Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith responded to recent news of “secret” forfeiture accounts he allegedly maintained by saying “Make no mistake, there’s nothing off the books or secret about these accounts.”

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith responded to recent news of “secret” forfeiture accounts he allegedly maintained by saying “Make no mistake, there’s nothing off the books or secret about these accounts.”

File photo by Deb Jacques


Macomb County prosecutor responds to claims of ‘secret’ forfeiture accounts

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published February 5, 2019

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MACOMB COUNTY — A Jan. 23 press release from attorney Frank Cusumano states that the Macomb County corporation counsel released the long-sought checking account records of “secret” forfeiture accounts maintained by Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith.

The release alleges 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.

“The issue we still have is whether or not the backup, which is the receipts that were reimbursed for credit card expenditures and everything else, including invoices, should’ve been produced,” Cusumano said. “We are going to consider an appeal on that.”

In a four-minute 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.”

The corporation counsel is the chief legal counsel for Macomb County and is charged with the responsibility to represent the county, the executive, the county commission, the five countywide elected officials, the department heads and agencies of the county in all civil legal matters affecting the county.

The accounts were first exposed by Macomb County Treasurer Lawrence Rocca.

“He sent a request for an investigation to the (Macomb County Treasurer’s Office),” Cusumano said. “We filed a FOIA request on Aug. 29, 2018. That resulted in the FOIA lawsuit.”

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

“Since the beginning of these programs, my office has filed yearly accounting reports with the Office of Management and Budget, as required by law,” Smith said. “No Macomb County taxpayer money is spent in these accounts.”

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

“These funds, paid for by repeat drunk drivers and convicted drug dealers, are used to combat crime and I’m very proud of that statement,” Smith said.

Jared Maynard, the plaintiff in a Michigan Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought to compel disclosure of the secret bank account records, said the release of the checking accounts is a victory for the hardworking taxpayers of Macomb County, but now is the time for the Macomb County Board of Commissioners to bring to bear its resources and conduct a full forensic audit.

“Citizens stepped up to pry open the coffin built around these buried accounts,” Cusumano said. “From the looks of the actual checks written from the accounts, it stinks in there.”

Maynard added in the release, “If unlawful expenditures were made that were not authorized under the law, it is the solemn obligation of the Board of Commissioners’ audit committee to be the ‘second wave’ now that the wall built around the accounts has been breached.”

Cusumano said there will be an audit of the financial records.

“We have to see how that process plays out, and we will probably file another FOIA request for the documents we didn’t receive, which are the bills the checks were written to pay,” he said. “We’ll probably do a FOIA request against the audit committee to see what they’re looking at and to see if they’re doing their due diligence in pursuing the truth of what happened with $2 million worth of public funds.”

Cusumano said a lawsuit has been filed against the county for not providing an answer to the FOIA request.

“There was some issues regarding who was supposed to answer the FOIA request,” he said. “The prosecutor’s saying they had the right to have their own FOIA coordinator. We’re saying there is one county under the charter and they have to answer.”

Cusumano added that he is trying to get to the truth, and wherever that leads him is what he’s looking to act on.

“We need to hold public officers accountable to the taxpayers, who need to make sure all the laws are complied with,” he said.

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