Oil in Oakland Co. board room a ritual to rid 'negativity'

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an incident in which a board of commissioners employee allegedly smeared what appeared to be olive oil on more than 300 seats in the Pontiac building where the group meets.

Deputies were called to the chambers about 6 p.m. Wednesday after maintenance workers found the material on all the auditorium public seating, the commissioners' chairs and seats in a committee room as well as doorways and door handles, Undersheriff Mike McCabe said.

Investigators allege the person responsible was a county board staffer.

The woman, who practices meditation and other spiritual rituals, told authorities that "all she was trying to do was get rid of the negativity there" following County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's recent death and the controversy over the process to replace him, McCabe said.

The staffer described the substance as olive oil. County forensic officials tested a sample but were not able to confirm what it was, the undersheriff said.

It is unclear if charges would be filed once authorities turn over the results of the investigation to the county Prosecutor's Office.

"It appears there was no criminal intent on her part," McCabe said.

A board representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the staffer has been disciplined. 

Meanwhile, maintenance workers have been working to clean the stains left by the oil off the seats, he added. "They weren't able to today."

News of the incident came the same day as the funeral for Patterson, who died Aug. 3 of pancreatic cancer. 

On Wednesday, a committee began interviewing candidates for his successor. Longtime chief deputy Gerald Poisson has been serving as county executive.