LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel held a news conference on Wednesday, announcing the results of two statewide criminal investigations.
The first investigation concerned “Unlock Michigan” and a ballot drive petition, and the other the City of Detroit and allegations over deleted emails. In both cases, the attorney general’s office found there was not enough evidence to charge anyone for a crime.
Nessel was joined by Acting Division Chief Danielle Hagaman-Clark, Assistant Attorney General Mike Frezza, Assistant Attorney General Rick Cunningham, and Special Agent Pete Ackerly.
The Department of Attorney General opened an investigation into the practices in the way petition circulators obtained signatures. That investigation first began in September of 2020.
According to the attorney general, they found that collectors did use unethical practices, however, those practices didn’t warrant criminal charges.
In total, the Department of Attorney General examined the evidence and considered charges against nine individuals, including Erik Tisinger and Gretchen Hertz.
“A well-informed public is essential to the health of our democracy, and as such, I hope the review of the circumstances in the Unlock Michigan case serves as a reminder to residents to be aware of the questionable practices utilized by those presenting themselves as agents of the democratic process,” said Nessel. “It is clear from this investigation that some paid circulators may resort to unethical practices in order to fulfill the demands of their clients.”
Nessel said, state law does not expressly prohibit a circulator from making false statements to a voter about the purpose of a petition in an attempt to obtain the voter’s signature. There is also no law that directly prohibits a circulator from simply advising a voter that he or she may sign their spouse’s name, or the name of any other person, on a petition.
State law does prohibit a voter from signing someone else’s name to a ballot question petition.
MAKE YOUR DATE
The Department of Attorney General also concluded its investigation into the City of Detroit and its involvement with the Make Your Date Detroit program.
After a lengthy and thorough investigation, the department also concluded that no criminal charges will be filed.
Nessel said an investigation was opened in July 2019 following the receipt of letters by the Department from two City of Detroit employees. The goal was to determine whether there was criminal conduct associated with the Mayor’s Office of the City of Detroit specifying Make Your Date Detroit as a priority and awarding it with funding.
According to Nessel, her office interviewed 21 witnesses, executed four search warrants, reviewed over 1,500 pages of financial documents from the Detroit Health Department, Southeast Michigan Health Association, and Wayne State University, and reviewed over 1 million documents seized with the assistance of Michigan State Police from the City of Detroit’s I.T. department.
Make Your Date Detroit is affiliated with Wayne State University and is a free maternal health program designed to prevent pre-term births for at-risk mothers in Detroit.
Detroit mayor Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley was also accused of ordering city employees to delete emails to hide a personal relationship between the Mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, and the director of the Make Your Date Detroit program, Dr. Sonia Hassan.
Nessel’s office focused specifically on two conversations between Wiley and the Office of Development and Grants Director, Ryan Friedrichs, that occurred in December 2018 and February 2019 and the deletion of emails in December 2018 and February 2019.
After review, the department determined there was no evidence of bribery of a public official, embezzlement by a public official, destruction of public records, and destruction of evidence in future proceedings.
“I would like to note that the absence of adequate evidence to charge individuals with crimes does not absolve the parties of their ethical obligation to meet the expectations of public trust inherent to their roles as employees and officials of the City of Detroit,” said Nessel. “I believe there is ample opportunity to improve upon the operations of City government, especially with regard to transparency and accountability to the residents of Detroit.”