Macomb County District Attorney Peter Lucido appears frustrated that County Executive Mark Hackel and his administration have yet to provide him with the funds to fill four positions he was granted the right to fill in a a recent lawsuit.
Lucido appeared before the County Board of Commissioners Archives and Public Safety Committee meeting on Monday to announce several personnel changes and to advise the board that he cannot yet fill the positions.
Lucido didn’t give specifics during the meeting, but then expressed frustration that the administration is refusing to release the $300,000 to hire a full-time communications director, a full-time executive administrator, and two positions at part-time. Lucido won a March 31 decision from the state Court of Appeals that backed the board in adding the four language positions to the county charter. The notice was listed as “for publication”, meaning it has precedential value.
“It’s been a problem and now clarity has been established,” Lucido said. “They (three COA judges) had a 16-page opinion on a 15-page charter. It was a very detailed decision, they wanted to make sure all questions were heard.
Lucido said he wonders why the county is “wasting” taxpayers’ money and why the entities can’t work better together.
“What’s it going to cost the county?” he said.
County society attorney John Schapka said Monday the county would appeal and the order could not be enforced until at least after it was filed and could be stayed until the case is resolved.
Schapka said he believed the three-judge appeal panel “erred” in its decision. He said the judges, in their opinion, cited the Uniform State Budget and Accounting Act as trumping the charter. However, Schapka said that under the state constitution and legal charters “many different (state) laws are allowed to be waived.”
He added that the administration also believes the language of the charter favors its position.
Lucido’s attempt last week for the court to immediately implement the decision was rejected.
The issue revolves around Lucido going to the board and getting approval for the four additional positions beyond what the administration recommended to the board last year for the 2022 budget. an equal amount of funding from other departments.
Hackel refused to implement the additions because he said the process violated the county charter which went into effect in 2010. Hackel cited the opinions of company attorney John Sckapka and a former council’s attorney interpreting the charter to say it prevents any of the county’s five other elected officials – including the district attorney – from bypassing Hackel and asking the board for a supplementary budget.
Lucido sued Hackel in January.
The board backed Lucido and endorsed him by hiring attorney Todd Perkins to file the lawsuit.
Board Chairman Don Brown called the decision “an important step forward in adhering to the budget process outlined in the Macomb County Home Rule Charter. The Board of Commissioners welcomes the court’s ruling that the County Executive violated the Charter by unilaterally withholding funds properly appropriated to the district attorney’s office.
After the meeting, Lucido also reiterated his office’s need for a director of communications to help manage the many media calls his office receives about incidents and criminal cases. He pointed out that Hackel and County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller employed a person to handle communications.
In Hackel’s recommended budget to the board, he approved Lucido’s hiring of 10 assistant prosecutors, four of them partially funded by grants, to handle the increased caseload in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. .
Five positions have been filled and, after some delays, five more positions have been posted, officials said.
Lucido also announced personnel changes, promoting several veteran assistant prosecutors to unit chief positions, although former acting prosecutor and longtime assistant prosecutor Jean Cloud chose to leave the administration to lead the single prosecutor car theft unit.
In January, a supervisors’ union official accused Lucido of trying to terminate Cloud, who served as chief of trials for several years and served as acting prosecutor for about nine months after former prosecutor Eric resigned. Smith in March 2020 amid criminal charges.
Lucido has “even taken the active part in contacting other agencies and seeking outside employment opportunities numerous times without the request or consent of this (Cloud) employee,” said Scott Trotter, representative services for Local 412. “The union believes that Mr. Lucido is intimidated by this employee because of the position she previously held as acting prosecutor and because she is a highly respected woman.
Cloud has received praise from other county officials for his performance as acting district attorney.
Veteran assistant prosecutor Sian Hengeveld, who worked in the child protection unit and prosecuted many capital cases, was elevated to chief prosecutor.
Kumar Palepu was appointed Chief of District Courts, along with former Chief of District Court Corey Newman, who prosecuted a number of momentous cases, moving to prosecute cases in the court of Judge James Maceroni.
Vicki Policicchio has been named head of the domestic violence unit, replacing Darra Slanec, who left to become the administrator of District Court 42-I in Romeo.
Assistant District Attorney Tanya Goetz will then replace John Ange as head of the juvenile unit. Ange leaves to become an administrator at the Office of the Public Defender.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Fox, who was not present at the meeting, was named head of the major crimes unit.