By Joel Thurtell
If you’d been Michigan’s attorney general, what would you have done?
Allowed a state trooper to proceed with his investigation into possible corruption in a 2001 election?
Or would you have killed the investigation?
The question is significant. The election made possible construction of a purported $2 billion complex that has since gone bust, with big buildings standing unfinished. The development, dubbed “Bloomfield Park,” is a blight for the communities of Pontiac and Bloomfield Townsip.
This disaster was made possible by a very questionable annexation election on September 11, 2001.
Were tenants of a neighborhood in Bloomfield Township enticed to register as voters and cast ballots that favored the interests of their landlord who wanted the enclave to be carved away from Bloomfield Township and annexed to Pontiac?
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox reviewed evidence collected by Michigan State Police Det. Sgt. Gary Muir and decided against charging employees of developer Craig Schubiner’s Harbor Companies with corrupting the annexation election. There were enough “yes” votes for the area to be annexed, which cleared the way for Schubiner to build his $2 billion megacomplex of apartments, offices, stores and theaters at Telegraph and Square Lake roads.
Or try to.
Schubiner dodged questions about financing, and eventually ran out of money in mid-construction.
Today, the high-rises stand empty, unfinished, waiting for somebody to scrape up $200 million to tear them down.
It’s a cinch that person won’t be Craig Schubiner.
Then Bloomfield Township Clerk Wilma Cotton, with no support from colleagues on the Bloomfield Township board, filed an election fraud complaint with state police and tried valiantly to bring the developer to justice.
Cox refused to prosecute those employees of Harbor Companies implicated in the purloined election. In 2004, Sgt. Muir told me that Cox went so far as to stop the state police investigation without issuing the subpoenas Muir needed to look at Harbor’s bank records to trace flows of money.
Nonetheless, Muir collected a pile of evidence.
What do YOU think? Should Cox have prosecuted these people?
Here, printed with permission of the Detroit Free Press, is a section of my May 10, 2004 Free Press article (for the full story, scroll to May 10, 2004) detailing evidence of voter corruption given to Cox by Muir:
What the tenants said
State Police Detective Sgt. Gary Muir was assigned to look into a complaint of vote fraud brought by Cotton, the township clerk, in late 2002. He found, according to his investeigataive file, that in July and August 2001, 14 new voters registered in teh Harbor enclave.
Here’s what the State Police file says about statements six Harbor tenants made about arrangements they allegedly had with Harbor:
— Elizabeth Johnson, a year after the election, signed an affidavit stating that Harbor controller Dawn Foulke and property manager Cynthia Jo Daly recruited her to live in a Harbor-owned house rent-free if she would register to vote, sign an annexation petitition and vote yes in the election. Johnson’s affidavit says she registered to vote on Aug. 10, 2001, and “I voted as instructed in favor of annexation on Sept. 11, 2001.” She moved into the house two weeks later.
— Craig Ginter stated that in summer 2001, “I received a phone call from Dawn Foulke asking me if I would be interested in free rent for 6 mos. in Bloomfield. I said I would consider it. She called back and sweetened the deal, offering 8 mos.. Then 10 or more. I acccepted. The only stipulation was that I had to change my address that day and register to vote in Bloomfield. I did. I voted ‘yes’ and I did because I had been trated very well by Harbor Cos., and this had been agreed upon before I moved in.”
Besides free rent, Ginter said Harbor gave him a $500-a-week job as company courier.
— In her statement, Shannon Harris said that she and her sister, Jeri Beth Dunn, shared a Harbor-owned house and the company “did offer them free rent for one year to vote in the election.”
— According to the transcript of her tape-recorded interview with investigators, Jeri Beth Dunn said the rent-free offer came from Foulke, who is her cousin. Dunn said Foulke gave her $500 cash each month, and Dunn said she then bought a $500 money order to pay the rent. “What you really had to do to move in was sign the petition. That petition which led to the vote, probably. They didn’t even let us really read it. They were just like, sign here and then you can move in. And I’m 18, so I’m like woo-hoo, free rent yes, you know. And I didn’t really think about it.”
— In his interview with Muir, according to the detective’s notes, David Drazin said, “Harbor Cos. forgave him his back rent debt of $1,500 to $2,000. The representative from Harbor Cos. he was dealing with was Dawn. In addition, he was asking Harbor Cos. for a one-year lease instead of a month-by-month lease. Harbor Cos. aagreed for a favorable vote in the election.”
— In a written statement, John Gara told of his conversation with Harbor attorney Bruce Measom about $250 in latae-rent fees Gara owed Harbor. “Without ever saying that if I voted a certain way he would waive teh late fees, I still came out of the conversation feeling that Bruce was implying my favorable vote would eliminate my late fees,” Gara wrote.
In two other cases, a pair of Harbor employees allgedly registered to vote as residents of the enclave but never moved in. One told Muir, “I did not want to seem like I was not a team player and go against the company. My boss told me to do it.”
Pprosecutors can bring vote fraud charges under misdemanor or felony laws with penalties varying from 90 days to 5 years in jail. Falsely registering to vote can be prosecuted as a felony.