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Macomb official wants prosecutor to post $600K bond

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

A Macomb County commissioner wants a special meeting to discuss the future of Prosecutor Eric Smith and says Smith should be required to post a $600,000 bond to make the county whole if he's ultimately found guilty of misappropriating funds from forfeiture accounts.

Commissioner Leon Drolet speaks at a meeting of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners in Mt. Clemens on February 27, 2019.

Smith and three others were charged Tuesday by Attorney General Dana Nessel with participating in a scheme to embezzle $600,000 in county funds. 

Commissioner Leon Drolet said Wednesday he hopes to have other commissioners agree to a special meeting regarding Smith at the end of their regular meeting on Thursday. Smith’s brother, Bob, is the chairman of the Board of Commissioners.

“It will be taken up by commissioners (as to) what is appropriate and even if a special meeting is needed,” said Drolet, R-Macomb Township. “I believe it is in the best interests of the county’s taxpayers. Some might even seek a resolution on whether he should resign as prosecutor.”

Smith and co-defendant Derek Miller, his chief of operations, remain in their jobs pending the outcome of the case against them. Also charged were former assistant county prosecutor Benjamin Liston and businessman William Weber.

Smith, 53, a Democrat first elected in 2004, faces 10 counts, including conspiracy to commit forgery, embezzlement, tampering with evidence and criminal enterprise involving asset forfeiture funds collected by his office, according to court records. 

 At issue is whether the funds, which are supposed to be used for law enforcement purposes, were expended on other purposes by Smith ranging from charities to holiday parties.


Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith

Smith, Miller and Liston are scheduled to be formally arraigned by video from the Michigan State Police North Metro Post at 10 a.m. Friday.

A probable cause conference for Weber is scheduled for May 19 in Mount Clemens' 41-B District Court. Weber is the owner of a security company which obtained contracts for the sale and installation of surveillance equipment at the prosecutor’s office and in his Macomb Township home.  

Drolet said he wants commissioners to consider requiring Smith to agree to post a $600,000 bond that would revert to the county should he be convicted. The most serious charge against him, conducting a criminal enterprise, carries up to 20 years in prison.

The Board of Commissioners also could terminate Smith from his post should he decline to cooperate. Such action would require a two-thirds majority.

Should that action take place, it would require a two-thirds majority vote of the Board and the

If Smith were removed, Chief Judge James Biernat Jr. of Macomb County Circuit Court could name a replacement to fill out Smith’s term, which expires in December.

Biernat made a temporary appointment to the county clerk's post in March 2018 when Karen Spranger was removed after it was determined she had falsified her residence on an election affidavit.

While no one, including Smith, has filed to run for prosecutor in November, several names have been tossed around in county election circles.

Among them: former judge Mary Chrzanowski, known as “Scary Mary” by some attorneys during her 25 years on the Macomb Circuit bench; state Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, who announced Wednesday he plans to file for the job by the April 20 deadline; county Commissioner Rob Leonetti, R-Harrison Township; and even Smith’s co-defendant, Miller, of Warren whose name has been tossed around as a possible candidate if Smith chose not to run for re-election.

In a videotaped statement Tuesday, Nessel said Smith, Miller, Liston and Weber collectively stole about $600,000 “in an elaborate scheme of public profiteering motivated by what appears to be unfettered self-interest.”

Smith has repeatedly insisted all of his expenditures were legal under asset forfeiture laws. His defense attorney, Martin Crandall, said in a statement: “…we will vigorously defend Mr. Smith against these baseless allegations. We look forward to Mr. Smith’s day in open court, whenever that may be."

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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