At the Feb. 20 finance, audit and budget meeting, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved that a forensic audit be done for financial records maintained by Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, seen here in March of 2018.

At the Feb. 20 finance, audit and budget meeting, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved that a forensic audit be done for financial records maintained by Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, seen here in March of 2018.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Board approves prosecutor funds to be audited

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published March 4, 2019

 Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet described a forensic audit as a more in-depth dive into financial records. He said it is uncommon to do at the county level.

Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet described a forensic audit as a more in-depth dive into financial records. He said it is uncommon to do at the county level.

File photo provided by Leon Drolet

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MOUNT CLEMENS – In January, attorney Frank Cusumano said there would be an audit of financial records maintained by Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith.

On Feb. 20, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners reaffirmed that statement. 

At the Feb. 20 finance, audit and budget meeting, the board unanimously approved that a forensic audit be done as it relates to prosecutor forfeiture funds.  

Cusumano believes that pursuing the truth of what happened with $2 million of public funds is the heart of the matter.

“Two years ago, the auditing firm that audits the county books made their presentation to the Board of Commissioners, and they noted that the asset forfeiture funds maintained by the treasurer were not able to be audited by law because the county had no access to the bank accounts and funds,” Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet said. 

He added that in 2018, the auditing firm reported again that it wasn’t able to audit the forfeiture funds and that Smith was refusing to turn over control of these funds to the county treasurer. 

Drolet said that on Nov. 30, Smith turned over the forfeiture funds. At that point, Cusumano and Jared Maynard filed a freedom of information act, or FOIA, request to the Prosecutor’s Office to see how the funds were spent. 

He described a forensic audit as a more in-depth dive into financial records.

“It is very uncommon to do at the county level,” Drolet said. “It’s usually done when there’s reason to believe that this (questionable) spending has occurred.” 

The presented motion at the meeting was to approve a fiscal year 2019 budget amendment in the amount of $100,000 by “increasing contract services with a corresponding decrease to general fund.”

At its Feb. 27 meeting, the board heard from potential auditing firms that will complete the audit.

A January press release from Cusumano stated that the Macomb County
corporation counsel released the checking account records of “secret” forfeiture accounts maintained by Smith.

At the Feb. 20 meeting, Cusumano addressed the board, saying he wasn’t there to demonize Smith.

“It cast doubt, the cloud over county government, that public funds were expended without any accountability or oversight,” he said. “The department heads can’t do whatever they want.”  

The press release alleged that the accounts, at Chemical Bank, go back as far as 2012 and include at least one check for $500 that Smith had a subordinate write to Smith, and hundreds of other “questionable” expenditures.

In a January video posted on his website, Smith responded in part by saying, “Make no mistake, there’s nothing off the books or secret about these accounts.”

Smith said his office implemented the Drunk Driving Forfeiture Program over a decade ago, which targets repeat drunken drivers and convicted drug dealers.

Drolet used the example of if someone gets busted for drunken driving, and a car is taken away and it costs $900 to get the car back, that money should be turned over from the Prosecutor’s Office to the Treasurer’s Office.

“It can only be used for law enforcement purposes, and then the county board appropriates it every year,” he said. “Smith was spending it as he saw fit, without any oversight from the treasurer or Board of Commissioners, or any other body.”

Smith said that since the beginning of the program, his office has filed yearly accounting reports with the Office of Management and Budget, as required by law, and that no Macomb County taxpayer money is spent in those accounts.

He also said the forfeiture accounts exclusively fund the training and technology used by his office to “convict the bad guys.”

In regard to those accounting reports, Drolet said that is true, but it is a half-page document that shows how much was taken in, how much was spent and what the balance is. 

“It doesn’t detail anything. Essentially, no one had any idea how this money was being spent,” he said.  

As he further inspected the checks, “the alarm bells went off” and Drolet found some written for holiday parties, retirement parties, flowers for funerals and non-law-enforcement purposes. 

“There were tens of thousands of dollars of the checks written directly to American Express or Visa with no documentation as to what they were for,” he said.  

Stay with C&G News for further developments on this case.

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