Michigan Court of Appeals rules in favor of Lucido over Hackel

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published April 16, 2022

 Peter Lucido

Peter Lucido

 Mark Hackel

Mark Hackel

MOUNT CLEMENS — The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on April 7 in favor of Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido in a lawsuit he brought against Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel regarding the addition of four positions to Lucido’s staff.

The lawsuit was brought forward in January. The ruling stated that Lucido can use $300,000 for four positions that had been previously approved by the Macomb County Board of Commissioners, though this went beyond what Hackel had submitted to the board as part of the 2022 budget.

“I am, on the one hand, very pleased that the office of Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney will now be able to use all that the County Commissioners wisely authorized for the protection of the public and the benefit of victims in the discharge of my constitutional office,” Lucido said in a press release. “On the other hand, I have been and continue to be saddened by the fact that I was forced to bring a lawsuit against our county executive to see that the right thing was done.”

The three-judge panel consisted of judges Michael Riordan, Jane Markey and Thomas Cameron.

Hackel presented a budget for 2022 last fall, adding 10 new assistant prosecutor positions, budgeted at a cost of $1.3 million. Lucido later asked the county commissioners for four additional posts: two full-time positions, an administrative assistant and communications director; and two part-time positions, a file clerk and an intern coordinator. The county commissioners approved Lucido’s request.

Hackel refused to implement the four additional positions because he said the process violated the county charter, which states that the five other countywide elected officials cannot bypass the county executive. He also said adding the funding for the four positions Lucido wanted would take away funding from other areas.

In their 16-page opinion, the judges stated that “the board may adopt an independent budget” and ordered Hackel to release the $299,300 in funds or “seek an amendment of the appropriate ordinance from the board.”

The three judges concluded that, under the Macomb County charter, the Board of Commissioners may appropriate funds for a line item in excess of the recommendation of the executive.

“We further conclude that defendant Hackel has the limited authority to impound appropriated funds to achieve economic efficiencies but that he exceeded the scope of that authority in this instance by impounding funds that had the ‘stated purpose’ of creating four new employment positions within the prosecutor’s office,” they stated in their ruling.

Hackel’s office said that the county executive is still unconvinced that the judges’ ruling was appropriate.

“Mr. Hackel clearly disagrees with the court’s opinion and clearly believes the court erred in several respects, not least of which concerns the impact of the Michigan Constitution and the Charter Counties Act, and the manner in which both authorize charter communities to operate in a manner which is different than called for by statutes by non-charter counties,” a statement from Hackel’s office said following the ruling. “An appeal will be pursued.”

Lucido said in a press release that he hopes he can count on the assistance of the county executive’s office now that the ruling has been returned.

“With the clarity now provided, the Office of County Prosecutor and Office of County Executive can get back to the work of the people without the distractions leading to this lawsuit that has hindered my office from more fully serving the people of Macomb County, as they so justly deserve,” he wrote.