Fake signatures found on commercial marijuana petitions

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published August 17, 2018


The names of a number of prominent Troy residents on a petition to allow commercial medical marijuana growing facilities in the city spurred the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the petitions.

The residents in question say they never signed it.

Among the names are Councilmen Dave Henderson and Ethan Baker, Bethany Baker, Oakland County Commissioner Wade Fleming, former Troy Mayor Jeanne Stine, former Troy Councilman Paul McCown, and Glenn Clark, who currently serves as chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The City Council opted out of allowing and regulating medical marijuana growing facilities in the city in a 4-3 vote in February.

Henderson, Baker, and Councilwomen Ellen Hodorek and Edna Abrahim voted to exercise the city’s option to not allow medical marijuana facilities as defined by the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act.

Mayor Dane Slater, and Councilmen Ed Pennington and David Hamilton voted against opting out.

Members of a group called Citizens for a Responsible Troy estimate that they had collected over 4,500 signatures on the petitions.

Troy City Clerk Aileen Dickson said that 2,925 valid signatures, or 5 percent of registered voters, were needed to place the item on the November ballot.

In a report to the Troy City Council submitted for the Aug. 13 meeting, Dickson stated that after a review of the signatures, the Clerk’s Office determined that there were 2,524 valid signatures, not enough to place the item on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Dickson said that some of the petition pages were not notarized, which is required. In some cases the signatures belong to people who are not registered to vote in Troy, or at all. Some signatures appear twice, which invalidates both signatures. Some signers and circulators completed information incorrectly.

“The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office is investigating irregularities,” Dickson said.

“The city of Troy will not tolerate attempts to interfere with a lawful and fair election process,” City Manager Mark Miller said in a prepared statement. “I am confident that the Troy Police Department and Oakland County Sheriff’s Office will conduct a thorough, professional investigation of this criminal matter.”

Jeffrey M. Schroeder, an attorney for the group, requested copies of the determination at the council meeting, which City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said are available under the Freedom of Information Act.

Dickson said the Clerk’s Office provided that to Schroeder Aug. 14.

“I am extremely disappointed someone forged my and my wife’s name,” Baker said, noting that he voted for the city to opt out. “I hope whoever did it gets caught and justice is brought.”

“I definitely did not sign and would not sign that petition,” Fleming said via email. “I would only support marijuana as a medication if it is approved and regulated by the Federal Drug Administration and available by prescription at pharmacies like other medicines. I am very disgusted that my signature was forged and will certainly cooperate with law enforcement to prosecute all parties responsible.”

“The industry has proven again that they can't self police or be trusted,” Henderson  said. “I did not sign any petitions, and in fact there are two other people on the same page as my alleged signature that I know would not sign such a thing. I hope that the petition circulator(s) are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and I'm willing to testify that the signature they claim as mine is fraudulent.”

McCown said that he and his family moved to Wyoming in April. “On principle, I don’t sign petitions. I was told I ‘signed’ twice.”

McCown added that he, Baker and Henderson served as Republican precinct delegates, and he believes that names for fraudulent signatures were culled from a list of delegates.

“We want to know what happened. It was a concerted effort by somebody to name local, recognizable people,” Schroeder said. “I have the utmost respect for all these people.”

Schroeder said he believes the canvassers were paid by the hour to collect signatures. He said it appears to be tied to one woman.

“I didn’t know the woman,” he said.

He said they plan to speak with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

“Our intent is to cooperate with any investigation. The committee was a victim of fraud as well. We want answers as well.”

There are currently 51 designated caregiver grow facilities for up to 72 plants in 33 buildings in industrial/business districts in Troy, as permitted by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008.

The state began to accept license applications Dec. 15 for medical marijuana growing facilities that allow applicants to request a license before they’ve secured a location.

In September 2016, state lawmakers passed and the governor signed into law three bills that created a licensing and regulatory framework for medical marijuana, including the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facility Licensing Act, which allows commercial facilities to grow up to 1,500 plants and for five types of licenses for the grow operations to be stacked together in one facility.

The act introduced five kinds of licenses: grower, processor, provisioning center, secure transporter and safety compliance center licenses.

On April 23, the council voted unanimously to approve a new city ordinance to allow police to conduct inspections of facilities and to cap the number of caregiver facilities at 36.