UM frat hands over bank accounts over ski resort damage

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

The international board of a college fraternity will assume control of bank accounts for its University of Michigan chapter after members were accused of destroying rooms at the Treetops ski resort near Gaylord.

Sigma Alpha Mu will manage the accounts of its defunct UM chapter under a consent judgment entered Thursday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, attorneys said.

The fraternity’s board revoked the chapter’s charter last week. Two members were charged with alcohol-related offenses in connection with the January vandalism, and a third member awaits arraignment on a charge of malicious destruction of property.

“It’s just a matter of doing the paperwork now,” said Jim Thome, an attorney with Vandeveer Garzia in Troy, the firm representing the fraternity. “And the case will probably be dismissed in a couple of weeks or so. It’s being resolved.”

Last week, Sigma Alpha Mu sued its UM chapter to freeze its accounts at TCF Bank.

“The objective was to freeze the accounts until the national organization can take them over and preserve them for the use of the chapter should it be reorganized,” Thome said. “The national fraternity has stepped in and is trying to straighten everything out and make sure everything is done properly and any assets are preserved for any future chapter’s use.”

He said he believes the chapter had about $140,000 in its accounts. “Some of that may have to be paid back to those who made deposits for rooms for next semester,” he added. Sigma Alph Mu’s international board has told UM chapter members to move out of the house by May 3.

John Minock, the attorney for Joshua Kaplan and Zachary Levin, members of the UM chapter charged with providing a premise for drug and alcohol consumption by minors, couldn’t say much about the consent judgment, but he expected a judge to sign it.

Kaplan, Levin, three other chapter members and TCF Bank were all named as defendants in the suit seeking to freeze the bank accounts.

Under the consent judgment, TCF will be dismissed from the case once the UM chapter turns over control of the accounts to the international board.

The judgment also said once members transfer ownership and control of the accounts to the fraternity, the “court will entertain entry of a further, final order dismissing this matter and closing the case.”

Members of UM’s Sigma Alpha Mu chapter are accused of breaking windows and damaging furniture, light fixtures and other items Jan. 17-18 at the northern Michigan ski resort. All told, 45 rooms were damaged.

Kaplan, the chapter’s president, and Levin, the chapter’s treasurer, could be fined $1,000 and/or given 30 days in jail if convicted. Minock said his clients had only been in their positions for two weeks at the time of the trip.

Resort officials estimated there was $230,000 in actual damage and upward of $200,000 in management time and reputation damage.

The same weekend, two other UM fraternities and two sororities caused damage — on a smaller scale — at Boyne Highlands Resort, about 50 miles northwest of Gaylord in Harbor Springs.

Members of the Pi Kappa Alpha and Chi Psi fraternities and Alpha Phi and Delta Gamma sororities were blamed for the damage at Boyne Highlands.

After a hearing last month, the university said it would not recognize Sigma Alpha Mu for at least four years. It also placed the Sigma Delta Tau sorority on a disciplinary suspension and issued lesser sanctions against Pi Kappa Alpha, Chi Psi, Alpha Phi and Delta Gamma.

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