Source: Sherman Publications

No own, no crime

by Trevor Keiser

January 11, 2012

After almost of year of time, thousands of tax dollars spent for two investigations by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, nothing has changed with Independence Township’s “missing tractor” case.

After the investigation, Oakland County Prosecutor’s office echoed its first sentiments when the case was brought to them: “insufficient evidence of a crime being committed.”

“ It makes me wonder how many tax dollars were spent on doing this investigation,” Trustee Mark Petterson told the Clarkston News “As far as I’m concerned it was a dead duck a long time ago.”

Treasurer Curt Carson agreed.

“It’s disappointing the county had to spend tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer’s money going through this,” he said. “Nothing should have happened until we understood exactly what we had here.”

The case was first opened at the March, 1, 2011 meeting when Trustee Dave Lohmeier revealed Parks and Rec. employees told him about tractor that had gone missing the previous November. The tractor was donated to the township “sometime” in the early 1980’s.

As the case unfolded, it was revealed that Supervisor Dave Wagner directed the tractor be returned to donor, Dr. James O’Neill, because it was “inoperable.”

In April 201, the board voted to start an investigation to see if Wagner had committed a crime by “giving township assets away.” That investigation by Oakland County Chief Warrant Officer John Slevin concluded there was “insufficient evidence of crime being committed.” He submitted his conclusion in a July 5, 2011 letter to the board.

On July 21, Lohmeier, township Clerk Barb Pallotta, and Parks and Rec. Director Ken Elwert met with investigators to present more information, which reopened the case.

Based on the new information and a subsequent investigation, Slevin came to the same conclusion as he did the first time. His opinion was delivered to the township in a Dec. 5, 2011 letter, which also stated, the township never owned the tractor because the board “never voted on the acceptance of the proposed donation of the tractor, as required by law.”

“A criminal complaint would not be authorized on this evidence,” Slevin said. “This is a matter that should be resolved within the township or through the civil courts.”

After reading the opinion given, Trustee Larry Rosso told the Clarkston News, “the outcome remains to be seen. I think if nothing at all it prompts our board to make a very precise policy regarding township assets and the inventory of those assets. I’m not sure if there is going to be a conclusion of this, the sheriff department doesn’t see any reason to prosecute.”

Wagner is tired of hearing about the tractor. “The statements were given before and the findings by the prosecutor’s office state there was no wrongdoing, the tractor was returned to the person it should have been . . . This just goes to show again all the money we’ve wasted and all the time that is spent over nothing.”

Clerk Pallotta could not be reached for comment; Lohmeier wanted to further review the investigation, prior to comment; and Trustee Neil Wallace refused to comment.