Mayor Monique Owens leads an Eastpointe City Council meeting in January.

Mayor Monique Owens leads an Eastpointe City Council meeting in January.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Macomb County prosecutor charges Eastpointe mayor with fraud

By: Brian Wells | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 17, 2023


EASTPOINTE — The latest event in a long line of controversies involving Eastpointe’s mayor has her facing a fraud charge in district court.

Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens was arraigned March 9 in the 41B District Court in Clinton Township on one charge of false pretenses $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, which is a five-year felony.

“Mayor Monique Owens allegedly fraudulently applied for a grant under the ‘CARES ACT’ in November 2020,” the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office said in a press release. “Owens received $10,000 from the Macomb County grant.”

In April 2020, Macomb County received $152 million through the federal CARES Act — an acronym for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — which was then spread throughout the county.

Owens, 39, was arraigned by Magistrate Ryan Zemke, who set a $10,000 personal bond.

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido said he’s disappointed that an elected official would be facing a charge.

“Although innocent until proven guilty, the mere fact of somebody being charged sheds a light for not only the community, but also the county,” he said. “It’s a negative effect. It’s disturbing that we have individuals who would take advantage of a system of trust.”

Richard Albright, city attorney for Eastpointe, said the case is a personal matter, and he didn’t expect it to impact any of the city’s operations.

“Until I hear otherwise, I believe Mayor Owens will continue attending City Council meetings and events and that city-related matters involving the entire City Council will continue as usual,” he said in an email.

Owens’ attorney, Scott Weinberg, could not be reached for comment.


Charge is latest controversy involving mayor
In early 2022, a complaint was filed against Owens by former Eastpointe Arts & Cultural Diversity Commission Chair Alysa Diebolt, who stated that Owens violated the city’s ethics ordinance by calling the city’s public safety director to be present at City Hall during an incident in February 2020.

The ethics complaint was dismissed, but the City Council voted 3-1 to censure Owens at an April 2022 meeting. The motion was introduced by Councilman Cardi Demonaco Jr., Diebolt’s husband.

In June 2022, Owens filed a request for a personal protection order against Councilman Harvey Curley after she said he assaulted her during the opening ceremonies of the annual Cruisin’ Gratiot on June 18.

Before the request was ultimately denied by Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Rachel Rancilio Sept. 23, at the Sept. 6 City Council meeting, Owens attempted to prevent two Eastpointe women from speaking about Curley during the meeting’s public comment section, leading to her arguing with the two women. Toward the end of the meeting, a third woman attempted to criticize Owens’ treatment of the others, but she and Owens ultimately ended up arguing as well.

The Sept. 6 meeting ended after fewer than 20 minutes, when the city’s four other council members stood up and left amid the arguing.

The three women, along with another complainant who claimed to have had a similar experience with Owens during a City Council meeting in March 2022, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in November, alleging Owens violated their First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit was filed through Philadelphia-based nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. On Dec. 7, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence G. Berg issued an injunction that states that “members of the public may direct and/or express comment, criticism or praise to and regarding public officials.”

The injunction is to remain in effect until the disposition of the lawsuit or until there is another court order.