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Aide defends sheriff Benny Napoleon


The Detroit News editorial published November 7, 2014 was disingenuous to insinuate that Wayne County sheriff Benny Napoleon committed an ethical violation with regard to use of his county vehicle while campaigning in 2013.

At no time has the sheriff ever compromised his position as sheriff or as an officer of the court. The sheriff’s role as the head of one of the state’s top law enforcement agencies requires him to be on-call 24 hours a day; therefore stating he should “keep personal activities separate from public duties” erroneously implies there are times when he is not on call.

Use of his assigned vehicle is deemed acceptable by the federal Hatch Act (as interpreted by the Office of Special Counsel) and IRS statutes to the extent they allow the sheriff to campaign while working this 24-hour status in his county-assigned vehicle.

To suggest otherwise runs counter to the opinion of Terrence Jungel, executive director of the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, who stated he is unaware of “any counties in the State of Michigan that prohibit or restrict the sheriff’s use of their official vehicle.”

As to the argument that personnel costs should also be reimbursed, those employees were not campaigning. They were performing their normal daily function, securing the sheriff’s safety.

To opine that Napoleon should reimburse Wayne County for engaging in such activities conducted by all previous Wayne County sheriffs and sheriffs statewide suggests it is acceptable to target him exclusively. Such an approach does not afford Napoleon the objectivity and latitude afforded every sheriff in the state’s history.

Initially, Napoleon did seek input from the ethics board. However, before they convened to rush a vote that involved only half of the board members, he received documentation supporting his position and contacted Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuettefor an opinion. In the interim, the sheriff deposited the funds in question in escrow with the Wayne County Treasurer pending the AG’s opinion. However, it is our position that what is fair and equitable based on past and current practices should prevail. Any suggestion that Napoleon’s actions were wrong implies that all sheriffs conducting similar activities are wrong and subject to sanctions as well.

Paula Bridges, press director,

Wayne County Sheriff’s Office