Stories indexed with the term ‘Washtenaw County prosecutor’

Board Gets Advice from County Electeds

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (June 4, 2014): The board’s meeting featured a discussion of how to allocate a budget surplus – prompted by recommendations from the five countywide “electeds.” The elected officials hope to partner with the county board as it sets priorities for the $3.9 million surplus from 2013. The county’s fiscal year is the same as the calendar year.

Kent Martinez-Kratz, Bob Tetens, Catherine McClary, Brian Mackie, Washtenaw County, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Commissioner Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1); Bob Tetens, director of parks & recreation; county prosecuting attorney Brian Mackie; and county treasurer Catherine McClary. (Photos by the writer.)

The board, comprised of elected officials representing nine districts, is responsible for budget decisions. The five positions that are elected by voters countywide – the sheriff, prosecuting attorney, treasurer, clerk/register of deeds and water resources commissioner – head up county departments but must have their budgets approved by the board.

The board is developing a process that will guide budget decisions regarding how to manage budget surpluses or shortfalls, including $3.9 million surplus from 2013 and about $600,000 in higher-than-budgeted property tax revenues in 2014. The county administrator, Verna McDaniel, is recommending that the $3.9 million be kept as general fund reserves. Some county commissioners would rather spend at least a portion of the surplus.

The recommendation from the electeds is to allocate a to-be-determined percentage of any surplus to these five areas: (1) unfunded liabilities for the pension fund; (2) unfunded liabilities for the retiree health care fund; (3) the county’s housing fund, which was eliminated in 2012; (4) the delinquent tax fund reserves, specifically for internal advances on county projects to save bonding costs; and (5) the capital reserve fund or unearmarked reserve fund.

Commissioners made no decision on these recommendations, other than to thank the electeds for their input.

In other budget-related action, the board gave final approval to put a 10-year parks & recreation millage renewal on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot. Commissioners also set public hearings for two millages that are levied annually in December without voter approval – for support of indigent veterans and their families; and to fund economic development and agricultural activities. Those hearings, to solicit public input, will be held at the board’s July 9 meeting.

The board also gave final approval to set the county’s general operating millage rate at 4.5493 mills – unchanged from the current rate. This is an annual process that includes a public hearing, which was also held on June 4. One person spoke.

A final vote was also taken to create a new committee that will explore funding options for road repair. This follows the board’s rejection – at its meeting on May 21, 2014 – of a proposal to levy a countywide tax for this purpose. No committee members have been appointed yet.

The board was also briefed on work by the community corrections unit, which is part of the sheriff’s department. It provides services that include jail diversion and alternative sentencing options to the Washtenaw County Trial Court, pre-trial services, drug testing, and electronic monitoring. The use of electronic monitoring has increased dramatically, from an average number of cases between 25-30 at any given time in FY 2012-2013, to between 85-115 cases in FY 2013-14.

During public commentary, commissioners heard from David Schonberger, an Ann Arbor resident who thanked the board for passing a resolution last month to oppose oil exploration and drilling in the county. He urged them to use it as a starting point for more action. Specifically, he advocated that the board fund a robust public education campaign and establish an advisory committee to work with Scio Township and the city of Ann Arbor on this issue. [Full Story]

School Board to Prosecutor: Rethink Charges

The Ann Arbor Public School board has weighed in to support three district students who face criminal charges as a result of a “brawl” that took place at the conclusion of a football game last year. The game took place on Oct. 12, 2012 between Huron and Pioneer high schools, both schools in the AAPS district. A hearing for one of the students is scheduled for one of the students on March 15, 2013.

The board’s resolution, which was put forward by trustee Susan Baskett, asks Washtenaw County prosecutor Brian Mackie to reconsider the charges his office has brought against the young men. Included as “resolved clauses” in the resolution were the  following:
THEREFORE, we ask that our students, when required … [Full Story]

County Prosecutor’s Race: Mackie, Altman

Washtenaw County voters have a choice between a Democrat and a Libertarian in this year’s election for county prosecuting attorney – incumbent Brian Mackie and Justin Altman. There is no Republican in this race.

From left:  Brian Mackie, Justin Altman

Candidates for Washtenaw County prosecuting attorney, from left: incumbent Democrat Brian Mackie and Libertarian Justin Altman. (Photos by the writer.)

At a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters on Oct. 11, the candidates fielded a range of questions – covering basic biographical background, their approach to customer service, and their views on discretion. Discretion came up in several ways – regarding victimless crimes, sentencing, opposition to parole, and the role of successor judges in granting parole.

Altman is a recent law school graduate who passed the state bar exam in 2011. At the forum, he made his Libertarian values at least an implicit part of his response to several questions asked by the league moderator. He raised the specter of law enforcement officials getting special treatment from the prosecutor’s office. He also questioned whether a prosecutor should use the force of law against defendants who’ve committed victimless crimes.

The only example of victimless crimes Altman gave at the forum related to marijuana, and that led Mackie at one point to wonder what crimes Altman was actually talking about. Mackie said his office spent relatively little of its time with those types of offenses, and he characterized the sentencing for such matters as light. Mackie highlighted the child support orders that his office obtains for 500-600 children every year, and his office’s prosecution of serious crimes. He characterized prosecution as serious work “for serious people.”

Both candidates for county prosecutor alluded to the vice presidential debate – between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan – that was taking place on the same evening. Mackie referred to the debate in order to make a point about relative importance: For many individuals – like victims of crime – the office of prosecuting attorney is more important than the office of vice president. Altman’s reference to the vice presidential debate was in the context of thanking the LWV for including him in the debate, noting that the vice presidential debate did not have a third-party voice represented.

Altman and Mackie have also given responses to five questions on the league’s website.

The office of county prosecutor handles all felonies and misdemeanors charged under state law. The office also is responsible for juvenile delinquency proceedings, terminations of parental rights in the case of child abuse and neglect, and mental health commitments. The elected position has a four-year term.

The Oct. 11 candidate forum was held at the studios of Community Television Network, and is available online via CTN’s video-on-demand service. Information on local elections can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. The website also includes a range of information on national, state and local candidates and ballot issues, and a “build my ballot” feature. [Full Story]

County Board OKs State Reimbursements

Several items related to state reimbursements for Washtenaw County units were given initial approval by county commissioners on Sept. 19, 2012. The timing reflects the state’s fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. In contrast, the county works on a calendar-year budget cycle; but many of its units receive significant state funding.

The Washtenaw County Trial Court juvenile division anticipates $4,329,042 in reimbursements from the state child care fund budget. Programs supported by these revenues include family foster care, institutional care and in-home care, according to a staff memo. The trial court’s Friend of the Court program is also seeking reimbursements for “services to residents who are seeking to establish paternity and/or child support orders.” Over a three-year period through Sept. 30, … [Full Story]

Hate Crime Rhetoric Not Supported by Facts

Last September, the start of the Ann Arbor Public Schools academic year was marred by news of a fight described as an attack on an Arab-American girl.

Street sign at Hollywood and North Maple in Ann Arbor

An incident last year at Hollywood and North Maple in Ann Arbor was originally described by some as a hate crime against an Arab-American girl. Instead, the girl was charged with disorderly conduct, and recently found guilty by a jury.

The episode prompted a media blitz by the advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations and calls for investigations by state and federal civil rights agencies.

The tenor changed little when the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office charged the alleged victim, signaling that authorities believed the then-16-year-old shared culpability in the incident.

At the time, Nabih Ayad, a lawyer representing the girl, called the charge “outrageous.”

A jury has disagreed, and later this month the teen will be sentenced on two counts of disorderly conduct.

In all, four young people – then all students at Skyline High School – were charged with crimes related to the incident that began as a school bus dropped students off near their homes on Maple Avenue.

However, Ann Arbor police were unpersuaded by claims that Arab-American teens were the victims of crime motivated by bias. In fact, investigators found evidence that contradicted much of what the 16-year-old Arab-American girl had said about the altercation that left her with an injury reportedly requiring half a dozen sutures. [Full Story]