Detroit — A retired Wayne Circuit judge has been appointed as the master to supervise a multi-count grievance against Novi 52-1 District Judge Dennis N. Powers, that ranges from bogus mileage payments to chronic tardiness and absences on the bench.
Jeanne Stempien, who served on the Wayne Circuit bench from 1993 to 2010, has been appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to act as judge in the pending hearing to determine the validity of complaints of alleged misconduct against Powers.
Stempien also served on the Judicial Tenure Commission from 2004 through 2012.
The Tenure Commission is looking into 58-pages of allegations that Powers, besides submitting more than $3,000 in bogus mileage statements to Oakland County for reimbursement, also repeatedly took time off from his judicial duties to play golf, take extra vacation days and attend non-existent conferences.
Powers reportedly approached a court employee to create a "ghost" docket for him to make it appear he was working on some of the days when he was absent.
The grievance hearing, which will be public, is expected later this year and could potentially include several county employees, magistrates and judges as witnesses. Such hearings can result in acquittal of all allegations or also lead to penalties including censure, suspension, even possible removal from the bench.
Some of the allegations, if proven, could result in a criminal investigation.
Powers, of Highland Township, will remain on the bench in his job that pays more than $138,000 a year. He has been a judge for 15 years and is reportedly not running for re-election when his current term expires in 2016.
While judges are permitted to seek reimbursement for mileage driven in their official capacity or for county business off the bench, allegations dating back to 2007 include that Powers put in for mileage to attend meetings as a director on a credit union board, which is not permitted. Powers, who is a real estate broker, also allegedly sought and obtained mileage for attending real estate training classes in Macomb County.
Powers allegedly misused county equipment, specifically a county-furnished cellular phone which between July 2012 and Aug. 2013 was used while on vacation, to send out more than 11,000 text messages; 1,200 data transfers; and 250 photos — none of it work-related activity.