Concerns about Banks’ criminal record raised during forum

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published October 9, 2012

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — State Representative candidate Brian Banks tried to show that he’s a man who had made big mistakes in his past, but has turned his life around to become a role model for young people.

Some residents at the League of Women Voters candidate forum Oct. 3 weren’t buying it.

When the candidates were asked if they had any current pending litigation in the courts, Banks said he signed a lease for a family member, and there was a court matter for nonpayment, but that was being handled.

That prompted one resident in the crowd to jump up and shout that Banks was a liar. He was holding up court papers that he said showed multiple recent civil court cases involving such issues as nonpayment of rent and eviction matters.

Banks, the Democrat running for the new District 1 State Representative seat, faces competition from Grosse Pointe Shores Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Schulte and write-in candidate Zachary Zichi. Schulte is running as a Republican and Zichi as a Libertarian.

Harper Woods resident and school Board President Brian Selburn said that the recent civil matters demonstrate financial irresponsibility.

“It all just arouses suspicion,” Selburn said of things that have concerned him and other residents, adding that he wasn’t made aware of the criminal record until residents received a postcard about it a few days before the primary.

As for Banks, he owned up to his criminal past during the forum, addressing a question from the audience directed right at him.

That past involves multiple felony convictions for such things as illegal use of a financial transaction device and writing bad checks.

“People deserve second chances,” Banks said, adding that he understands what people are going through struggling with the economy. “I, too, have lived through a number of economic challenges.”

When asked what he has done to earn the public trust after his felony convictions, Banks discussed his education up to law school.

“I’ve shown great tenacity and commitment to rehabilitating myself,” he said. “I have admitted my wrongdoing. I’ve accepted my responsibility.”

He talked about how he wants his story to inspire other young people to turn their lives around and how he has participated in a mentoring program. 

During the forum, the candidates were given a couple of minutes for opening and closing statements. The candidates also fielded questions that residents submitted on index cards.

Questions included what they would focus on in Lansing, what their position was on whether Schools of Choice should be mandated by the state or handled locally, and what their record is as a community leader.

Schulte emphasized his long history with public service from his work on the council and service on multiple committees.

“(I) understand the concerns of those who want to live in a community that is safe, clean and enjoyable,” Schulte said. “I definitely do sweat the details and go the extra mile for the taxpayers.”

He also spoke about his biggest concern — public safety.

“If you can’t sleep at night, school doesn’t matter, work doesn’t matter,” he said of the need to keep neighborhoods safe.

Schulte talked about how he pushed to have council meetings televised in the Shores to promote more transparency for residents.

He said he wants to see the state thrive.

“There’s no good reason for us to linger at the bottom of the economic scale. We should be at the top,” Schulte said.

He noted that he is the candidate with the most experience.

Zichi is the fresh face on the block, but his last name is not unknown because he is the son of a current school board member. A 2011 graduate of Harper Woods High School, he focused on his service in high school as president of his class all four years and his work experience with Harper Woods in the Parks and Recreation Department.

He said he wants to do much more.

“My dream since elementary school has been politics, the service of other people,” he said.

He talked about how the partisan fighting has to end so that work can get done, which is why he likes the idea of being a third-party candidate.

He said there are many issues that need to be tackled, but most of those will fall into place if the economy and the budget are on track. He wants to lower taxes so that people have more money in their pockets.

Zichi talked of how he wants to be a voice for the people.

“Ideas from everybody is essential for having good things happen, especially in government,” he said.

“I will always fight for our constituents and give more power to the people,” Zichi said.

Banks, a former school teacher, said one of his major platform issues is education.

“One key to ensuring that our region continues to grow is to educate our students,” he said. 

“I have the education, the experience, the personal life experience to represent our entire district,” Banks said, adding that his past is his past.