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Seven on primary ballot for Macomb prosecutor

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published July 1, 2020

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MACOMB COUNTY — A field of seven candidates have filed for the chance to be considered for a position beleaguered by controversy after then-Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith was charged with embezzlement by a public official and conducting a criminal enterprise.

Smith resigned March 30, and in the interim, the position of prosecutor is being filled by Jean Cloud. Smith pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled for a probable cause hearing on the charges July 14 in front of Judge Cynthia Arvant of the 46th District Court in Southfield. Judges in Macomb County’s 41-B District Court recused themselves from the case.

The office is up for reelection in November, however, and five Democrats and two Republicans have filed to run for the position. Voters will whittle the candidates down to one for each party in the Aug. 4 primary election.

The Democrats running for office include Mary Chrzanowski, of Harrison Township, a former Macomb County Circuit Court Judge who was on the bench for 24 years and now a television talk show host who was on “Face the Truth” and “The Doctors.”

“I’ve been dreaming of running for prosecutor, probably for the last 10 years,” she said. “I was very disappointed in the last administration. I watched a slow deterioration of the office.

“I just feel it’s time for a fresh face, an honest face,” Chrzanowski continued. “I’ve proved my integrity, my honesty, over 24 years on the bench.”

If elected, she said she would like to help everyone to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, from the assistant prosecutors in her office to the defense attorneys, and would also be completely transparent about finances.

A lifelong resident of Macomb County, Saima Khalil, of Sterling Heights, said she is a strong advocate for her clients, both in her practice and with the indigent clients she represented while working for a legal aid service. She filed to run because she was upset by what she saw happening to the county’s legal community.

“I was working from home and litigating from my bedroom, basically, and watching what was happening in my county was really heartbreaking,” she said. “I think Macomb’s legal community is pretty darn homogenous, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of diversity in it.”

She said she’s tired of elected officials shaming the county with their actions, and that’s why she decided to run for office.

Tom Rombach, of Clinton Township, has been a city prosecutor, the Macomb County Bar president and also the president of the Michigan State Bar. In that role, he said, he oversaw a $10 million budget and 72 full-time employees, “so it’s comparable to the size of the prosecutor’s office,” he said.

A member of the Macomb County Charter Commission, Rombach said that he does criminal defense work and “high stakes” civil cases in his private practice.

“I think Macomb County deserves a prosecutor who is singularly focused on protecting the public,” he said. “I’m a tough, experienced leader, who can restore integrity to the prosecutor’s office.”

Jodi Switalski, of Harrison Township, calls herself the most “uniquely qualified candidate of all of the seven candidates” because of her work as a former victim’s advocate with the prosecuting attorney’s office, as an assistant prosecutor in Macomb County, a magistrate and a court administrator.

Switalski said she is a nationally recognized expert and consultant on substance abuse, opioid addiction and mental health.

“We need to integrate systems and engage in reform to do a better job,” she said. “Being one tough prosecutor is not enough. Incarceration of nonviolent offenders doesn’t work, so we’ve got to be smart about how we do it.”

Eva Tkaczyk, of Chesterfield Township, has been practicing in Macomb County for 14 years, mainly as a court-appointed attorney for indigent clients. She said she’d like to modernize the office of the prosecutor.

“It should have been done better than it has been for the last 15 years, and I think that many prosecutors think so,” she said.

She said she’d like to speed up trials to reduce waiting times for defendants, which could save money on incarceration costs.     
“We can work together more efficiently than before,” she said.

Two Republicans are running for the office, Richard John Goodman, of Romeo, and state Sen. Peter Lucido, of Shelby Township.

Goodman was born and raised in Macomb County and grew up in Clinton Township. After working for a couple years as an attorney in his father-in-law’s practice, he began working in the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office in 1984. He retired in 2014 after 30 years in the prosecutor’s office and has since worked in private practice as a criminal defense attorney in Mount Clemens.

“I feel that our prior prosecutor has done a disservice to the office by getting involved in these criminal charges. I think the Prosecutor’s Office deserves better than that,” Goodman said.

Looking at the candidates throwing their hats in the ring, he said he didn’t find any of them “as qualified as I would be for the office.”

Both as a prosecutor and as a private attorney, Goodman said he has always “advocated for equal justice under the law. I think the law should be color blind.”

Lucido served as a representative in the state Legislature from 2015-18 before being elected to the state Senate in 2018. He’s running because “Macomb is calling me home.”

He said in his more than 30 years of legal work, he has experience as a probation officer, working in the public defender’s office and running his own law firm.

“Capping my law career with being able to write law, it is an honor of public service to come back to Macomb County after serving in Lansing to do the right thing and restore integrity and honor to the prosecutor’s office, which has lost the public trust,” he said.

He said he’d rather work full-time in the county than continue to commute to Lansing three days per week.

“It’s a great opportunity to be with my family, be with the people I love, who are the residents of Macomb County,” he said.

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