Category: Legal News

Railroad Crossing Repairs Scheduled In Genoa, Marion & Handy Townships

A number of road closures are scheduled to allow for railroad crossing repairs.

The Livingston County Road Commission issued nine advisories for different crossings where work will be taking place over the next couple of weeks. In Genoa Township, CSX Transportation will be repairing the grade crossing on Challis Road located east of Bauer Road starting Monday, lasting through Thursday. Repairs are also scheduled to start Monday at the Crooked Lake Road railroad crossing just west of Dorr Road and be completed Friday. Then on Tuesday, repairs start at the Sweet Road crossing and should be done Thursday. Repairs also start Tuesday at the grade crossing at Chilson Road, located just north of I-96, and the crossing on Lucy Road. Both are scheduled for completion Friday. The four remaining advisories are in Handy Township. The railroad crossing at Hogback Road will be closed Wednesday through Friday; the crossing at Cemetery Road will be closed Thursday and Friday; the crossing on Van Riper Road will be closed next Thursday through Monday, July 1st. Repairs at the railroad crossing on Nicholson Road will start Monday July 1st and should be completed by Wednesday, July 3rd.

The Road Commission says signs will be placed near the crossings in advance of the start dates to notify motorists of the upcoming closures. (JM)

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Handy Township Adopts New Solar Ordinance

Handy Township has a new solar energy facilities ordinance.

The board met Monday night and approved the ordinance, which takes effect seven days after publication. The ordinance will apply to both commercial and residential uses. It sets various minimum landscaping buffers and facilities cannot exceed 25 feet in total height. Supervisor Ed Alverson tells WHMI the township wanted to be proactive in regard to a solar ordinance so that anyone who comes to Handy Township knows what the requirements are, noting they used local legal counsel as well as an attorney out of Grand Rapids. Alverson says because of the new requirements of the public utilities commissions for more green energy, they felt that maybe the municipality might attract some sort of commercial facility. He noted they’ve had quite a few people kicking tires but no one who is really ready to make a proposal. Alverson says they feel they have a solid ordinance so if someone comes in, residents will feel that it is well planned, fits in and will provide green energy for future generations.

The board vote to approve the ordinance was 5-1, with Trustee Gordon Munsell opposed. He raised some issues with the buffering and height requirements. Munsell commented that projects in other areas have resulted in tree clearing because the solar panels work fine in the winter but not in the spring and summer when trees fill in and shade them. Both the township planning commission and Livingston County planning department recommended approval. (JM)

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Owner Of WWII Ration Books & Stamps Sought

South Lyon Police are hoping to find the owner of some historically significant items found recently in McHattie Park.

Earlier this month, a resident brought to police a series of World War Two ration booklets including stamps used for food and a variety of commodities like sugar. Lt. Doug Baaki says the woman who found them is a regular walker in the park and found them lying on the grass. She later turned them in to the police department, which has been trying to locate their owner since. Baaki says while they don’t have a high monetary value, they are an interesting piece of history that serves as a reminder how the public was asked to sacrifice during the war.

Following America’s entry into the war in 1941, rationing was instituted as part of the nation’s war effort. Every citizen was issued a series of ration books, which contained stamps that could be exchanged for certain rationed items, like sugar, meat, cooking oil, and canned goods. Once the stamps for a particular month were used up, no more of that item could be obtained. Among the names listed in the books are Pat Palmer of Hastings and Owen Mulvey of Grand Rapids.

Lt. Baaki says they will hold the books and stamps for six months as they look for their owner, but after that he hopes they can be donated to the South Lyon Historical Society, which has expressed an interest in obtaining them. Anyone who may know the owner of the booklets and stamps is asked to call South Lyon Police at 248-437-1773. (JK)

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Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments From Judge Brennan’s Defense, JTC

The Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments on 53rd District Judge Theresa Brennan’s petition to reject or modify the Judicial Tenure Commission’s recommendation for her removal from the bench and to pay costs and fees of $35,000 for intentional misrepresentations and misleading statements made to the Commission.

JTC Executive Director Lynn Helland and Brennan’s defense attorney Dennis Kolenda each had 30 minutes before the Supreme Court at the Hall of Justice in Lansing, Wednesday morning to present their case. Brennan’s petition argues that the Commission had prejudged her case before her hearing, last October.

Kolenda had the podium first and called the case a “tale of unrequited desire.” Not desire in the sense of an alleged relationship between Brennan and former state detective Sean Furlong, but rather a desire by the JTC to save ego because of disappointment that their case hasn’t developed as they thought it would. He argued against there being evidence of romantic relationship between Brennan and Furlong before an infamous 2013 court case; against the unknown content of phone calls and texts between the two. In October’s hearing, testimony was given regarding a kiss between Furlong and Brennan in 2007. Kolenda claims that the kiss was an unwanted advance against Brennan, was not romantic, and led her to cut off the relationship. He said everyone concedes there was no romance before the case was concluded. As for records which suggest there were 1,500 calls and 400 texts over multiple years, Kolenda said that sounds like a lot, but maybe it isn’t in today’s day and age. When asked by Justice Megan Cavangh if that isn’t evidence that should still be disclosed, Kolenda said it establishes that they were exchanging a lot, but that we don’t know the content. He argued that the number of correspondences to Furlong were similar to the number of correspondences Brennan had with Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Ryan, and less than she had with her sister.

Kolenda also addressed an alleged friendship with attorney Shari Pollesch. He said the JTC accused Brennan of not recusing herself from 5 cases pending in front of her between 2014-2016. While the two had gone skiing 3 times over 20 years and been in a book club together, Kolenda said the two were estranged during that time. He said they both agreed that their relationship was dead and they had nothing to do with each other during that period.

Kolenda said the JTC has no foundation for their requests. He argued that while there may be a little misconduct, though he didn’t think so himself, if there was, it shouldn’t result “in a hanging.” He said the punishment should fit the crime, and removal from the bench is “way out of proportion.”

Helland then took podium and likened Brennan’s behavior to that of a forest of misconduct. He identified 3 areas of misconduct, accusing her of being deceiving with false statements, abusing her power over attorneys and court staff, and an unwillingness to remove herself from cases where she may have a perceived conflict of interest.

Helland said that Brennan enjoyed the power of her position, but did not recognize constraints. She couldn’t separate her personal self from her judicial self and refuses to acknowledge any wrong doing except for in the most inconsequential of occurrences. Helland said her default position is to conceal, lie and mislead. He claimed she did so in the Kowalski case with Furlong, when asked about Shari Pollesch representing her husband in court, when asked why she didn’t disqualify herself from her own divorce case, when deleting data from a phone with an order of evidence protection on it, having her staff do campaign work for her, and having her staff perform personal errands. Helland said that in her view, she is a victim of forces that are out to get her, and that none of this trouble she may be in is on her. According to him, Brennan has a self-serving denial of reality.

Helland said all one has to do is spend time with the three written statements she’s submitted to the JTC with her testimony, and contrast it with the evidence in the record. He said she often creates this false picture with very small lies. Helland said Brennan misleads by saying something with a kernel of truth, but with a twist. While the defense described the 2007 kiss between her and Furlong an “an assault,” Helland said testimony from Shawn Ryan claimed that the kiss “was romantic; un-nerved her, but was romantic.” Helland said evidence shows she talked to Furlong as much as anybody and couldn’t resist talking to him during the Kowalski trial. Whether Brennan and Pollesch were estranged or not, Pollesch was still representing her husband, and Helland continued by saying that in the middle of 10 of Pollesch’s cases Brennan presided over, Brennan described Pollesch as her best friend.

Justice Richard Bernstein asked Helland how he would prioritize the charges. Helland said they should be viewed as a package, but to him the most serious is the pervasive lying. Helland said that he has heard from others that they believe not taking herself off her own divorce case, tampering with evidence, failing to disclose her relationship with Furlong and then hiding it to each be the most serious, but to him it is the lying. He concluded saying that any one of them would suffice for having her removed from the bench. (MK)

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Major Renovation Project Underway At Brighton District Library

Much needed upgrades have started at the Brighton District Library.

A pretty significant project is underway with the library renovating 90% of the facility. The library was originally built in 1996 and officials say the Brighton community has grown exponentially since that time and the library in its present state has significant space limitations, an aging HVAC system, and outdated décor and configuration. An extensive space needs assessment was conducted, which evaluated the Library’s collection size, staff workflows, facility usage and patron needs and desires as determined by a patron survey. The outcome of the assessment included a comprehensive reconsideration of how the space could be used more effectively. The renovations aim to create a patron centered facility that is aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, and functional. The project is being funded through an operating millage increase approved by voters in 2015 and the board has been saving up since. Needed improvements to the exterior of the building and grounds began in 2017 with new restrooms, handicapped access to the garden, a new roof, new parking lot and landscaping.

Library Director Cindy Mack says the project is really going to affect services in the years to come and the environment they’re providing for the community. She tells WHMI the library will be busy and noisy but hopes patrons understand but their goal was to be open and accessible – although it might not always be the ideal environment since they’re under construction. The work is happening in the middle of summer, which she says is their busiest time of year but it worked out schedule wise. The project is being done in a phased approach over a five month period so there will be some areas blocked off but Mack says patrons should have access to most materials. She says some work will be minor like meeting rooms will just get a fresh coat of paint and new carpeting. Mack says the youth room will be expanded into the adult area, some interior walls will move and other areas will be re-configured. She says they will also be relocating the teen area to where the computers currently are and creating a one-point-of-service desk to meet patron and customer service needs better. Recently, the check-out desk moved to the information desk area to prepare for a new wall and the information desk moved across the hall into the teen area. New walls went up in the Youth Department and a plastic barrier was placed in the atrium to keep the dust down as demolition of the old check out desk began on Tuesday. The renovation work is scheduled to wrap up in early November. (JM)

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Highland Twp. Man Sentenced On Drug & Weapons Charges

A Highland Township man has been sentenced to prison on charges stemming from a narcotics raid on an adult foster care home.

49-year-old Russell Cockerham pleaded guilty in April to possession with intent to deliver cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana, possession of morphine, being a felon in possession of a firearm, five counts of felony firearms and being a fourth-time habitual offender. The charges followed a raid August 2nd of 2018 at a senior care facility in Holly run by his wife, Angela Cockerham.

In Oakland County Circuit Court last week, Russell Cockerham was sentenced to serve a term of one to 40 years in prison on the delivery and manufacture of a controlled substance charge and one to 15 years each for being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance under 25 grams. Four other weapons counts netted him a two-year sentence. As part of a plea agreement, another felony firearm charge and a count of delivery and manufacture of methamphetamine and ecstasy were dismissed. Angela Cockerham also pleaded guilty to one count of cocaine possession in April, but her sentencing information has been removed from the public court record.

The Cockerhams’ were charged after the Oakland County Narcotic Enforcement Team executed a search warrant in August at the Carter Country Homes in Holly. Police say the raid turned up cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and morphine, along with firearms and packaging materials associated with drug trafficking. Angela Cockerham served as the facility manager for the adult assisted living home, where residents said Russell Cockerham regularly smoked marijuana, and that suspected drug dealing at all hours would wake them up. State officials previously suspended the license for the group home, citing numerous violations including failing to provide a safe environment for residents. (JK)

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Public Hearings Set For Four Hamburg Township SADs

Public hearing times and a date have been set for 4 Hamburg Township subdivisions that are being prepared to have their roads repaired.

It was with overwhelming support that residents in four neighborhoods signed petitions to establish special assessment districts to improve their streets. The Hamburg Township Board of Trustees announced the required public hearing times, Tuesday evening. All hearings will take place on July 16th, before the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Residents in the Towering Pines district, which had roughly 64% support based on road frontage, will have their hearing 5pm. Shadow Woods, which had 86.3% approval, will go at 5:30. At 6pm, Tamarack North subdivision residents, where 94% support the SAD, will have their opportunity to speak. The Tara Glen subdivision, with 72% in support, will close out the hearings at 6:30.

These projects are the beginning of a concerted effort by Hamburg Township officials to bring relief to residents, many of whom live in subdivisions that haven’t had road repairs done in decades. More subdivisions could potentially follow and become part of the one bond the township will take out for all of the projects next spring. The township will be paying all the administrative and bond issuance costs for subdivisions wishing to participate in this one-time offer.

Clerk Mike Dolan recognized Supervisor Pat Hohl’s hard work in particular in getting this project up and running in such a quick manner. Hohl said that the state has neglected its responsibility and that it’s a shame that the residents have to pay to fix their roads, but that they’ve worked very hard on this project. He said he finds no fault with the Livingston County Road Commission, and that the County’s been very supportive of the township’s efforts.

Additionally, Hohl says they have been getting requests for private roads from those residents, who are also paying into the road millage. Officials seemed in support of a private road SAD program, offering them same deal with payment of administrative costs and a chance to get on the bond, but made the decision to first check with legal counsel to see whether or not public monies could be spent there. Hohl said that “if it’s go, we’ll start. If not, we’ll bring it back in July.” (MK)

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Crouse Road Bridge To Close Thursday

A bridge project starts tomorrow, resulting in the closure of a busy road in Hartland Township.

The Livingston County Road Commission advises that the Crouse Road bridge over north Ore Creek be closed starting tomorrow. The rehabilitation project involves deck surface repair, joint replacement, and painting sub-structure. Crouse Road will be closed to traffic from Old U-23 to Hartland Road, which includes the overpass over US-23. The preventive maintenance project is expected to last around a month and it’s a busy road with a traffic count of around 8,000 vehicles per day.

The project has an anticipated completion date of Wednesday, August 21st. All of the work is weather dependent. (JM)

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TechnoDogs Honored For Championship In Lansing

A local robotics team celebrated their world championship at the Capitol, Wednesday. The Brighton FIRST Robotics team, known as the TechnoDogs, took first place in the international robotics competition held at the Cobo Center in Detroit, this past April. Wednesday, they were honored by State Senator Lana Theis, of Brighton Township, and her colleagues in Lansing. The team consists of 68 students and 35 mentors. For the world championships, teams work for 6 weeks building game-playing robots that perform Olympian-style tasks like scoring balls and flying discs into goals, hanging on bars, and navigating balance beams.

Senator Theis presented the team with a special tribute to honor and commemorate their achievement. She said it is an honor to recognize the TechnoDogs for their accomplishments, not only at the competition, but also in the classroom and community. Being a scientist herself, Theis said it brings her great joy seeing so many students excited about STEM and that they are developing skills that will serve them throughout their careers. She said residents of the 22nd Senate district should be proud of the team, their coaches, the mentors, and the students’ parents. (MK)

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Four War Memorials Coming To Livingston County Airport

Veterans and the public will have a special opportunity to visit a series of war memorials that are making their way to Livingston County next month.

The Connect Five Veterans Foundation, with support from the Disabled American Veteran Chapter 125 and Auxiliary Unit 125 are bringing the Freedom is Never Free Traveling Memorials to the Livingston County Airport, in Howell Township, July 10th through the 14th. Connect 5 Director and Commander of the DAV Chapter 125, Mark Kovach, said these memorials represent 8 decades of service by American troops. The memorials on display will be a 50% replica of the World War II Memorial from Washington D.C., the Korean War Memorial with 23 full size statues, the Michigan Vietnam Traveling Wall, and the Eyes of Freedom Traveling Memorial. The Eyes of Freedom Memorial features life-size oil paintings honoring the 23 brothers of the Lima Company that were killed in two IED explosions in Iraq.

Kovach said the memorial not only helps educate the public on what the country and veterans have been through, but that they also act as a place of healing for the veterans. This is the first time in Michigan that all 4 of these memorials will be presented together. Additionally, there will be a Master Modeler Traveling Museum exhibit, featuring artifacts from World War 1 to the Afghanistan crisis.

Last year, the Wall that Heals Vietnam Memorial Wall had its greatest attendance from all 33 stops in Livingston County, leading organizers to expect an even larger draw with more memorials this year.

The travelling memorials will roll in by escort from the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office from Dundee, up to Kensington Road, and then down Grand River through Brighton and Howell to the airport. Viewings will begin on July 11th, and will be free and open to the public 24 hours a day through the weekend. (MK)

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