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WHMI 93.5 FM Radio Station for Livingston County Michigan with News, Traffic, and Weather Service for Howell and Brighton

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    Public recycling is being made possible in the City of Brighton. City of Brighton officials say they’re excited and proud to announce that there will soon be recycling containers throughout the Millpond area. The City received a grant through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to install seven recycling containers to be used by the public. Visitors to the area will be able to place cans, bottles, and paper in the containers. Officials say visitors should keep a look out for the green cans with special recycling graphics to be installed soon. (JM)

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    A luncheon event next week will celebrate area women who have overcome adversity to accomplish truly wonderful things in their lives and communities. Habitat for Humanity of Livingston County will host the 1st annual Arise & Shine: Winning Women 2018. It’s a celebration of area women and their accomplishments. There are three honorees this year. The first is Olivia Venuto, a Michigan State University Larry Nassar survivor who will share her experience and how she overcame tremendous obstacles. She is now doing great things to create a culture of acceptance and understanding toward survivors, while working to erase the stigma attached to sexual assault and abuse. The next honoree is Becky Gremore, who grew up in ten school districts and five foster homes as an abuse and neglect case but persevered and graduated from Howell Public Schools as a straight-A student. She has her own family now and as a Habitat Partner Family single mom, she wants to give her family the foundation she never had. The final honoree is OLHSA’s Livingston County Director Erica Karfonta, who brings a story of courage and sacrifice. She is a passionate advocate of those living in poverty throughout southeastern Michigan. After overcoming a childhood spent facing challenges with poverty, Karfonta goes beyond her day job to help others. The celebration luncheon is free and will take place next Thursday, October 18th from 11:30am to 1pm in the main auditorium of 2/42 Community Church in Genoa Township. Attendees will be asked to consider a goodwill donation to Habitat for Humanity, which helps families build a strong and solid foundation for their future. Details can be found through the link. (JM)

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    A Fowlerville restaurant’s wait staff is being taken over by local celebrities for a charity fundraiser before next weekend’s Spartans and Wolverines battle. Celebrity Server Day is back and fans are invited to wear their team colors to the Olden Days Cafe for the event benefiting the Genesis House next Saturday, October 20th. The Genesis House provides support to Livingston County residents recovering from mental illness with the hopes of helping them live more independently. They look to provide members with opportunities in many areas including employment, education, wellness, and housing. Many faces familiar to the community will be taking orders and serving food from 6am until 2pm. Some of the local celebrities working will be Sheriff Mike Murphy, Fowlerville Police Chief John Tyler, Fowlerville Superintendent Wayne Roedel and WHMI’s own Jon King. A percentage of all meals and 100% of tips will go to Genesis House. The Olden Days Café is located at 188 North Grand Avenue in downtown Fowlerville.

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    This Friday, the ESPN television sports network will be in Brighton for a ceremony honoring the Brighton High School Unified team, its coaches and team members. It will be a very special day for the students, because Brighton High School will be receiving a national banner from ESPN. ESPN will be presenting the "Top Five" National Banner to Brighton as a Unified Champion School which has met the 10 national standards of inclusion and has been nominated by its state’s Special Olympics program. The other four schools chosen as a national Unified Champion are located in California, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia. The goal of the Unified Sports Program, developed by Special Olympics, is to promote Unified Sports - in which an equal number of regular classroom and special needs students are members of the same Unified team — with the result being that students with a developmental disability are included in the overall school experience. This means inclusion in a supportive classroom environment, school-wide activities and the social environment, both in and out of the school setting. The Unified Schools Program is also designed to promote healthy physical activity, reduce classroom bullying and exclusion, combat stereotypes and improve the school climate with activities that promote inclusion and acceptance of individual differences in people. ESPN will arrive in advance of the banner presentation ceremony for two days of activities, including a pep rally and assembly. Superintendent Greg Gray says it will be an opportunity to demonstrate what the school district has accomplished, particularly in the area of inclusion of all students in its program. The Brighton Unified squads compete in three sports: flag football, basketball and bocce ball. Gray has said the camaraderie between students on the teams, who may be very different from each other in some ways, is truly inspiring. The program is now in its third year in the Brighton Area Schools. (TT)

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    Starting today, if you’re a minor in the city of Howell and are observed engaged in vaping, you risk being cited by police for committing a misdemeanor offense. Vaping is inhaling the vapor produced by an e-cigarette or personal vaporizer. E-cigarettes are portable battery-powered devices that vaporize e-liquid – a mix of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, water-based flavorings, and optional nicotine. The ordinance was passed at the request of the Howell Public Schools, where Supt. Erin Macgregor has said that cases of vaping on school grounds – which is against the district’s Code of Conduct - have increased in the last few years. Statistics indicate there are at least 10 million Americans who now vape, and more than two million of them no longer smoke cigarettes at all. The huge increase in vaping has come in direct proportion to the decrease in smoking and has become particularly popular among adolescents. Despite claims that vaping is a gateway to smoking for teens, youth smoking rates have fallen even more rapidly than adult rates since the advent of vaping. Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University, says that as vaping has become more popular among youths, it has displaced cigarette smoking. Most adult vapers are former or current smokers, some of whom are still trying to quit. Those under the age of 18 who are caught by law enforcement authorities vaping in the city of Howell face a $50 fine for each violation, with the proceedings taking place in juvenile court. (TT)

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    47-year-old Colleen Fortier appeared in Livingston County Circuit Court Thursday, nearly a year after she pleaded no contest to embezzlement by a public official. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such at sentencing. Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Hatty sentenced Fortier to three days in jail and two years of probation. Fortier was also previously ordered to pay full restitution in the amount of $16,905, which was uncovered through the extensive work of Clerk Elizabeth Hundley and others. Hundley discovered financial irregularities involving the clerk’s office in May of 2016 and went to work investigating once she noticed the pattern. An in-depth investigation involving Treasurer Jennifer Nash, the Livingston County Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s Offices, backed up Hundley’s findings after extensive research, uncovering the embezzlement. The embezzlement was said to have occurred between December of 2015 through May of 2016 and Fortier was placed on unpaid administrative leave after the internal investigation was initiated. Fortier, who worked for the county for about four years, resigned prior to the completion of the investigation. (DK/JM)

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    The Howell City Council is whole again. Council met this past week and voted to appoint Randy Greene to the vacant seat, which resulted from the resignation of member Andrew Yost. He resigned after a domestic incident came to light involving a family member. City Manager Shea Charles tells WHMI there were five applications received for the position and based on interviews, Council selected Greene. He will serve a three year term. Greene had served as treasurer of the Downtown Development Authority Board, up until his appointment to Council. The vacancy was the second that Council has had to fill in the last couple of months. Jeannette Ambrose was appointed in September after longtime Councilman Scott Niblock resigned due to work commitments, which limited the amount of time he could dedicate to serving on Council. Photo: Facebook. (JM)

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    47-year-old Colleen Fortier appeared in Livingston County Circuit Court Thursday, nearly a year after she pleaded no contest to embezzlement by a public official. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such at sentencing. Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Hatty sentenced Fortier to three days in jail and two years of probation. Fortier was also previously ordered to pay full restitution in the amount of $16,905, which was uncovered through the extensive work of Clerk Elizabeth Hundley and others. Hundley discovered financial irregularities involving the clerk’s office in May of 2016 and went to work investigating once she noticed the pattern. An in-depth investigation involving Treasurer Jennifer Nash, the Livingston County Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s Offices, backed up Hundley’s findings after extensive research, uncovering the embezzlement. The embezzlement was said to have occurred between December of 2015 through May of 2016 and Fortier was placed on unpaid administrative leave after the internal investigation was initiated. Fortier, who worked for the county for about four years, resigned prior to the completion of the investigation. (DK/JM)

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    The superintendent of Howell Public Schools is kicking off his popular Coffee Chat series this week. Superintendent Erin MacGregor will kick off another Coffee Chat series on Thursday. The events provide an opportunity for district stakeholders to hear updates on various district initiatives but also ask any questions they may have about the district. MacGregor said he’s excited to kick-off this year’s Coffee Chat series, adding it’s always nice to be able to engage with stakeholders to share the district’s story and address any questions they may have. He says this year’s series will again feature a mix of morning, evening and a weekend Coffee Chats to allow more stakeholders to attend. Thursday’s Coffee Chat will run from 9:30 to 10:30am at Howell High School’s Highlander Restaurant, located on the west side of Howell High School. Officials advise attendees to enter using the service drive off Highlander Way, north of Highlander Way Middle School. Follow the service drive past the Howell Aquatics Center, and the Highlander Restaurant will be the next driveway on the left. MacGregor will hold additional Coffee Chats on Wednesday, January 9th from 6 to 7pm Highlanders Learning Center; Saturday, March 9th from 1:30-2:30pm at The Hive Teen Center and on Thursday, May 16th from 9:30-10:30am at the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce. All of the events are free and open to all Howell community members. (JM)

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    The Brighton Board of Education is expected to enact a policy in the near future which would allow a member to vote in absentia – meaning while absent from the meeting – if connected electronically by telephone. The board discussed the pending policy at its meeting last Monday, with Trustee John Conely the lone member steadfastly against it. Conely, who boasts that he has never missed a board meeting in his two terms on the board, told fellow members that a member should be physically present at a meeting in order to have voting privileges. Ironically, the board has already held meetings in recent months in which a member was unavoidably absent, but voted while connected to the meeting over a speaker phone. But it has not been a formal policy, and Conely, for one, says it needs to be codified as such. Supt. Greg Gray said that administration contacted a few area districts to see what their policy was regarding voting by phone while absent from a meeting. Gray said that while Hartland said they don’t allow a board member to vote without being present, Howell has what he called “no ironclad policy” prohibiting it. While most said it should be OK to vote if connected to the meeting by phone, all on the Brighton Board agreed they should not be allowed to vote by phone after a closed session in which they were not present. If approved at a future board meeting, the matter will be turned over to the district’s legal firm to draft language so that it becomes a formal part of board of education policy. (TT)

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    A nonprofit organization that helps older adults is doing what they can to make the Medicare enrollment period easier than ever for people. The Area Agency on Aging 1-B provides services to older adults and people with disabilities in a six-county region that includes Livingston County. With the Medicare enrollment period beginning today, they are offering free, unbiased counseling to help simplify the process. Manager of the AAA 1-B’s Medicare Assistance Program, Shari Smith, says this is a good time for people to review their plan and make sure they are on the one that best works for them. Prices change, drug formularies change, and medications people might take could change. Smith said that with 24 different Part D plans and Medicare advantage plans that are like an HMO or PPO, it is understandable that people need help. Enrollees looking for help can schedule an appointment, bring in their medication list, and then the counselor will shop around for them. They’ll break it down to a few plans that might work best for the enrollee based on how they’d like to access their medical or drug care. The Agency has 147 counselors that have gone through 10 hours of online training, 3 days of classroom training, 60 hours a year of counseling to maintain certification, and continued education to help people during times like this. Enrollment ends on December 7. Failing to enroll in the Part D prescription plan in a timely manner could cost an enrolled $33 per month. Those wishing to book an appointment to meet with a counselor can do so by calling the Agency at 1-800-803-7174. (MK)

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    At a Pinckney Community Schools Board of Education meeting Thursday, Student Government President Allie O’Keefe announced approximately $1,000 was raised during Spirit Week, which will be donated to the Sarcoma Foundation. According to their website, the Sarcoma Foundation’s mission is to advocate for sarcoma patients by funding research and increasing awareness about the disease. Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that grows in connective tissue. Approximately 15,000 new cases are diagnosed and nearly 6,000 people die from sarcoma each year. Pinckney’s Homecoming was unique this year as the high school ditched the long-standing tradition of naming a King and Queen, choosing instead to elect student representatives in hopes of promoting a more inclusive environment. O’Keefe previously told WHMI Student Government attends various conferences throughout the year and has found that this is a common transition many schools are looking to make. While the decision received support from the Board of Education, it drew mixed responses from the community. O’Keefe and Superintendent Rick Todd had acknowledged that could happen, though both still stand by the decision. (DK) Facebook photo: PCHS Spirit Week

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    Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy is voicing strong opposition to Proposal 1, a ballot measure that would legalize marijuana for people age 21 and older. Proposal 1 was put forward by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. If approved, it would legalize the personal possession and use of marijuana by persons 21 and older. It would also create a state-regulated system of licensed marijuana businesses that will cultivate, process, test, and sell marijuana and marijuana-infused products while also enacting an excise tax on marijuana at the retail level, in addition to the standard state sales tax. Cities and counties could prohibit or restrict pot shops. Backers say it proposes a sensible alternative to Michigan’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition and cite economic gain, a culture that has already legalized marijuana but also that it’s a safer substitute for painkillers amid the deadly opioid epidemic. Opponents argue marijuana is much more potent today and cite the potential impact on the developing teenage brain, along with other concerns that it would lead to a more "stoned" workforce, car crashes and crimes. Other arguments being made are that adults, with or without serious health problems, can already easily obtain pot under the state's lax medical marijuana law. If the proposal passes, Murphy maintains it will be a disaster. He says it’s a totally different drug today when considering the potency and high THC content – and that’s not including edibles being marketed to youth. He notes the proposal would allow someone to possess up to ten ounces, calling it, “ridiculous that an individual needs half a pound of dope.” Murphy tells WHMI that many are of the mindset that it’s just marijuana and not a huge deal but Murphy says this is not your mom and dad’s marijuana and there is now concrete data that shows the impact in states that have legalized it for recreational purposes. He says those in 35-65 age range don’t view it as that big of a deal, as many people will remember, “sitting around smoking a joint in high school, laughing, eating a bag of Doritos and life was good.” Murphy says tests from states that have legalized marijuana show IQ levels go down because it affects the normal growth process in kids. He referred to other statistics demonstrating the drain on social service programs in other states, as well as high numbers of babies being born with THC in their system. Murphy said there are also actual overdose cases and deaths attributed to marijuana – although those are more linked to edibles because of the high THC level. Murphy noted that Oregon saw a 2000% increase in hospital visits linked to marijuana poisoning. As for arguments about the economic benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana and doing so will result in a big influx of new cash for governments while taking the black market out the picture - Murphy says it’s a “bunch of crap” and the reality is the exact opposite because the black market is actually driving the bus. When it comes to enforcement for medical marijuana, Murphy says it’s difficult. He feels the law was written intentionally vague and says it has taken years and many court battles to have some sort of consistency. He noted there are over 4,200 cardholders in Livingston County and almost 700 registered cardholders. Murphy says that would mean there are over 4,200 really, really sick people in a population of 200,000 – calling that a “bunch of crap too.” The majority claim they have severe chronic pain, which is hard to prove or disprove. Murphy says he has no problem with marijuana for being used by those that truly have severe chronic pain or are terminal or a cancer patient because that’s how the medical marijuana bill was portrayed and passed by voters. However, he says there is no way there are actually 4,200 in Livingston County who suffer from severe chronic pain. Murphy is encouraging voters to take a look at the full scope of the proposal in a Facebook video. The link is provided. He also provided facts from states that have enacted similar legislation and other arguments via http://healthyandproductivemi.org. Details on the ballot proposal can be found online at www.regulatemi.org. (JM/JK)

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    A Milford-based nonprofit will hold its yearly fundraiser next month to benefit cancer patients in need of financial help. “A Night to Remember” is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the nonprofit Five Points of Hope, which is a cancer care fund based in Milford that awards monetary grants to patients across the state. The organization works with licensed oncology social workers in the state to identify cancer patients with financial hardships. Patients who qualify will receive up to $500 annually to help pay their bills. The charity granted $51,371 in financial assistance to 118 Michigan cancer patients in 2017. The hope is to alleviate some of the patients’ financial burdens so they can better concentrate on their mental health and well-being. Last year’s “A Night to Remember” had about 350 guests and raised over $25,000. The 18th annual event will be held Friday, November 2nd, at 6pm at the Edgewood Country Club in Commerce Township. The event will feature shopping, pampering, gaming and silent auction bidding. All proceeds from the night, including the $5 admission collected at the door, go directly to the charity’s cancer care fund benefitting cancer patients. Additional details can be found at the link below. (DK) Photo 1: Casino-style gaming is a featured event at the Five Points of Hope cancer charity fundraiser, "A Night to Remember." Photo 2: Rhonda Askew of Fowlerville, formerly of Pinckney, holds a photograph of her late husband, Dave, who died of lung cancer in March. Dave wrote a beautiful letter of thanks to the cancer charity Five Points of Hope before he passed away, thanking them for the financial assistance he and Rhonda received when he was fighting cancer. Both photos courtesy of Teresa Silver.

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    The use of alternative nicotine products by minors is now prohibited within the City of Howell. Also known as vaping, the Howell City Council adopted an ordinance amending city code to include alternative nicotine products within the current tobacco prohibition section. Anyone under the age of 18 caught vaping or using other products would be subject to a misdemeanor violation, which carries a $50 fine. Howell Public Schools have seen an increasing amount of students starting to use the products in their facilities, thus the district asked that Council amend the current ordinance to include electrical/mechanical nicotine products known as “vaping”. City Manager Shea Charles earlier told WHMI that many Michigan communities are adopting similar prohibitions for minors. The amendment had been deferred due to some language modifications suggested at the September 24th meeting. Councilman Bob Ellis raised questions about potential un-intended consequences in that it could restrict the use of nicotine replacement products that may be used by teenagers to actually stop smoking. Other members agreed and language was modified before final approval was granted last week by Council. (JM)

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    While a State Police investigation continues into the misappropriation of donated funds by a member of the Livingston County Veterans Services Committee, documents and other information are raising more questions about the operations of that committee and the county’s reaction to what appears to be fraudulent activity by its members. The investigation began after a woman said she was unable to obtain documentation for a $400 check she wrote Committee Chair Hansel Keene in October of 2017. The donor, who has requested anonymity, emailed former Veterans Services Director Adam Smiddy on August 22nd saying she had unsuccessfully tried several times to obtain a receipt for the donation, which she says was solicited by Keene to pay for a plaque that would honor members of the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department who had served in the military. She tells WHMI that when she wrote out a check to the Livingston County Veterans Department, Keene instructed her to include his name on the check as he was authorized to cash county checks and could more easily deposit it. The woman says that over the next 9 months, every time she asked about the receipt Keene would repeatedly say he forgot it, finally leading her to contact Smiddy on August 22nd. In a follow-up email the next day, the woman told Smiddy she had also donated a new Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner and Bissell floor cleaner as well as a 48” riding lawn mower, which only needed a minor repair. She tells WHMI that Keene assured her all of the items would be useful to local veterans and he would take care of it, following up later saying that the vacuum and floor cleaner had gone to veterans and the lawnmower to a male veteran. After receiving the emails, Smiddy called the donor and according to her “sounded troubled” by her story and said the county wanted to obtain a copy of the cashed check, which she provided. Several days later he called back and said they wanted her to obtain the canceled check so they could see who endorsed it. She said she would contact her bank, but after she received it on Monday the 27th and emailed Smiddy with it, he informed her that he had been fired that day by a 4-1 vote of the committee. The four who voted to fire Smiddy included Keene, Bruce Hundley, Kevin Nagle and Joseph Riker. Committee member Jim Wallace was the lone no vote. WHMI has seen the canceled check, which is indeed signed by Keene and dated November 30th, 2017. Smiddy has confirmed to WHMI the details leading up to his firing, and says after he was terminated by the committee, he directed the donor to email Livingston County Administrator Ken Hinton, which she did on August 30th, saying she had, “been made aware that someone may be trying to misrepresent or slander me by claiming I made a mistake, that I intended to make the donations to a different non-profit group, or that the items were not donations. These are total falsifications.” She ends by saying, “I believe it is quite a shame and inexcusable that anyone wishing to be a donor for good causes would have to face this kind of negativity, questioning and doubt.” The donor says she made that statement because Trooper Hammond told her that the person making those false allegations was Keene himself when he was questioned by Trooper Hammond from the Michigan State Police Brighton Post, who was initially assigned to investigate the complaint. Hammond reportedly told the donor that when questioned about the donations, Keene told him that perhaps she made a mistake and hadn’t actually made donations. When informed there was proof of the donations, he is said to have told the trooper that the woman had not donated the cash and items to the county, but instead to the Veterans Foundation of America. She told Hammond that she never heard of such an organization; Keene had never mentioned it and she would never have directed her donations there. A check of state records from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs shows the Livingston County Veterans Treatment Foundation is a non-profit group incorporated in 2014 and doing business as the Veterans Foundation of America, which is associated with fundraising for the Livingston County Veterans Treatment Court. Furthermore, the records show the officers of the Veterans Foundation of America are Hansel Keene, Bruce Hundley and local attorney Neal Nielsen. After telling the trooper she was positive she had not made the donations to that group, she says Hammond told her he would be back in touch with her following the Labor Day weekend. But then the investigation was transferred from the Brighton Post to District Headquarters in Lansing, where State Police Detective 1st Lt. Tom DeClercq confirmed to WHMI on September 18th that he assigned a detective sergeant to conduct a criminal investigation. DeClercq indicated that the transfer was made because of the “political nature” of the investigation and that he expected it be wrapped up within three weeks. However, the donor tells WHMI that since the transfer, no one from the State Police has contacted her, which she described as, “puzzling.” State Police spokesperson Lori Dougovito confirmed to WHMI Friday that the investigation is ongoing, and now involved the Michigan Attorney General's Office. Meanwhile, efforts had been ongoing to track down the status of the donor’s gifts. Her attorney sent a letter September 12th to Hansel Keene demanding that the donations, including the $400 cash, be returned or be submitted to the Livingston County Veterans Services Department with a donation receipt provided. A deadline was given of September 19th at 5pm for that to be accomplished or she would seek “all and/or any of her proper legal remedies.” On September 17th, a response was received from committee member Kevin Nagle, an attorney, indicating that he was representing Mr. Keene. He provided the donor’s lawyer with a receipt for the vacuum and floor cleaner, signed by Keene and Administrative Specialist Susan Cassie and indicated a receipt for the $400 cash donation was forthcoming. However, it was not valid as a donation receipt as it did not list the donor and was not from the county Treasurer's office. As for the lawnmower, Nagle said it had been dropped off at a salvage yard as it was unable to be repaired. It was later learned that the salvage yard in question was Advance Metal Alloys, owned by fellow committee member Bruce Hundley. The donor’s lawyer responded by pointing out, “the donation was mishandled. If it ended up at a scrap yard it is presumed there was then a receipt from the scrap yard and any monies received for it could have been immediately turned in to the county veteran’s department - with a valid donation receipt being issued by the county to my client, the donor. That procedure/process has apparently been “reversed/unwound”, (or whatever applicable term) as you now have the mower in your possession...It is difficult for my client and me to understand why it becomes even a tangential responsibility of the donor to deal with a situation of apparent misappropriation of donations...My client’s position remains that it is your client's responsibility to decide how he is going to correct his misappropriation of donations. My client demands a valid donation receipt (that conforms to IRS regulations) for the fair market value of the lawn mower. That is the only resolution my client is willing to accept.” WHMI previously reported that a Freedom of Information Act request had produced documents indicating Nagle had also received seven disbursements made from the Veterans Services Relief Fund to either himself or his law firm between May of 2016 and February of 2017 totaling $4,900. While the payments were ostensibly for veteran-related legal representation, they raised questions about the propriety of a committee member receiving payments approved by a committee that he sits on. Two days later, on September 19th, Nagle emailed the donor’s attorney and said, “after contacting our County Treasurer it appears that we are not going to be able to generate a receipt for the $400.00 check. This money will be reimbursed. A cashiers (sic) check for $400.00 will be delivered to your office today. We have retrieved the riding lawn mower and it is currently in my possession. Please advise as to what your client would like us to do with it. It is not in working condition. Thank you.” The cashier’s check was received later that day, made out to the donor’s attorney, with the remitter listed as Nagle Law PLLC. When Nagle asked what was to be done with lawnmower, the attorney reiterated his client’s demand for a valid donation receipt, adding that it was, “not the donor's responsibility to figure out what to do with a donation that was accepted and was told was already submitted to the county, with a veteran in need having received it, as Mr. Keene stated to my client.” Three days later a receipt was emailed from Nagle along with a letter from Livingston County Treasurer Jennifer Nash thanking the donor for the donation of a lawnmower valued at $20. Nash also sent an official letter thanking her for the vacuum cleaner and floor cleaner donations, valuing them for a combined $225. According to the donor, Nagle has since asked her attorney if all issues have been resolved. But the donor and her attorney have not responded, noting that $20 for a riding lawnmower doesn’t appear to be fair market value nor do they believe a response is needed from them since they had nothing to do with the misappropriation of the donations. For the donor, the entire incident creates major questions about a lack of oversight of a department entrusted with spending millions of taxpayer dollars, especially when that department is apparently under the complete control of a volunteer committee that seems to close ranks when questioned about their practices. In her mind, the director of that department should not be vulnerable to being fired by a volunteer committee that appears not to be answerable to neither voters nor elected officials. In response to our story, Nagle acknowledged that Keene cashed the check and said it was used to help pay for the plaque, but did not address the propriety or legality of Mr. Keene soliciting such a donation for a county department, made out in his name and cashed into his account. As to the remainder of the allegations, he said, "This particular Donor has now received receipts for all the vacuum items that she donated to the Livingston County Veterans Services. The riding mower was inoperable and was unable to be fixed in a cost-effective manner. The mower was offered back to the donor, through communication with her Attorney, and communication was received that she did not want it back. The mower was then taken to a salvage yard, which has no affiliation to the Livingston County Veterans Services, to be scrapped. A receipt for the scraped mower has been forwarded to the donor’s attorney." Again, the fact that Keene had informed the donor the items had been given to veterans for their use, in contradiction of the dates provided by the county-issued receipts, was not addressed. As to the State Police investigation, Nagle says, "As of today’s, date, Hansel Keene has not spoken to any law enforcement officials, including Trooper Hammond, concerning this matter. Three weeks ago, I spoke with Lt DeClercq to set up an interview date for Mr. Keene. I was informed by Lt Declercq that the matter had been given to a Sergeant to investigate. I have not been contacted since. We look forward to taking part in this investigation so the truth about these outrageous allegations of any misappropriation may come to light." His full response is posted below. Ken Hinton, Hansel Keene, Bruce Hundley and County Commission Chair Don Parker, were also asked to comment on this story. They have yet to respond. (JK)

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    A town hall event in Brighton this week will inform residents about gerrymandering and a proposed solution. The session will be held Friday, October 19th at St. Paul's Episcopal Church from 6:30 to 8pm. The event is being led by Voters Not Politicians; a non-partisan ballot committee seeking to discuss, “the problems caused by gerrymandering and a proposed solution for Michigan voters to appear on the November 6 ballot.” Voters Not Politicians is working to amend the state Constitution to establish an Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission that would allow voters to draw district lines through a series of open meetings. Voters Not Politicians collected over 425,000 signatures to place the proposal on the ballot, “well in excess of the 315,654 minimum required by law.” The group says ending partisan gerrymandering is “an important first step” in solving issues like education, roads and safe water. Event organizers say the town hall will provide information on the problems caused by gerrymandering and further details on the group’s proposal.

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    A road closure is planned in Cohoctah Township this week. Burkhart Road between Allen Road and Chase Lake Road is scheduled to close at 8am this Wednesday. The Livingston County Road Commission advises the closure is needed to replace a drain crossing under Burkhart Road. The road will be completely closed to traffic, although local traffic will have access. Burkhart Road is scheduled to re-open by 6pm Thursday and signs advising of the closure are in place. However, no detour route has been established and motorists are being advised to seek alternate routes. (JM)

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    Developers of the Bluffs at Spring Hill off Flint Road, next to I-96, were at the Brighton Planning Commission meeting Monday night to present their proposal for 72 site condominiums. Site condos are single-family homes in which the land is held in common by an association of home owners in the development. The development would be situated on 31 acres starting at the end of Spring Mountain Drive, where there is an existing site condo development. Several people in the audience addressed commissioners about the proposed project. One woman said the development would not be good for a number of reasons, among them the fate of a forest full of stately mature trees. However, Steven Schafer, owner of Schafer Development in Farmington Hills, said that they would be able to save 40% of the trees by building the homes closer together, thus creating more undeveloped open space. The woman also voiced concerns about the density of the development , stated that it lacked sufficient buffer zones and would have “a negative economic impact” on the existing homes in the area. The homes would range from 1,600 square feet to 2,800 square feet in size and priced from the upper $300,000 range to the lower $400,000 range. Site condos in that price range are said to be attractive to both empty-nesters and college-educated professionals. Some residents wanted bigger sound barriers and others said that the development would greatly increase traffic in the area. Commission Chair Matthew Smith tells WHMI that a PUD gives the city considerably more leeway in setting standards and conditions that must be met in order for the proposal will be approved. With preliminary approval of the rezoning from A-1 to Planned Unit Development, the proposal now goes into the negotiations phase with city staff regarding a number of conditions. The proposal will then go back for a public hearing before city planners for final PUD approval, and then on to City Council for final approval or denial. (TT)

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    The Livingston County Veterans Services Committee delivered a report to the Board of Commissioners Monday night that was related to finances but failed to address accusations of mismanagement and improper handling of donations. The report from committee members and Treasurer Jennifer Nash detailed expenditures of the Veterans Services Department for the years of 2016 through 2018, as well as the Committee’s plans for revenue received as a result of the millage levied for veterans’ relief. Concerns have been raised about the amount of millage money being generated but not spent, roughly $1 (m) million annually, as well as turnover in the department. The department has had turnover with directors and staffing the last couple of years. In general, the report revealed there was money in a previous account prior to the millage being approved that had to be being spent down to be closed out. A small balance remains to cover potential contingencies related to overall county budgeting. The account designated for the millage funds is separate and wasn’t used until 2018, hence the large surplus of more than $1 (m) million. What was not addressed was the Michigan State Police investigation into the Committee launched in August after a woman was unable to get documentation of a $400 donation she gave to Chairman Hansel Keene. That investigation is continuing and WHMI reported Monday that the Michigan Attorney General’s Office is now involved. The department is currently in the midst of trying to hire a director following the firing of former Director Adam Smiddy, who maintains it was due at least in part to his wanting answers as to why Keene had cashed the donation check into his personal account, violating not only county policy, but also potentially the law. Several Democrats running for the county board spoke out during call to public after the presentation. District 8 candidate Kristina Drake of Hamburg Township said she’s “totally mind blown” with what is happening in the department and came out to hear a report on what she believed were the discrepancies being raised. Drake says no one brought up the MSP investigation but feels the allegations need to be addressed, which was why she came. Instead, she says everyone glossed over those critical issues, made excuses for other discrepancies while none of the commissioners addressed, "the elephant in the room" namely the criminal investigation. Howell Township resident Mike Tipton commented that many in the community don’t have the same level of support that was being shown for the committee during the meeting. He supported the millage but said it has been two years and some members didn’t know how much money was in the bank last month. He said no one is addressing the mishandling of the donation and unless action is taken, he feels there are a lot on the community who would be hesitant to support a new millage. Commission Chairman Don Parker clarified that the board does not typically respond to questions during call to the public and does not comment on ongoing criminal investigations but stated that the purpose of the report was to look at the department’s finances. A handful of veterans offered support for the committee and members, their integrity and the work they do to help local vets. Among them was Dale Brewer, unit commander of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary in Howell. He told the board local veterans are very satisfied and concerns with the committee are unfounded and unfair. Brewer said he sees how diligently the committee works. With 12,000 veterans in Livingston County, he agrees the key is outreach. He says the local veteran community it reaching out to others but it’s tough and he thinks it’s a shame the way local media has treated the situation. Brewer said he thinks the reporting is off-balance and needs to look at all sides, not just the negative, and avoid sensationalism. He did not address the criminal probe into the misappropriated donation by Keene nor revelations of questionable spending by the committee, including $4,900 in expenditures to fellow committee member Kevin Nagle for legal services. Committee members noted that there have been a lot of staffing changes in between, which account for funding discrepancies because the same level of staffing and salaries were not being expended. Committee member Joe Riker said the services and funding are there, they just need to get the word out but need a pro-active office. He says they need to keep moving forward and try different things but in reality, "the key is having a great staff, a great director and great committee who all back each other." Riker feels if they build good outreach, the vets will come, they just need to reach them. Riker and other members further stated a need to address the population of homeless veterans, which is currently done though motels as there is no county shelter. Renderings drafted a few years ago for a possible transitional housing facility and new office for Veterans Services was shown, which carried a $1.6 (m) million price tag and was met with criticism from some in the audience. (JM/JK)

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