SOS: Supervisor violated campaign finance act, receives warning

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 1, 2016

 Michele Economou Ureste

Michele Economou Ureste

WEST BLOOMFIELD —  The Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections has determined that Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by advertising her campaign website on the township’s official Twitter page. 

The department issued a warning letter May 16, resolving the complaint.

On March 15, West Bloomfield resident Ben Ohly filed a complaint that alleged Economou Ureste had used township resources to publicize her candidacy for office and solicit donations through the use of the township’s official Twitter page. A tweet was posted March 6 stating, “I’ve just published my website, check it out at micheleeconomouureste.com via GoDaddy X.co/1GvAH.” On the website’s home page, there is a box that contains a phone number and the words “Call to donate.”

At the time of the complaint, Economou Ureste had announced, but not filed, her candidacy for supervisor. On April 19, she filed to run for trustee, but later withdrew from the race April 21. 

The Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections investigated the tweet, and response and rebuttal statements filed by Economou Ureste and Ohly.

In the warning letter, the Secretary of State’s Office said, “The department finds that because a township resource was used to advertise your campaign website, the evidence tends to support a conclusion that a violation of the (Michigan Campaign Finance) Act has occurred. … The department notes that while use of the township Twitter account was improper, a review of the tweet shows that it was not sent during normal business hours, and the department believes this warning letter is an appropriate resolution to this matter.”

Economou Ureste said in an email that in her almost eight years as supervisor, she has “vigilantly served in an ethical manner.” 

“I acknowledged that an honest mistake occurred after I established my personal website and linked it to several social media sites, but did not double check that the last login for Twitter was with the township Twitter. I created the personal website after business hours on a Sunday,” she said.

In an emailed response, Ohly said that the Secretary of State’s Office did a thorough job investigating and the conclusion was “fair.” 

“Given the supervisor’s record of service over the past seven years, I think she is making the right choice not to seek re-election. There are some strong candidates running for the supervisor, trustee and treasurer positions in this year’s election. I encourage all West Bloomfield residents to get to know their elected officials and support the candidates who show integrity and leadership, even if it is outside of their traditional party lines,” Ohly said.