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State Sen. Peter Lucido said Thursday he hears Macomb County calling him home.

The Shelby Township Republican is the first candidate to formally file to run for Macomb County prosecutor in the wake of the resignation of longtime officeholder Eric Smith amid criminal charges.

Lucido, 59, has served in both the state House (2015-18) and now the Senate (his term runs through 2022). But he said he is eager for the “next chapter” of his public service life and to devote his efforts full-time in Macomb County in one of his passions, the law.

“I’ve been a lawyer, a criminal defender and employed 50 people working in my (law) firm,” said Lucido. “The Prosecutor’s Office presents some big challenges right now and I want to help restore trust in the office.”

After an investigation that began more than a year ago, Smith resigned Monday in the face of charges that he and three co-defendants conspired to embezzle $600,000 in county forfeiture funds.

Smith, 53, who had been prosecutor since 2004 and a member of the office since 1993, is charged with 10 offenses, including embezzlement, evidence tampering, which can carry up to 20 years in prison.

Smith’s former top trial lawyer, Jean Cloud, was named this week as interim prosecutor to fill out the rest of Smith’s term, which expires this year. The judges of Macomb County Circuit Court have 30 days to accept other applications and could name someone else.

The deadline for candidates to file for prosecutor is April 21. Others mentioned as possible candidates are former judge Mary Chrzanowski; Commissioner Rob Leonetti, R-Harrison Township; and even Smith's co-defendant, Derek Miller, his chief assistant prosecutor.

Also charged in the forfeiture fund case are former assistant prosecutor Benjamin Liston, who retired three years ago; and William Weber, owner-operator of Mount Clemens-based Weber Security Co.

Lucido said his experience in public office, especially his focus on legal issues, should instill confidence in voters. He is proud of legislation he has helped create over the past five years particularly involving forfeiture assets (no seizures until someone is charged and convicted of a crime); juvenile justice reform (a defendant would be considered a juvenile turning 18) and cyber bullying.

“I’m not soft on crime but believe everyone has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” Lucido said. “That’s a cornerstone of our judicial system and if we don’t believe that, we might as well throw the rest of it out.”

Lucido faced controversy early this year when a reporter, a fellow lawmaker and a former lobbyist, all women, accused him of sexually harassing them. 

A Michigan Senate investigation found his conduct to be "inappropriate workplace behavior" and led to his removal as chairman of the Advice and Consent Committee.

Investigators concluded that none of the complaints could be "unequivocally substantiated," according to a memo from the Senate Business Office but found the accusers to be "credible."

Lucido maintains he did nothing wrong.

"I think it was all politically motivated and came after I appeared on a news program and criticized the governor and said I could do a better job," he said. "That may have been interpreted as I was interested in her job. A week later the allegations were made."

“A Senate panel investigated the allegations and could not substantiate any of them,” Lucido said. “'Inappropriate workplace behavior’? What is that? How can you even say that if you cannot substantiate any of the allegations? Doesn’t make sense. I will gladly explain it to anyone willing to listen to me and I feel the full Senate record should be made public. I feel that should be the end of the story.”

Lucido said he welcomes competition for the prosecutor’s job and hopes to debate any opponent.

“The office requires someone who can act swiftly, competently and decisively to clean up the office,” he said. “I believe I can help restore the public’s faith.”

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319

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