Category: Legal News

Theis Honors Vetter For LUCAS CPR Devices

A local legislator honored a young hero from the community this week in Lansing.

Fourth grader Lucas Vetter was in Lansing, Wednesday, with his family, on the floor of the State Senate, to be presented with a special tribute from State Senator Lana Theis of Brighton Township. The Rose Township student is responsible for bringing lifesaving LUCAS Chest Compression Systems to area fire stations. The LUCAS system automatically performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and helps free firefighters, paramedics, and medical technicians from having to switch every 2 minutes while doing CPR. Each device costs $16,000 and, to date,

Vetter has helped to raise over $64,000 through his Vetter Family Foundation, which he created in 2018 after being inspired by the device’s lifesaving capabilities. Thanks to his efforts, his foundation has gifted two LUCAS systems to the Howell Area Fire Department, one to the Hamburg Township Fire Department, and one to the Fowlerville Area Fire Department.

Theis called Vetter “an inspiration,” and said that “his compassion, hard work, and dedication to our community are an example of what we should all aspire to.” She continued, saying that the special tribute is an expression of gratitude and thanks on the behalf of the residents of the 22nd Senate District to Vetter for making the state a better, safer place to live.

In addition to Theis, the special tribute was also signed by Senator Ruth Johnson, Representative Mike Mueller, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (MK)

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Commissioners Select Griffith As New Board Chair

A familiar face will be leading the Livingston County Board of Commissioners following the resignation of its former chair.

At its Finance Committee meeting this morning, the board unanimously selected County Commissioner Carol Griffith to lead the board for the remainder of 2020. The vote followed the surprise announcement last week that Board Chair Donald Parker would be stepping down in order to pursue the open job of County Administrator. Griffith is not new to the role of board chair, having served in the role previously.

As for filling Parker’s 5th District seat, Commissioner Bob Bezotte motioned at today’s meeting to appoint former Commissioner Jay Drick to fill the remainder of the term, but the motion failed on a 4-4 vote. Those voting against the motion were Griffith and fellow Commissioners Kate Lawrence, Dennis Dolan and Gary Childs. In support were Bezotte and Commissioners Wes Nakagiri, Doug Helzerman and William Green. Drick previously indicated he plans to run for the seat in November, but also sought an appointment. Others who have filed for the appointment are former Commissioner Mike Randall and Howell Township Planning Commission member Glen Miller. Drick and Randall are Republicans, Miller is a Democrat.

Parker’s resignation was effective last Thursday, February 13th at 5pm, giving the board 30 days from that point to fill the seat in order to avoid a special election. Following today’s meeting, the county released a statement that interested parties submit a letter of interest and a résumé by 5pm, Wednesday February 26th, with interviews scheduled for the Board of Commissioners meeting the following Wednesday, March 4th. Applicants must be residents of District 5, which includes the City of Howell and Cohoctah and Howell townships. Details are posted below. (JK)

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Howell Grad Returns For Free Concert Next Month

A musician will make a homecoming next month as part of a free concert in Howell.

The duo Ironwood consists of Anna Dorsey and her husband, Mark Pierce, who perform music inspired by both Celtic and Rock traditions. After seven years performing with a larger ensemble, the couple broke away last year and began investing in their own songwriting. While they live in Troy, Dorsey has deep roots in Howell. Her maternal grandparents owned Joan Carol’s, a women’s clothing store in Downtown Howell. In fact, her grandfather Jack Shuker was once the president of the Howell Chamber of Commerce. Anna graduated from Howell High School, where she was a member of a Celtic music club.

Dorsey will return to her hometown March 7th where Ironwood will perform a free concert at the Howell Carnegie District Library from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

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Fenton Man Charged In Human Trafficking Sting Enters Plea

A plea to child sex abuse charges has been entered by a Fenton man.

58-year-old Kevin Robert Choma was one of a dozen men arrested last July by the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team, or GHOST, in an operation that targeted human trafficking. All 12 defendants were charged with felonies relating to attempting to meet and engage in sex acts with 13, 14, and 15-year-old children. Choma was charged with child sexually abusive activity, a 20-year felony, as well as an additional 20-year felony of using a computer to commit a crime against a child, and accosting a child for immoral purposes, a 4-year felony.

Court records show that on Tuesday, he entered a plea of guilty to using a computer to commit a crime against a child in exchange for the other two counts being dropped. When Choma is sentenced April 7th, he’ll face a minimum of 12 to 20 months according to a pre-sentence agreement.

Meanwhile, a Tyrone Township man is facing similar charges after also being arrested by the task force. 39-year-old Jeremy J. Studt was charged last month with the same three felony counts. His case was recently bound over to Genesee County Circuit Court for trial. Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said the most recent arrests involved undercover officers going on specific websites to offer up children between the ages of 13 and 15 for sex. (JK)

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Howell Township ZBA Clarifies 3 Points For New Member

The Howell Township Zoning Board of Appeals made three interpretations against a requestor who was newly appointed to the board.

At Tuesday night’s meeting of the ZBA, Carrie Newstead was appointed as Chairwoman, A.J. Sloan was re-appointed as Vice-Chair, and their newest member, Tim Boal, was formally welcomed onto the team. As quickly as he took his seat with his peers, however, Boal had to recuse himself as the requestor of a public hearing to obtain clarification on 3 sections of the township’s zoning ordinance. Sloan said he overcame a concerned about their being a conflict of interest. He said he believes they have the ability to look at each situation on its own merits, and every resident in Howell Township has the right to apply or appeal at the ZBA. Just because he is a newly appointed member, Sloan says, that does not disqualify him from submitting an application.

Boal lives off a private road and onjects to a construction trailer sitting on the private road and in the right of way. He requested clarifications on the outdoor parking and storage of such a vehicle, visibility at intersections, and off-street parking requirements. Boal believed his neighbor was in violation of all, including others that he didn’t bring to the discussion. Following a closed session to review legal opinion without Boal present, the remaining ZBA members returned to ask follow-up questions and make a judgement.

While sympathetic to Boal’s issues, they first ruled that their ordinance had nothing to do with parking a trailer on a private road. They then offered clarification that the trailer being parked on a private road made it not subject to the impacts of visibility. Finally, they interpreted the trailer as being parked on-street, and thus not subject to off-street requirements. Boal disagreed with the interpretations, believing the ordinance was written clearly and in his favor. Howell Township Trustee and ZBA liaison Evan Rudnicki said that interpretations can get fuzzy, in that, if someone is passionate about something, you run the danger of potentially interpreting things in a way that is beneficial to one’s argument.

Sloan empathized, and suggested that to ZBA, perhaps they needed to be written more clearly to be seen Boal’s way. Newstead said she felt his frustrations, having lived on private roads herself. ZBA members mused that perhaps they need to look into reworking some ordinances to be more specific with private roads.(MK)

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Sanctuary County Resolution Gets First Approval

A resolution that seeks to establish Livingston County as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” has received its first vote of approval by a county subcommittee.

The resolution from Commissioner Bob Bezotte “urges the Michigan Legislature, the United States Congress, and other agencies of State and Federal government to (reject) any provision, law, or regulation that may infringe, have the tendency to infringe, or place any additional burden on the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms and that restrict constitutional rights.” The proposal came before the Public Safety and Infrastructure and Development committee Tuesday. The committee members are Bezotte and Commissioners Dennis Dolan, Carol Griffith and Gary Childs.

Following a lengthy public comment period at the meeting, Bezotte, who is a Vietnam veteran and former Livingston County Sheriff, shared why this effort is important to him and necessary. Speaking to his time in the military and 33 years in law enforcement, Bezotte said, “I have seen the abuse by prosecutors and judges that don’t follow their oath of office.” He then applauded the numerous residents present for attending the meeting and voicing their thoughts, stating that “that’s the only way things change”. While the majority of those that spoke were supportive of the resolution, there were a few residents that felt it would allow the Board to exceed their authoritative power and that it singles out the Second Amendment. One gun owner said they were more in favor of “common sense laws”.

Commissioners Wes Nakagiri and Doug Helzerman also attended the meeting and spoke to voice their support. Helzerman said the resolution is “the most common sense thing that could happen because it is the common sense of all humanity”. Nakagiri spoke to the need for a local resolution, arguing that the federal government “doesn’t always get it right”, citing Executive Order 9066; a controversial World War II policy that order Japanese Americans into internment camps.

The county subcommittee then took a vote on the resolution. It passed, with Childs as the only oppositional vote. Childs tells WHMI he was opposed to the resolution because while it does reaffirm the Board’s support of the entire Constitution, he also notes that it highlights one particular amendment – that being the Second. Childs says, “…especially in today’s political environment, we’re becoming very divisive and having one amendment over all the 27 is, in my mind, a wedge that’s driving us further and further apart.”

Childs shared similar thoughts during Tuesday’s meeting, which received a response from Bezotte. He pointed out that the resolution also states that it would affirm the Commission’s support of the entire Constitution of the United States and the State of Michigan, not just the Second Amendment. Childs acknowledged that he is aware of those declarations in the resolution, but still feels it’s “not necessary” and won’t “bring the people together”.

The resolution now moves to the full Board of Commissioners for a final vote on Monday, February 24th. (DK)

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Bond Denied For Man Charged With Impersonating Cop

A man who posed as a police officer and pulled over a woman in Livingston County will remain behind bars for the time being.

42-year-old Michael Joseph Snyder of Northfield Township was charged in December with false impersonation of a police officer or employee of the United States following an October 27th incident on I-96 in Livingston County. A woman says she was pulled over by Snyder after she passed his 2015 Ford F-250 truck, but was immediately suspicious after Snyder started swearing at her. She also noticed that his truck had Texas license plates. When she questioned him, she says Snyder claimed to be a federal agent. She drove off after telling Snyder she didn’t believe him, but then followed the truck onto US-23 until it exited at M-36.

Snyder was later arrested at his home in Northfield Township where illegally installed red and blue flashing lights were found on his truck. Authorities also discovered a large assortment of tactical gear and weapons inside his home. Snyder told police he owns an online retail company that sells police tactical gear, but further investigation indicated Snyder has been accused of impersonating a police officer in previous incidents in Ann Arbor and Texas.

He had requested bond, a move the government opposed, classifying him as a flight risk. The judge agreed, ruling there was “clear and convincing evidence” Snyder’s appearance could not be reasonably guaranteed and that his release would pose a serious danger to the community. His trial was originally set for February 11th, but has been moved back to April 14th while negotiations over a possible plea deal continue. (JK)

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Kim Hahn Named Howell Schools’ Teacher Of The Year

A teacher at Three Fires Elementary has been named as Howell Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year.

Kim Hahn, a first grade teacher at Three Fires Elementary, was recently named the 2019-2020 Howell Public Schools Teacher of the Year. Hahn was surprised with the Teacher of the Year award by Superintendent Erin MacGregor, Three Fires Principal Bob Starkey, and many of her former students. Several Three Fires Elementary teachers and members of Hahn’s family were also part of the surprise. Hahn has been teaching at Howell Public Schools for 18 years.

Hahn reportedly received multiple nominations for the award, with each highlighting her willingness to always go above and beyond to ensure that all students achieve success, her passion for teaching, and her ability to find innovative ways to deliver the curriculum. A committee of 22 district stakeholders comprised of teachers, support staff, parents, central office administrators, and a school board member met February 4th to consider 82 Teacher of the Year nominees. After reviewing the nominations, the committee selected Hahn as this year’s winner. She will now represent Howell Public Schools in the Michigan Teacher of the Year competition.

MacGregor says, “I could list a million things that make Mrs. Hahn such a special educator. Most importantly, she provides a safe environment for our students and challenges them to be their very best.”

Starkey says, “Mrs. Hahn always puts her students first and does what is in the very best interest of her students and to help them succeed”, adding, “She sets the bar for classroom management and creates an environment where students can take risks and where all students feel loved. She is always an advocate for her students, our school, and Howell Public Schools.”

Hahn says being named Teacher of the Year is a true honor and that it is a privilege to be a part of a team of so many dedicated educators, working together daily to ensure the success of all students. The Howell Board of Education will honor Hahn at its March meeting.

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Public Comment Sought On SEMCOG Annual Operating Budget

The public comment period is open for Southeast Michigan Council of Governments for the FY 2020-2021 Annual Operating Budget and Work Program Summary.

A 30-day public comment period is underway for the work program summary and budget, which is designed to respond to needs of the region as identified by SEMCOG membership. As the work program is implemented, many of the resulting products are guided by SEMCOG’s Transportation Coordinating Council and task forces, Executive Committee, and/or General Assembly. Officials say SEMCOG’s meeting structure provides ample opportunity for input from a variety of interested parties through diverse membership and meetings, which are open to the public; include public comment opportunities; are posted on SEMCOG’s website and social media; and are featured in Regional Update, SEMCOG’s biweekly newsletter.

The SEMCOG Annual Operating Budget and Work Program Summary can be viewed through the provided link, along with more information on the various opportunities available to comment. (JM)

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Appeals Court Sends Sahouri Lawsuit To Trial

An appeals panel has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Hartland Consolidated Schools more than seven year ago by a former administrator.

Tracey Sahouri sued the district in 2012, alleging it violated the Whistleblower Protection Act when it removed her as principal from Creekside Elementary School. Sahouri claims her removal as principal and re-assignment to a teaching position was in retaliation for reporting “irregularities” in how the district administered state-mandated student achievement tests. The district contends Sahouri’s re-assignment was based on the conclusions of a state report that determined teachers at Creekside improperly gained access to material from the tests. Discussions over a possible settlement in the case have repeatedly failed and a trial that had been scheduled in Genesee County Circuit Court for September was again adjourned after the school district asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to rule on their motion to dismiss the lawsuit and impose sanctions on Sahouri for her “failure to timely provide discovery of audio recordings” and her “destruction of text messages.”

The recordings in question involve conversations Sahouri reportedly recorded on her cell phone, but only came to light in 2017. The Michigan Court of Appeals heard oral arguments last month and in a decision released last week determined that while withholding the existence of the audio recordings by Sahouri and her attorney, Tom Pabst, was not proper, it did not merit dismissing the case. The judges then remanded the case back to circuit court for a determination of what sanctions, if any, should be levied against the plaintiffs. As to the text messages, the court agreed with Sahouri that their deletion was not intentional and came about “as a result of the routine, good-faith operation of an electronic information system.” They also denied a request by the district for a forensic audit of Sahouri’s recording devices, saying they were “essentially requesting a fishing expedition.” They also noted such a request would again delay the trial, and that, “the trial court reached a reasonable outcome in deciding that further postponement was not warranted.”

Following the opinion, Pabst told WHMI that he is looking forward to trying the case to jury verdict, which he believes “will well exceed $500,000.” Pabst say that one of the “big stories being missed here” is how much the district has had to pay its defense attorneys, which he estimates to be in excess of $750,000. “Why would a school district pay $750,000+ to defend a case it could have settled for $500,000? Don’t the taxpayers deserve an explanation?”

When asked for comment, Hartland Superintendent Chuck Hughes said the appeals court found Sahouri “committed egregious misconduct by hiding key evidence in this case for more than five years” and “instructed the trial court to consider sanctioning Ms. Sahouri for her conduct. Possible sanctions include dismissing the case. The District does not financially reward bad behavior. We will continue to act in the District’s and taxpayers’ best interests as this matter proceeds.”

No new court dates have been set. (JK)

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