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August 9, 2013

Sides trade allegations over Warren spying claims

State says complaint that investigator expenditure went unreported is still under review

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — A probe into allegations that a Warren mayoral appointee hired a private eye through a political action committee to investigate three residents and then failed to report the expenditure, as required under state law, has not yet concluded.

Fred Woodhams, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of State, confirmed Aug. 6 that a complaint filed in June by Henry Krzystowczyk alleging that Public Service Director Gus Ghanam hired a private investigator to dig up information about Krzystowczyk and fellow residents Tomasz Bania and Christopher Pasternack remained officially “under review.”

Krzystowczyk, a former supporter of Warren Mayor Jim Fouts who served six months as Fouts’ chief of staff, said previously he filed the complaint after documents that appeared to include a private investigator’s report and a cover letter addressed to Ghanam as the PAC’s representative were anonymously delivered to the homes of Pasternack and Bania in mid-May. The documents appeared to show that the investigator compiled information about the men in late November 2011, after the city’s last mayoral election, and that a summary report was submitted to Ghanam in February 2012.

All three men have been outspoken in their criticism of the Fouts administration and its policies.

At the request of the Michigan Department of State’s Bureau of Elections, Ghanam responded through his attorney, John Dolan, in a letter dated June 28 and requested that the complaint be “immediately dismissed.”

According to the letter signed by Dolan and provided by his office to the Warren Weekly, the allegations were based on a communication between a licensed private investigator and a client. Such communication, Dolan argued, is privileged under Michigan law and protected without a voluntary waiver.

“No evidence or information is furnished whatsoever that demonstrates that there has been a knowing and voluntary waiver of this privilege by the client in this relationship,” Dolan stated in the letter. “No information has been provided which reveals the manner in which this communication was obtained. Mr. Ghanam, at no time authorized the revelation of this document and believes that this document was removed from his possession without authorization and with criminal intent.”

But Krzystowczyk said Dolan’s response didn’t address the subject of his complaint at all.

“It goes around the subject,” Krzystowczyk said. ”He does not deny the fact that they didn’t list that expense. They just say that the letter is confidential. We’re not challenging the letter.”

Krzystowczyk’s original complaint filed June 5 alleged that Ghanam “hired a private investigator to investigate three citizens in Warren for the benefit of the committee,” and that the PAC’s campaign finance reports “do not show any disbursement of funds to or any in-kind contribution from the investigator.”

Ghanam deferred comment on the matter to Dolan’s letter.

Fouts said previously he was unaware of any effort to investigate Warren residents for political gain and that he never ordered Ghanam, nor any member of his staff, to do it.

Woodhams would not elaborate on the status of the state’s inquiry into Krzystowczyk’s complaint, except again to confirm that it was still under review and that a determination would be made within 60 business days of the department’s most recent correspondence, mailed to Dolan’s office and to Krzystowczyk July 29.

Under state law, a person who knowingly files an incomplete or inaccurate campaign finance statement, or who knowingly omits or underreports individual contributions or expenditures, can face civil fines up to $1,000.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.