dominic Adams contributed to this story.
Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:03 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

http://www.flinttalk.com/viewtopic.php?t=11720
This is the link for the Flint talk thread on the Oakley-Reznick scandal. Reznick also had a special deputy badge for Genesee County with Pickell. The badge had to be rescinded after reports came in from other counties about it being misused in their counties.

Nick Singelis also had a special deputy badge. Singelis alleged he angered Pickell by wanting him to investigate then County Commissioner Chairman Jamie Curtis over interstate transportation of females for prostitution by the Shriner organization. The Sheriff does not have that authority, so Singelis went to the FBI. Pickell allegedly received Mental Health records from the Shrine attorney that the attorney received from the first wife of Singelis. Beagle was the divorce attorney and he always protects such documents from disclosure.

When I asked Pickell if he used the psychiatric records and was the story he had them taken to the Gun Board to discredit Singelis was accurate, he angrily admitted it and felt it was justified. Singgelis detailed the experience in one of his blogs. Alleged embarassing details of the report were disseminated.

Singelis also posted a video of a drunken off-duty deputy shooting up a trailer park. A controversy arose when nothing happened to the deputy.

Other allegations arose that the ex-wife of Jamie Curtis wanted to file a domestic violence incident against Curtis. Her Attorney, Susan Prekates has been said to have told democratic political figures that the wife was afraid of retaliation and that Curtis had psychological issues. Curtis alleged in the divorce that his physician ex-wife has replaced his blood pressure meds with anti psychotics. Rumors were spread he had attempted suicide twice. (yes this a rumor rich town and who knows what is right) Pickell tried to take the special deputy badge back and wanted Clerk Gleason to do it. Bottom line, the badge was never returned.
Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:28 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

http://www.flinttalk.com/viewtopic.php?t=12392

The downfall of one Bullet Joe Wilson and his problems with special deputy badges.
Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:33 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

http://www.flinttalk.com/viewtopic.php?t=11561

Steve Meyers with the video of the drunken deputy and the alleged coverup.
Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:46 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

http://www.flinttalk.com/viewtopic.php?t=12357

more abuse claims in the Sheriff Department The Muhammad case following the $36.6 million judgement in another case. This case has the possibility of another huge payout. Commissioners now refuse to have the meeting minutes reported on the internet and have closed meeting that hide their purpose.
Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:51 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

http://flinttalk.com/viewtopic.php?t=12354

Conflict of Interest? How can Leyton get extra money and also represent the County as the Corporation Counsel for the entire county. Commissioners complained they were not advised the $36.6 million dollar case could have been settled for less prior to going to court. Not one commissioner has the guts to ask the Attorney General for a decision on incompatible offices.

Is our county totally corrupt?
Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:57 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Federal RICO lawsuit alleges sheriff traded police favors for cash

Roberto Acosta | racosta1@mlive.com By Roberto Acosta | racosta1@mlive.com

on January 25, 2017 at 6:23 PM, updated January 25, 2017 at 9:02 PM

GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- A federal RICO lawsuit alleges Sheriff Robert Pickell received payments in exchange for deputizing residents who he believe would advanced his political power.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday, Jan. 25, in Detroit U.S. District Court by attorney Scott Batey alleges Pickell deputized people for $65-$300 a year, which allowed them to act as a deputy and agent for the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and receive work as process servers.

When reached by phone, Pickell said he had not yet seen the lawsuit.

"There's no merit to it, without looking at it," he said. "It's just hard to believe for $150 anybody could file a lawsuit."

Pickell, Scott Hope, and the Allen & Hope Process Serving Management Company are named as defendants in the lawsuit alleging two violations of the federal Racketeering Influenced And Corrupt Organizations Act and one count of violation of first amendment rights.

"From at least 2006 continuing until 2016 [d]efendants annually engaged in a pattern of racketeering where [d]efendants would take and receive money not due to them under the pretense that they were entitled to the money" by virtue of Pickell's political office, according to the lawsuit.

Checks were allegedly made out to Pickell, The Committee to Retain Sheriff Pickell, or a charity selected by Allen & Hope, described in the lawsuit as a "loosely knit business enterprise" designed to keep the sheriff in office and attack his opponents.

The amounts began at $65 and increased equally over the years, Batey claims. Plaintiffs in the case include William Trier, Jeffrey McKinsey, Harold Daniel, John Austin Harrington, Richard Sparks, Jacob Trier, Crystal Baker, and Joel Mata.

Copies of checks made out to Pickell and his campaign committee purportedly related to the allegations were attached to the lawsuit as evidence. Some of checks were endorsed with a signature reading "Scott L. Hope."

"They're typically just deputized," Batey said when contacted by MLive-The Flint Journal. "Just last week, plaintiffs were deputized by (Genesee Circuit) Judge (Richard) Yuille. He didn't charge a penny and there's no problem with charging money for deputizing if the money is going to the county. But they're acting as a political office to get money for personal gain."

If those seeking deputy status did not back the sheriff's political interest, they would not receive the designation, which the lawsuit claims is a violation of freedom of speech.

Hope, who said he had not read the lawsuit, said Wednesday afternoon when contacted by MLive-The Flint Journal that checks were filled out to Pickell to become deputies, but it was just a suggestion and "every dime" has been donated to a local charitable organization.

"We'd send out a letter each year with an amount," he said. "I never remember it being as high as $300 though."

Pickell said he was not aware of any checks and had not yet seen the lawsuit.

This isn't the first time Batey and Pickell have went head-to-head.

Embattled deputy settles retaliation lawsuit against sheriff's office

A settlement has been reached for a second sheriff's deputy who claims he was retaliated against after he gave testimony that was critical of the sheriff's office administration.

Batey previously handled a 2012 whistleblower lawsuit by fired deputy Joe Boulton who claimed he was demoted, stripped of police certification, and suspended after unfavorable testimony about Pickell and staff. A jury awarded Boulton $139,000.

A federal lawsuit in 2013 filed on behalf of former deputy Gerald Parks settled for $90,000 over allegations he was retaliated against and eventually forced to retire after providing testimony critical of the sheriff's office administration. That case was also handled by Batey.

Batey said the cases against Pickell were not personal.

"We had great success in the Boulton case and this one had merit," he said of the new lawsuit. "The ongoing cavern of what they did there is outrageous, using political office for personal gain is outrageous."

No court date has been set to hear the case.

MLive-Flint Journal reporter Oona Goodin-Smith contributed to this report.
Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:07 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Trier et al v. Genesee County et al
Plaintiff: William Trier, Jeffrey McKinsey, Harold Daniel, John Austin Harrington, Richard Sparks, Jacob Trier, Crystal Baker and Joel Mata
Defendant: Genesee County, Robert Pickell, Scott Hope and Allen & Hope Process Serving Management Co., Inc.
Case Number: 2:2017cv10236
Filed: January 25, 2017
Court: Michigan Eastern District Court
Office: Detroit Office
County: Genesee
Referring Judge: Anthony P. Patti
Presiding Judge: George Caram Steeh
Nature of Suit: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
Cause of Action: 18:1961
Jury Demanded By: Plaintiff
Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:20 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

County leaders mum after vote on secret advice in sheriff's legal issues

Molly Young | myoung7@mlive.com By Molly Young | myoung7@mlive.com
on February 22, 2017 at 4:58 PM, updated February 22, 2017 at 4:59 PM


GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- After going into closed session, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners emerged to publicly vote to follow the sheriff's recommendations on how to handle legal matters regarding his department.

And what exactly did they vote to do? Commissioners aren't saying.

No one has said what those recommendations were, or which legal matters were discussed during the non-public, closed session where the board consulted with its attorneys Monday morning, Feb. 21.

The Open Meetings Act allows public bodies like the Board of Commissioners to go into closed session, but requires all decisions of a public body to be made at an open meeting.

After the closed session, the eight of nine commissioners who attended the meeting voted unanimously to "follow the request and recommendation of the sheriff," but did not spell out the recommendation or reference a case name or number.

Commissioner Drew Shapiro was not at the meeting.

Officials -- including board Chair Mark Young, Sheriff Robert Pickell and Prosecutor David Leyton, who serves as corporation counsel for the county -- have declined to elaborate, saying it would defeat the purpose of the closed session and would reveal the details of ongoing legal disputes.

Pickell did add that it is often less expensive to settle a lawsuit than to pay attorney fees to fight it.

"Our system is not about the truth, it's about money. Lawyers file lawsuits, and why do they file them? They file them for money. That's what they're after. Its not about the truth it's about money," Pickell said.

The closed session meeting also was not on the scheduled agenda for the day.

The sheriff's office has been the subject of several lawsuits, including a $36.6 million excessive force lawsuit against five deputies and a federal RICO lawsuit alleging Pickell received payments in exchange for deputizing residents who he believed would help him politically.

The excessive force lawsuit is still in the appeals process, while the RICO case is pending.
Post Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:00 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

This article upset readers who believed it to be an abuse o the Open Meetings Act and possibly subject to FOIA. Reporter molly Young countered with stating the Commissioners had said it was regarding legal matters of the Sheriff but never cited any legal action or personnel issue. Then 8 of the 9 commissioners voted to follow the recommendations of the Sheriff.

Some readers speculated there was another "secret settlement" with the customary non-disclosure clause.
Post Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:06 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

David Martin Genesee Co. Commissioner
February 22 at 10:10pm · Davison ·

http://www.mlive.com/…/02/commissioners_hold_closed_meet.ht…

Anyone who wants can ask me about closed session rules. Closed sessions are for narrow specific reasons which, on Tuesday (2/21/17), were read and exemption was verified in open session by corporate counsel before voting to go closed. We need to protect your tax dollars without giving unfair advantage to litagators and/or speculators trying to take YOUR money because it is what lawyers are designed to do (it is not the county's money).

Of course commissioners were "mum," discussing the closed session would, by nature, negate the purpose of a closed session. By law, if anyone in the closed session leaks information they are criminally liable. Closed sessions are common and frequently occur in city, township, and county meetings for personnel actions, real estate, litigation and about 7 other exemptions.

http://www.nfoic.org/michigan-foia-laws
Michigan Open Meetings Act |Michigan Freedom of Information Act | NFOIC
Understand Michigan’s FOIA laws. Discover information about Michigan’s Open Meetings Act…
nfoic.org
Post Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:09 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Corporation Counsel is now under Leyton, possibly a violation of the Incompatible Offices Act, and some readers stated they believed Leyton and Pickell were in bed together. Shame on the new commissioners that we hoped would bring some honesty into the process.
Post Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:13 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Attorneys wanted criminal charges over Facebook posts during sheriff's race

Oona Goodin-Smith | ogoodins@mlive.com By Oona Goodin-Smith | ogoodins@mlive.com

on February 28, 2017 at 6:30 AM, updated February 28, 2017 at 6:32 AM

FLINT, MI -- One of the ugliest political races in recent Genesee County history has taken another twist with revelations that three outspoken critics of Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell sought criminal charges for Facebook accounts they claim made defamatory accusations against them.

Local attorneys Frank Manley, Glen Lenhoff and Scott Bigger filed a criminal complaint in July 2016 stating the accounts were "posting threats against ... character, professionalism and intimidation," according to a Flint Police Department police report obtained by MLive-The Flint Journal.

Manley, Lenhoff and Bigger were involved the New Sheriff in Town Super PAC, which was dedicated to defeating Pickell in the 2016 sheriff election.

The race for the Genesee County Sheriff's Office is turning presidential – at least in terms of the amount of money being used to try and secure the seat.

In August, search warrants authored by Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton's office were sworn out for information on three Facebook profiles -- William Sikes, Matt Lofton and Charley Bates -- as part of the investigation into the complaint, according to the police report.

Pickell said he had no part in creating the Facebook accounts in question.

"I am not Charley Bates," said Pickell. "I didn't create posts, maintain posts or had any part in planning any of this."

The public profile pages in question shared posts from Pickell's Facebook page, as well as statuses opposing Pickell's 2016 primary challenger, Dan Allen.

Posts on the accounts also contained sexual innuendos that threatened the attorneys, according to the police report.

Warrants were served on Facebook to obtain the IP addresses associated with the profiles, according to the report. After obtaining information from Facebook, the report claims additional warrants were served on three internet service providers to identify who the most-frequently used IP addresses were registered to.

The IP addresses from the accounts showed the profiles could be tracked back to the listed address of Scott Hope, executive director of Genesee County's process servers; Hope's company, Allen & Hope Processing; and the home of an Allen & Hope contractor, Chris Lackney.

The earliest public post on Bates' profile dates back to June 15, 2016, while Lofton's appears to have been created around July 5, 2016.

As of Monday, Feb. 27, the Lofton and Bates' accounts remain accessible on Facebook, while Sikes' appears to have been removed.

The last posts on the the Bates and Lofton accounts were Aug. 1 and 2, respectively. The initial search warrant was sworn out Aug. 1.

Despite the police investigation, Hope said he had no part in the accounts other than admiring them from afar as "political satire."

He told MLive-The Flint Journal that his IP address was only connected to the accounts because he "liked" posts from the profiles.

"I don't know if you know how Facebook works, but when you share something or like something [from your personal profile] on an account, your IP address can also be tracked back to that account," Hope told MLive-The Flint Journal.

Hope said he discovered Bates' and Lofton's accounts while reading the comments of another "satire" Facebook profile and began liking posts from the accounts in question because he found them funny.

"I am not these people, I don't have their passwords, I don't know anything about this," he said.

Lackney could not be reached by MLive-The Flint Journal for comment.

Pickell and Hope have a longstanding relationship with the sheriff recently turning to Hope to handle some civil matters for his department.

In December 2016, Pickell wrote a letter stating that "effective January 1, 2017, the Office of Genesee County Sheriff will exclusively use the firm of Allen, Hope & Associates to serve orders for seizure, evictions, claims and delivery, and foreclosures."

Hope and Pickell are also both currently named in a federal racketeering lawsuit that alleges Pickell, Hope and Allen & Hope worked as a "loosely knit business enterprise" designed to "financially enrich" the three and to keep Pickell in office and attack his opponents.

Manley, Lenhoff and Bigger are not involved in the racketeering suit. However, Manley said he believes these types of actions need to be made public.

"This is the kind of behavior that the public needs to know about," said Manley. "This behavior is criminal. The more light that it shines on this case, the more chance proper legal action will be taken."

Sheriff says he's 'never seen the money' alleged in federal racketeering lawsuit

Sheriff says he's 'never seen the money' alleged in federal racketeering lawsuit

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell says he "has never seen the money" that a federal racketeering lawsuit claims he charged court process servers.

However, Pickell denies any wrongdoing and said he has faith in Hope's work with the county.

"I trust Scott Hope -- he's trained these process servers for 18 years," said Pickell. "I have confidence in him, that's why. There is no RICO, that's a phony allegation. That's a fake allegation. That's a lawyer trying to make money. This is the third time he's sued me."

Both Pickell and Hope suggested that the warrants "tell the full story."

The public, however, is barred from seeing those warrants.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said the warrants were sealed on Sept. 7 by Judge Nathaniel Perry "to protect privacy."

After evaluating the criminal complaint, Leyton said he believes the case is "civil rather [than a] criminal case."

No criminal charges have been filed in connection to the investigation.

"It is the general policy of my office to focus on violent crime, drugs and to protect children and the elderly," Leyton said. "We do not have the manpower nor do we prioritize offensive social media postings as warranting criminal charges. That is best left to the civil arena and not to the taxpayers."
Post Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:12 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

The William Trier,et al case that sued Sheriff Pickell, et al in federal District Court is number 17-10236
Post Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:14 pm 
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