Monday, May 10, 2004

Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur - Deputy John Bush fired for filing DV Report - Charlevoix






On May 10, 2004, Charlevoix Sheriff Deputy John Bush Jr. responded to a 911 call at the home of Charlevoix County Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur.











According to reports, Deputy Bush transported Kur's son to the hospital. "When talking to the doctor, a statement was made that Stephen Kur had hit his son the night before and attempted to push him down the stairs. It was also stated that both of the parents had been mentally abusive to their son..."












Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur made a phone call that night to Charlevoix County Undersheriff Donald Schneider. The phone call was recorded:

Kur:  "(Our son) ended up calling 9-1-1 ....So Bush came out with (Charlevoix City Police Officer) Matt (Umulis)....I don't know Bush very well but if somebody would just please say something about respecting my son's privacy...."

Schneider: "I'll take care of it..."

Kur: "I don't want anything like… I just don't know him well enough to just ask him that..."

Schneider: "I'll take care of Bush..."










According to Deputy Bush, Sheriff Lasater prepared a statement regarding the domestic incident that occured with Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur's son on May 10th. Deputy Bush refused to sign the statement, on the grounds that it was "incomplete and inaccurate."







On June 16, 2004, Deputy Bush submitted a "Standard Domestic Relationship Incident Report," on the May 10th call to Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur's home. On June 16th, Deputy Bush was demoted from road patrol to the county jail. On September 8th, Deputy Bush was dismissed from the Charlevoix County Sheriff Department.










Charlevoix County Politics 101


Kur, Jarema settle lawsuit
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

John Jarema, the former Charlevoix County chief assistant prosecutor, on Tuesday accepted $50,000 to settle the remaining whistleblower count in the three-count case he brought almost a year ago against the county and his former boss, county prosecutor Mary Beth Kur . 

Two counts alleging defamation and invasion of privacy were dismissed earlier by Cheboygan County Circuit Judge Scott Pavlich. 

Jarema said today that by agreeing to the "offer of judgment" put forward by the county's insurer, Kur had effectively admitted to his allegations that she had mismanaged her staff's time and thus defrauded the county. 

Kur, on vacation in Florida, denied that the settlement amounted to any admission on her part. 

Jarema said Kur's attorneys had earlier offered a settlement with a confidentiality clause which he refused. "This is not a settlement that just goes away. She's admitting liability," he said. 

Jarema's attorney Grant Parsons said Tuesday that he believed that Kur, as an elected official, could have refused to have a judgment pertaining to allegations of fraud from being entered against her. 

"Clearly she preferred accepting that judgment to appearing live at a trial and presenting her case to the public," Parsons told the Petoskey News-Review. 

Kur said the offer of judgment was not an admission of guilt and any attempt to portray it as such was wrong and politically motivated. 

"Mr. Parsons knows better than that," Kur said. "There is no guilt in civil trial. The judge is not going to make any finding of fact or law by entering the offer of judgment as the final disposition of the case. It's a settlement, that's it. 

"Besides, had I vetoed the settlement I would be left without (insurance) coverage." 

"The fact is, the insurance company made an offer and they accepted it. That type of misrepresentation smacks of what this case has been about from the beginning, which is politics," Kur said. 

Asked today if he intended to run for county prosecutor in 2004, Jarema said: 

"Throughout this process people have asked me to run, but I haven't made up my mind. If she thinks I have gained any political advantage by having my name dragged through the paper, she is wrong." 

Kur's attorney, Sandra Jasinski, said the settlement offer was based purely on practical financial considerations. 

"The insurance company concluded it was cheaper to settle than to continue to trial, even though plaintiff's case was very weak," she said. 

She noted that the county has already paid legal fees of more than $157,000 to defend Kur and the county, of which all but $35,000 was covered by insurance. 

"The settlement amount is less than one half of the fees and expenses that plaintiff owes his attorney. If, as plaintiff apparently claims, this is a victory, he can ill afford any more victories," she said. 

Jarema said Parsons had taken his case on a one-third contingency basis and hence would receive $16,000 of the $100,000 he had billed for his time. 

Jarema said, "If she would have admitted she was wrong at the beginning, as I asked her to do before the board of commissioners, it would not have cost the county a dime. 

"Kur spent over $150,000 to try and hide the truth, seal the evidence and dismiss the case and then ultimately agreed to a judgment against her." 

Jasinski said the jury trial scheduled to begin May 27 on the whistleblower's count would have lasted at least two weeks. 

"Plaintiff only accepted the offer after the county and prosecutor Kur filed an application asking the Court of Appeals to reverse Judge Pavlich's order refusing to dismiss the last claim," she said. "Plaintiff would have had to respond to the application in 10 days. He did not want to take the chance that the court of appeals would dismiss his claim. 

"If there was a victor in this matter it is not plaintiff, but the citizens of Charlevoix County, because the insurance company's payment of a fraction of what plaintiff wanted ends this dispute and permits the county's elected officials to perform their duties without the distraction of unmerited lawsuits." 

In August, Pavlich ruled that Kur could not be held liable for defamation for comments she made regarding Jarema before county officials at public meetings. 

Jarema, claiming wrongful dismissal, asked that he be re-instated to his position and awarded over $25,000 in damages. 

Kur maintained she decided to terminate Jarema five days before doing so on Feb. 27 and that his termination had nothing to do with notes Jarema kept regarding the comings and going of attorneys in the office. 

She said Jarema was dismissed for his work performance and conduct, and had been given the option of resigning rather than being terminated. 













Charlevoix County prosecutor's support staff allege Kur, county violated whistleblowers' act
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - Two employees of the Charlevoix County prosecutor's office have alleged that the county and prosecutor Mary Beth Kur violated the state's Whisterblowers' Protection Act and created a hostile working environment in the prosecutor's office. 

The employees, Sandy Ward and Jacqueline Rozema, have been on medical leave since late February. Both are represented by Traverse City attorney Grant Parsons. 

In a lawsuit filed last Wednesday in Charlevoix County Circuit Court, Ward alleged she suffered "serious stress, including shaking, and was reduced to tears on numerous occasions," and asked the court to award her compensatory and exemplary damages over $25,000, and legal and court costs. 

Parsons said a second lawsuit to be filed on behalf of Rozema and nearly identical to the Ward suit was mailed to the county clerk on Monday. Chief deputy county clerk Cheri Browe said this morning that the Rozema suit had not yet been received. 

Rozema, a secretary in the prosecutor's office, is on vacation and could not be reached for comment. 

The lawsuits follow a $50,000 settlement last month of the remaining count of a three-county case filed by former assistant prosecutor John Jarema, who alleged wrongful dismissal in February of 2002 and asked more than $25,000 in damages. 

The settlement was instigated by the county's insurance company after the defendants incurred over $157,000 in legal fees, of which all but $35,000 was covered by insurance, and faced a court hearing on the final count in May. 

Two previous counts in the case alleging defamation and invasion of privacy were dismissed by the judge. 

Browe said any costs incurred in defending lawsuits against the county would have to be approved in advance by the county board of commissioners, which meets next at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23. 

The Ward suit alleges in the first of two counts that Kur and her staff of assistant prosecutors violated the Whistleblowers' Protection Act by retaliating against Ward, a victim assistance coordinator, for giving an oral deposition under subpoena last October in the Jarema case. 

The retaliatory actions cited included harassment, assignment manipulation, verbal comments, gestures, threatening conversations and confrontations. 

The suit alleged the county board of commissioners violated the Whistleblowers act by finding the workplace conditions "intolerable" and refusing to "ameliorate," or improve, them. 

It stated that on Feb. 26, Ward went on medical leave as a result of the retaliatory conduct at work and remains on medical leave. 

In the second count the suit charges that Kur and her associates created a hostile workplace environment "so intolerable that no reasonable person would have been able to work." 

It alleged that Ward had suffered "serious stress, including shaking, and was reduced to tears on numerous occasions such that she had to seek treatment." 

The count repeated the allegations against the county contained in the first count, and said as a result of the "unlawful employment practices and disregard of Ward's rights and sensibilities," she probably will lose substantial income including wages and benefits. 

It said she also suffered significant noneconomic damages, including anger, intimidation and stress. 

In response to the filing, Kur issued at statement Monday that read, in full: 
"This is a gross misuse of an already overburdened legal system. Sadly, it's an expensive nuisance that the county has to deal with. 

"Unfortunately, this is the price we all pay when people who have no case are paid off by insurance companies. All it does is encourage others who have no case to sue too so they can get some money that they too don't deserve." 

Kur's reference to claims paid by insurance companies appeared to refer to the $50,000 settlement of the Jarema case, which her attorney Sandy Jasinski said was based purely on practical financial considerations. 

However, Jarema contended, and Kur denied, that by agreeing to the "offer of judgment," Kur had effectively admitted to his allegations that she had mismanaged her staff's time and thus defrauded the county. 

Parsons said today that Kur's response to the Ward lawsuit was "the worst case of witness harassment I've ever seen and that will be proven in spades." 

"When somebody has a judgment entered against them after $157,000 worth of fight and then thinks these people don't have a claim, she has another think coming. And for a person who is an officer of the court, she ought to know better. Kur's response in this mess is really unprofessional. 

"If the county had listened to them (Ward and Rozema) and acted like a good employer, none of this would have happened." 

Kur countered: "There is no one who takes their responsibilities as an officer of the court more seriously than I do." She declined to elaborate further. 

In January the county's three-member personnel committee concluded that allegations of harassment against Kur brought by Ward and three other members of Kur's support staff were insufficient to constitute a violation of county policy. 

They concluded that there was little more the committee could do because state law gives elected officials such as Kur full authority over non-economic issues concerning their employees. 

Valerie Snyder, a local attorney as well as personnel committee chair, said general allegations of unpleasant working conditions were insufficient to bring a complaint under the policy. 

She said the policy was intended to address specific complaints of harassment based on sexual, racial or religious grounds. 

Snyder said that while the situation in the office was unfortunate, the complainants had the same options as others working in the public or private sector: Seek an accommodation with the parties involved or find other employment. 

An opinion signed Jan. 27, 2003, by all three members of the personnel committee concluded: 

"The personnel committee, and parties to this matter, agree that the working environment in the prosecutor's office is not tolerable, in the long run, for anyone. 

"To help rectify the situation, the personnel committee is willing to consider transfers of the complaining employees to other county offices, should there be employment openings for which they are qualified. 

"This assistance by the personnel committee is offered solely for the purpose of rectifying a difficult situation and is not to be construed in any way as validating the complaints presently before the committee." 












Personnel disputes continue for Charlevoix County prosecutor
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, April 24, 2003 
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - Since February, Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur has lost all four of her support staff - two to medical leave, one to retirement and one to dismissal for lying on her employment application about her criminal record. 

Two of the four positions have since been filled. 

Details of the first three departures have been published, but the dismissal of Wendy Viles, a secretary earning about $12.50 an hour, was first made public by Traverse City attorney Grant Parsons in an interview with the Petoskey News-Review on lawsuits involving Kur's current and former staff. 

While Parsons, who represents two of Kur's staffers in lawsuits against Kur and the county, would not give details of Viles' dismissal, Freedom of Information Act requests for her personnel file and those of her husband, Henry Dean Viles, revealed the circumstances of her dismissal. 

The files disclose that between 1991 and 1992, Viles, now 31, pleaded guilty under her maiden name Wendy Allen to six misdemeanors ranging from registration/plate violation to minor in possession to embezzlement from a video store. 

In the affidavit of probable cause, she is alleged to have deleted $113.06 from computer records at Horizon Video of East Jordan and pocketed the money for her own use. 

The previous county prosecutor, Kraag C. Lieberman, charged Allen, now Viles, with a felony, but the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor to which she pleaded guilty. She was ordered to pay $1,155.30 in restitution and sentenced to 730 days probation, which she successfully completed. 

On her application for employment with the county, dated Jan. 13, 2000, Viles was asked whether she had ever pleaded guilty or no contest to, or been convicted of a crime, to which she answered "no." 

A memo by chief assistant prosecutor Jenny Deegan dated Feb. 14, 2003, states that Kur confronted Viles about her criminal history to which she responded that she "did not know." 

The Deegan memo states that Viles' husband, Dean Viles, 39, the probation officer for the county district court, attended the meeting and said he had talked to Kur about his wife's convictions. He said Kur told him "it was no problem so long as you don't talk about it." 

Kur stated no such conversation took place, the memo said. 

Kur then offered Viles the opportunity to resign, and when she refused, she was summarily discharged. 

Wendy Viles was one of four support staffers in the prosecutor's office - the others were Sandy Ward, Jacqueline Rozema and Carol Quinn - who filed a complaint on Jan. 8 with the county alleging Kur had verbally assaulted Ward and charged her with disloyalty for giving a deposition in a lawsuit filed by former chief assistant prosecutor John Jarema. 

The four also alleged that Kur and the four attorneys in her office had created a hostile work environment for them all. 

After the county board of commissioners failed to take action on their complaint, Quinn took retirement, and Ward and Rozema took medical leave within two weeks of each other and filed suits against Kur and the county asking over $25,000 each in damages. 

Kur said she had hired Wendy Viles and allowed Rozema to transfer to her department. She said Ward was originally hired by District Court Judge Richard May. 

Kur said employees had been hired to fill the positions of Viles and Quinn, but because Ward and Rozema remain on medical leave, their positions have been filled with employees from a temporary employment agency. 

Kur declined further comment. 

Dean Viles said today that Wendy Viles would have no comment on the matter. 













This may explain why Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur contacted Undersheriff Don Schneider, knowing that she could trust him to 'take care of Deputy Bush' following the 911 incident at her home...

Police officers receive medals
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Author: Steve Zucker News-Review Staff Writer

CHARLEVOIX - When Charlevoix County Sheriff George T. Lasater attempted to serve a court order on a man at a Korthase Road home early Sept. 23, he literally came face-to-face with the metal of a shotgun barrel. 

Monday, nearly 10 months after the incident, Lasater and four of his deputies found medals pinned to their chests for their actions on that day. 

Lasater, Charlevoix County Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur, and four deputies received awards from the National Sheriff's Association in front of a handful of friends, family, elected officials and media gathered in the Sheriff's Department Monday. 

Michigan State Sen. Jason Allen R-Traverse City, Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners Chairman Randolph Frykberg, Charlevoix resident Bill Schuiling and Aaron Westrick participated in the presentations. 

The awards handed out Monday included the Purple Heart to Lasater; the Medal of Valor to deputies Brian VanMeter and George R. Lasater and Undersheriff Don Schneider; the Medal of Merit to Det./Sgt. Don Sproul and the Sheriff's Award to Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Beth Kur. 

The awards were all related to an incident that took place in the early morning hours of Sept. 23 when Lasater and three other officers went to the Korthase Road of John Shulick to serve him with court papers. 

As Lasater ascended a stairway in the home, he was met by Shulick who rammed the barrel of a shotgun into Lasater's mouth, knocking out several teeth and knocking the sheriff down the stairs. Schneider, VanMeter and George R. Lasater rushed to the sheriff's assistance. Police from all over Northern Michigan, including a special swat-like team surrounded the building for about a day and a half. Shulick was eventually arrested when he was found hiding in a neighbor's boat. 

A jury later convicted Shulick of several criminal charges and he is now serving consecutive 5-10-year and two-year prison sentences. 

VanMeter, George R. Lasater, and Schneider received their awards for their actions following the assault on the Sheriff on the morning of Sept. 23. 

Sproul's award was for his efforts in the investigation that eventually led to Shulick's conviction. Kur's award was for her efforts in prosecuting the Shulick case. 

Following the ceremony, Scheider, who took charge of the incident for its 32-hour duration, said he was especially proud of the actions taken by George R. Lasater and VanMeter as they rushed in from outside the home to come to the sheriff's aide. 













And they're off… campaign 2004 starts for prosecutors
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Friday, January 9, 2004
Author: Steve Zucker News-Review Staff Writer

The August primary election is still nearly seven months away, but races for the office of prosecuting attorney in both Charlevoix and Emmet counties are already heating up as two former assistant prosecutors have announced their intention to replace their former bosses. 

In what will likely be a very contentious race in Charlevoix County, former chief assistant prosecuting attorney John Jarema announced Thursday that he will be seeking to unseat his former boss in August. Jarema's announcement comes nearly two years after current prosecutor Mary Beth Kur fired Jarema for disloyalty. 

In Emmet County, former assistant prosecutor Shaynee Derrohn Fanara announced late Thursday that, she, too will seek election to her former boss' post. Fanara's announcement came on the same day that current Emmet County Prosecuting Attorney Robert J. Engel announced that he will not be seeking a third four-year term in November. Fanara worked as an assistant prosecutor under Engel for about two years beginning in Oct. 2001. Late in 2003 Fanara left the prosecutor's office and began working with the Klawuhn law firm in Petoskey. 

Shortly after his dismissal, Jarema filed a "Whistleblower's Protection Act" lawsuit against Kur and the county claiming that Kur fired him because he was about to make allegations that Kur was mis-managing her office. 

Kur said she fire Jarema for his work performance and conduct, and that she gave him the option of resigning rather than being terminated. 

In March of 2003, Jarema accepted a $50,000 payment from the county's insurance company to settle the case. 

"I think Charlevoix County deserves a proactive in-court prosecutor who is fiscally responsible," Jarema said today, Friday. 

Jarema said many people, including law enforcement, elected county official, and members of the community encouraged him to seek the prosecutor's post since his dismissal 

"I think they know my trial record and my ability and willingness to go into court," he said. 

Commenting on Jarema's announcement, Charlevoix County Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur said, "It comes as no surprise to me that he's finally made it official. As a prosecutor and a community leader, I stand on my record and I am proud of my record. There'll be ample time to talk about things in the next seven months. Right now I'm busy doing the job the people of Charlevoix County have elected me to do." 

Kur, 40, was appointed to the position in 1995 after working 2 1/2 years as the county's chief assistant prosecutor. She was reelected after running unopposed in 1996 and 2000. 

Jarema, 35, worked for the Charlevoix County Prosecutor's office for seven years from February 1995 to February 2002. For about the last three of those years Jarema was chief assistant prosecutor. 

Since both Kur and Jarema will run as Republicans, the race between them will be decided in the Aug. 3 primary election. 

Fanara, a Petoskey native, worked as an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, before moving back to Petoskey in 2000. Before the prosecuting attorney's office, she worked at the firm Stroup, Erhart and Wurster. 

So far, Fanara is the only person who has announced an intention to seek the seat Engel will vacate on Dec. 31. 

Fanara said she is excited about the prospect of serving the community where she grew up. 

"With my diverse experience in the legal field, and passion for Northern Michigan, I am confident that I have the qualities necessary to be an effective prosecutor and strong advocate for the citizens of Emmet County." 













Whistleblower suit against prosecutor dismissed
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

BELLAIRE - Grand Traverse Circuit Judge Thomas Power dismissed a pair of cases brought against Charlevoix County and its prosecutor, Mary Beth Kur , by two of Kur's staff under the state Whistleblower Protection Act. 

Power said Sandra Ward and Jacqueline Rozema, who remain employees of the county but who have been on medical leave for over a year, had not been fired, resigned or shown "constructive dismissal" - necessary elements for claiming protection under the Whistleblower Act. 

Grant Parsons of Traverse City, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the two chose to remain on staff because they did not want to give up their benefits, such as pension and health care, and had sought employment with other departments in county government. 

But, he argued that they had effectively quit because Kur had made working conditions so "intolerable" that they could never work for her again. 

Rozema has been an employee of the county for 23 years and Ward for 10. 

Ward, the county's victim assistance coordinator, and Rozema, an office manager for Kur, alleged that Kur had created a hostile work environment, and Ward alleged that Kur charged her with disloyalty. Both charges stemmed from depositions each made in a separate Whistleblower lawsuit filed by John Jarema, the former chief assistant prosecutor. 

Thomas said the plaintiffs' allegations of intolerable working conditions were perceptions that amounted to hurt feelings and did not rise to a level that would allow him to put them to a jury. He said any damage to the plaintiffs was self-inflicted. 

Power heard the case in the Antrim County courthouse after Charlevoix Circuit Judge Richard Pajtas had disqualified himself. 

After Power's decision, Kur said she has believed from the start the lawsuits had no merit and were politically motivated. 

"I believe these cases constituted an improper use of the court system and have cost an unnecessary expense to the taxpayers of Charlevoix County," she said. 

Kur said she could not comment on whether the status of Ward and Rozema as employees of her office had changed without talking with the county's labor counsel. 

Kur is being challenged for the prosecutor's position in the Aug. 3 Republican primary by her former chief assistant prosecutor, Jarema, whom she fired two years ago. 

In March, 2003, Jarema accepted $50,000 from the county's insurance carrier to settle a remaining Whistleblower count in a three-count case he brought against Kur and the county. 

Two counts alleging defamation and invasion of privacy had earlier been dismissed by Cheboygan County Circuit Judge Scott Pavlich. 













Judge dismisses plea for reconsideration
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Friday, April 23, 2004
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

Grand Traverse County Circuit Judge Thomas Power has denied a motion to reconsider his summary dismissal of lawsuits brought under the state whistleblower act by two former employees of Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur . 

But Power scheduled a May 10 hearing on a motion by the employees' attorney Grant Parsons to amend the cases against Kur and the county. 

In his motion, Parsons asked that he be allowed to amend the suits to "add the facts of retirement/resignation, and state more clearly the list of intimidation and harassment that created an intolerable working condition." 

Power, who took the cases after Charlevoix Circuit Judge Richard Pajtas disqualified himself, granted summary dismissal of the cases after a hearing in Bellaire earlier this month. 

Dennis Taylor, the defendants' attorney, said today, Friday, that he found the plaintiffs' motion to amend to be unusual, because the only new facts in the cases he was aware of were that Sandra Ward, the county's victim assistance coordinator, had resigned, and Jacqueline Rozema, an office manager for Kur, had retired, both after the cases were dismissed. 

The two took medical leave 14 months ago but remained as county employees in order to claim health benefits and accumulate retirement time. 

"Now they will claim that they are no longer working, but they still can't show adverse conditions sufficient to meet the requirements for an action under the law," Taylor said. 

"In denying the motion for rehearing, the judge said we have gone over everything and the motion presents the same issues ruled on by the court." 

Taylor said there were more than 900 pages of depositions in the cases, all of which had been reviewed by Power, and Taylor said it was unlikely that anything new of substance could be produced. 

"It's all there - discovery is over," he said. 

Parsons had said earlier he would appeal the dismissals. 

Power dismissed the suits on grounds that the two employees had not been fired, resigned or shown "constructive dismissal," necessary elements for claiming protection under the Whistleblower Act. 

He said the employees' allegations of intolerable working conditions were perceptions that amounted to hurt feelings and did not rise to a level that would allow him to put them to a jury. 

Power said any damage to the plaintiffs was self-inflicted. 

The two had alleged that Kur created a hostile work environment after they gave depositions in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by former chief assistant prosecutor John Jarema. 

Jarema is running against Kur for county prosecutor in this year's election. 











Kur seeks third term as Charlevoix County prosecutor
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - Mary Beth Kur announced today her intention to seek re-election as Charlevoix County prosecutor. 

Kur will be running in the Aug. 3 Republican primary against John Jarema, her former chief assistant prosecutor who is now in private law practice in Charlevoix. 

"Our goal in the prosecutor's office is to continue providing aggressive, but fair, prosecution of criminals, while staying within the budget set for us by the board of commissioners," Kur said in a news release. 

Kur began her service in the county prosecutor's office in 1993. She said that during her tenure, she turned back more than $134,000 in unused funds to the county's general fund. 

Kur said she has received the endorsement of five of the six Charlevoix County commissioners: Randy Frykberg, Dennis Jason, Vic Patrick, Ron Reinhardt and Valerie Snyder. 

Shirley Roloff, the sixth county commissioner, said she is not endorsing any candidate in the primaries. 

Kur's office was one of only four in the state of Michigan chosen for a pilot project developed in conjunction with state attorney general Mike Cox aimed at reducing domestic violence. Grant moneys obtained have resulted in the hiring of a special assistant attorney general for Charlevoix County, Mike Findlay, who specializes in domestic violence prosecution. 

Kur has recently been recognized for her work in the prosecution of domestic violence by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has appointed her to the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board for a six-year term. 

Kur is a board member of the Northern Michigan Child Abuse Council. Since 1995, Kur has also been elected by her peers to serve on the board of directors of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. 

Kur's trial work consists of both felony cases and cases in district and family courts. In her career as a trial lawyer, she has never had a conviction reversed by an appeals court. 

"Over the past 11 years, I have been a successful advocate in court for crime victims, for children who have been neglected or abused, and for all the citizens of Charlevoix County," Kur said. 

"I want to continue my service to the public, because we make a difference. While we cannot undo the effects of a violent crime, a conviction can give victims some peace of mind and allow them to move ahead with life. Being a part of that process is very gratifying to me." 

In 2001, she handled the murder trial of a Boyne City man who was convicted of fatally stabbing a boater at the Charlevoix marina. A year later she handled the trial and conviction of man for his vicious and unprovoked assault with a shotgun on Charlevoix County Sheriff George T. Lasater. 

She has successfully tried many other violent felons throughout her career, obtaining convictions for many crimes that include child sexual assault, drug trafficking, theft, safe breaking, drunk driving, rape and vehicular homicide. 

Kur credits her staff for the successes her office has achieved over the past decade. "Our dedicated staff of attorneys and support personnel are topnotch. They work tirelessly day after day getting the job done for the law-abiding, taxpaying citizens of Charlevoix County." 

Kur said she has taken full advantage of available grant dollars over the years. The award of these dollars has allowed an increase in the services her office offers the public with little or no cost to local government. Examples include: 

- Child support unit: Grant funding together with the initiative taken by assistant prosecutor Kerry Zahner has resulted in a strengthened child support unit in the office. In the past year, Zahner has obtained hundreds of child support orders for children whose mothers would not otherwise be able to afford the legal assistance she provides. Zahner's entire unit is 66 per cent grant-funded through the federal government. 

- Drug Enforcement: Federal grant dollars also fund the Straights Area Narcotics Enforcement (SANE) team and a specialized drug prosecutor that serves in seven counties including Charlevoix. Kur sits on the SANE board of directors as its vice chair. 

- Victims Rights Unit: The Victim's Rights Unit of the office is also funded through a grant from the State of Michigan. 

Kur holds her bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. She received her law degree from the University of Detroit School of Law. 

Kur lives in Charlevoix Township with Steve Kur, her husband of 19 years, and their two teen-age children. 

She is a member of the Charlevoix Lions Club, the State Bar of Michigan, the Charlevoix Emmet Bar Association and she performs periodically with the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra as a cellist. 













Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur to Seek Re-Election
May 2004
Beaver Beacon
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:XNilW5HLfFkJ:www.beaverbeacon.com/2004-05-May/Prosecutor_Mary_Beth_Kur_to_Seek_Re-Election.shtml+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur has announced her intention to seek her third term of office. Prosecutor Kur, 41, of Charlevoix began her service in the Charlevoix County Prosecutor's office in 1993. She will run as a Republican. 

“Our goal in the Prosecutor's Office is to continue providing aggressive, but fair, prosecution of criminals, while staying within the budget set for us by the Board of Commissioners,” Kur said. During her tenure as Prosecutor she has turned back $134,000 in unused funds to the County's general fund. She has received the endorsement of five of the six Charlevoix County Commissioners.

Kur's office was one of only four in Michigan chosen for a pilot project in conjunction with Attorney General Mike Cox. The grant-funded project is aimed at reducing domestic violence. Grant monies have resulted in the hiring of a Special Assistant Attorney General for Charlevoix County, Mike Findlay, who specializes in domestic violence prosecution.

Prosecutor Kur has recently been recognized for her work in the prosecution of domestic violence by Governor Granholm, who appointed her to the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board. Kur is also a Board member of the Northern Michigan Child Abuse Council. 

She has been elected by her peers to serve on the Board of Directors of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.

Kur's trial work consists of an array of high-profile, complex felony cases, as well as many cases in the District and Family Courts. In her entire career as a trial lawyer, she has never had a conviction reversed by an appeals court. 

“Over the past 11 years, I have been a successful advocate in court for crime victims, for children who have been neglected or abused, and for all the citizens of Charlevoix County,” Kur explained. “I want to continue my service to the public, because we make a difference. While we cannot undo the effects of a violent crime, a conviction can give victims some peace of mind and allow them to move ahead with life. Being a part of that process is very gratifying to me.” 













May 10, 2004 - 
Deputy John Bush Jr. responded to a police call to the Kur's home after the Kur's son called 9-1-1 reporting a disturbance at the home.

"...According to reports, Deputy Bush transported Kur's son to the hospital. 'When talking to the doctor, a statement was made that Stephen Kur had hit his son the night before and attempted to push him down the stairs. It was also stated that both of the parents had been mentally abusive to their son...'

Recap of Prosecutor 
Mary Beth Kur's situation:

-Former prosecuting attorney John Jarema had won a lawsuit against Kur / Charleviox County for her having fired him.

-Other county employees were currently filing lawsuits against Kur, claiming that they were subjected to hostile working conditions.

-And just earlier that day, Grand Traverse County Circuit Judge Thomas Power on Monday postponed a hearing on a motion to amend two civil suits brought under the state's whistle blower act by two former employees of Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur . 


-Kur was currently in a contentious election to retain her position as Prosecutor, against former prosecuting Attorney Jarama.

-An allegation of child abuse / domestic violence would not look good for Kur's re-election campaign...Or her appointment on the Michigan Domestic Violence and Treatment Board...Or Kur's position as a board member of the Northern Michigan Child Abuse Council...Or her position with the pilot domestic violence project that the Attorney General had chosen her for.













May 10, 2004 - 
Charlevoix Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur makes a phone call to Undersheriff Donald Schneider after Deputy Bush's response at her home to the 911 call made by Kur's son.

Sheriff Lasater and Charlevoix County sued by former deputy sheriff under state Whistleblowers' Act
Petoskey News-Review (MI) 
Tuesday, November 30, 2004 
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER
[Excerpts]

Kur: I'm at the Charlevoix hospital right now, or not in the Charlevoix, the Petoskey one. You know why? 

Schneider: No. 

Kur: (Our son) ended up calling 9-1-1...So Bush came out with (Charlevoix City Police Officer) Matt (Umulis) from the city...And the only reason I was calling you guys is just because I would appreciate … I don't know Bush very well but if somebody would just please say something about respecting my son's privacy. 

Schneider: Mary Beth, Mary Beth. I'll take care of it, OK? 

Kur: Yes. 

Schneider: Mary Beth, I'm your friend. I will take care of it. 

Kur: I don't want anything like… I just don't know him well enough to just ask him that. 

Schneider: Right. 

Kur: And I don't know this other stuff. You know what I'm saying. 

Schneider: Yes. I know where you're going...I'll take care of Bush. 

Kur: Anyway, I'll just talk to you later, and would you let the sheriff know? 

Schneider: I'll take care of it. 

Kur: I appreciate it, and I'll talk to you later on. 

Schneider: If I could give you a hug right now, I would. 













Judge postpones hearing in Kur case
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Tuesday, May 11, 2004 
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

BELLAIRE - Grand Traverse County Circuit Judge Thomas Power on Monday postponed a hearing on a motion to amend two civil suits brought under the state's whistle blower act by two former employees of Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur . 

Power granted summary dismissal of the suits on April 12. Two weeks later he dismissed a motion to reconsider his decision but set a hearing on the motion to amend the lawsuits for May 10. 

On Monday, May 10, Power ordered the hearing postponed until later this month to give defense attorney Dennis Taylor the opportunity to review the motion to amend, filed by plaintiffs' attorney Grant Parsons of Traverse City. 

In their suits, Sandra Ward and Jacqueline Rozema charged that Kur created intolerable working conditions in her office after they had given depositions in another case. 

On Monday, Parsons told the judge that Ward, the county's victim assistance coordinator, had resigned, and Rozema, an office manager for Kur, had retired, both after the cases were dismissed. 

The two took medical leave 14 months ago but remained as county employees in order to claim health benefits and accumulate retirement time. 

In his motion, Parsons asked that he be allowed to amend the suits to "add the facts of retirement/resignation, and state more clearly the list of intimidation and harassment that created an intolerable working condition." 













Employees' cases against prosecutor Kur continue
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, June 9, 2004
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

Civil suits filed against Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur and the county by two of Kur's former employees continue unresolved despite earlier dismissals by Grand Traverse County Circuit Judge Thomas Power. 

Power, at a hearing Monday held in Traverse City, granted a motion to allow the plaintiffs' attorney, Grant Parsons, to amend the suits brought under the state's whistle blower act by the former employees, Sandra Ward and Jacqueline Rozema. 

Power also granted the plaintiffs' motion to add a count under the state's Persons with Disabilities Anti-Discrimination Act, claiming his clients were disabled as a result of workplace stress. 

Ward and Rozema have alleged that Kur created "intolerable working conditions" in her office after they had given depositions in another case, and asked the court to grant compensatory and exemplary damages over $25,000, and legal and court costs. 

After the cases were initially dismissed in April, Ward, the county's victim assistance coordinator, resigned, and Rozema, an office manager for Kur, retired. 

The two had taken medical leave 14 months earlier, but had remained as county employees in order to claim health benefits and accumulate retirement time. 

Power initially dismissed the suits on April 12, and two weeks later dismissed a motion to reconsider his decision. 

But Parsons asked Power to allow him to amend the suits to "add the facts of retirement/resignation, and state more clearly the list of intimidation and harassment that created an intolerable working condition." 

Last month, Power delayed a hearing on the motion to amend until defense attorney Dennis Taylor had an opportunity to review the motion. 

In the initial court proceedings, Kur and the county maintained that the plaintiffs failed to file their cases in a timely manner and had made unspecified claims of a hostile work environment. 













June 12, 2004 - 
Deputy Bush refused to sign a statement Sheriff Lasater had prepared regarding the May 10, 2004 domestic violence incident at the Kur's home, on grounds it was "incomplete and inaccurate." 











June 16, 2004 - 
Deputy Bush filed a "Standard Domestic Relationship Incident Report," for the May 10, 2004 domestic violence incident at the Kur's home. Bush requested an arrest warrant be issued for the Kurs for domestic assault on their son. Lasater demoted Bush to duty in the county jail. 











Charlevoix prosecutor loses to former employee 
John Jarema won lawsuit against Mary Beth Kur 
By KEITH MATHENY
Record-Eagle staff writer
August 4, 2004
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4BZpSY68FzAJ:static.record-eagle.com/2004/aug/04pross.htm+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

CHARLEVOIX - Charlevoix County Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur fired her then-chief deputy, John Jarema, two years ago.

Now it's Jarema who will likely be taking over the prosecutor's job, and it's Kur leaving office.

Jarema stunned his incumbent former boss in Tuesday's Republican primary, winning a narrow victory.

Jarema outpaced Kur 2,825-2,661 with only Eveline Township not reporting late Tuesday.

Jarema will be the overwhelming favorite against Green Party prosecutor candidate Ellis Boal in the Nov. 2 general election.

Kur said she called Jarema's home telephone late Tuesday night and left a message on his answering machine, conceding defeat. 

Attempts to reach Jarema for comment late Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The Kur-Jarema campaign was one of the most interesting - and contentious - of all the northern Michigan primary races.

Jarema received a $50,000 settlement from the county last year after filing a whistleblower's lawsuit claiming he was fired as he attempted to expose alleged corruption and mismanagement in Kur's office. Kur consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Jarema promised to be a more in-court prosecutor, blasting Kur's record of rarely handling trials herself. Kur, in turn, throughout her campaign said Jarema lacked experience and a grasp of the job's requirements.

Kur heavily outpaced Jarema in campaign fund-raising. She declined to speculate on the reason for her ouster.

"I just decided at the beginning this that I was going to take the high road, run a positive campaign," she said.

 "That's what we did and I'm happy with that, although I'm not happy with the result."

East Jordan voter Allison MacKay seemed as enthusiastic about voting against Kur as she did for Jarema.

"I'm going to vote her out," MacKay said, as she headed toward the polls.

MacKay said Jarema "seems more honest, straightforward." She said of Kur, "there's too much politics there."













Jarema narrowly defeats incumbent Kur
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, August 4, 2004
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - John Jarema narrowly defeated his former boss, Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur , in Tuesday's Republican primary for county prosecutor by vote of 3,055 to 2,868. 

"I'm happy and humbled at the vote. It was a great turnout," said Jarema, referring to the 7,125 voters who turned out for the primary, almost double the number two years ago. 

Kur fired Jarema as the county's chief assistant prosecutor in February 2002, alleging poor work performance and disloyalty. 

Jarema attributed his victory to the intensive door-to-door campaigning he and his supporters conducted over the past three months. 

He said voters had clearly responded to his pledge to be more active in court, reduce staff levels of the prosecutor's office to those of surrounding counties and to re-establish a program of educating young people of the dangers of drinking and driving. 

Jarema acknowledged that the campaign had been divisive, with strong feelings on both sides prompting a high voter turnout in the county. 

"There's going to have to be a healing process amongst the community and law enforcement," he said. 

Kur said she had left a message of congratulations on Jarema's answering machine after the outcome was clear late Tuesday. 

"I was disappointed, but the people have spoken," she said, adding she had no immediate plans for her future after leaving the prosecutor's office at the end of the year. "My life will change gears." 

Jarema said Kur's message "showed a lot of class. I really appreciated it." 

He said the first thing he plans to do will be to meet with members of the prosecutor's office. 

"I want to know who is willing to join my team and be a team player," he said. 

He said that before taking office he will meet with the police chiefs and officers of the county to learn what they will expect of him as prosecutor. 

Jarema said he was not concerned that five of the six county commissioners had endorsed Kur. 

"We all have to be on the same page now," he said. He said his dismissal by Kur was rarely brought up by people he met during the campaign. 

"It was more about what can I do differently and how can I change things. I think voters were looking for a change," he said. 

He said he found voters well informed on the issues, including the number of trials the prosecutor handles personally and the number of staff in the office. 

Jarema estimated he spoke personally to more than 1,000 people in campaigning door to door, four nights a week over the past three months. 

He credited his campaign manager, Barb Sheets, and his supporters for their hard work on his behalf. 

Shortly after he was dismissed as chief assistant prosecutor, Jarema filed a "Whistleblower's Protection Act" lawsuit against Kur and the county claiming that Kur fired him because he was about to make allegations that Kur was mismanaging her office. 

In March of 2003, after a judge had dismissed two of three counts against Kur, Jarema accepted a $50,000 payment from the county's insurance company to settle the remaining count in the case. 

Currently, Jarema is an associate with the law firm of Joseph, Corcoran, Telgenhof & Snyder P.C. of Charlevoix. 













September 08, 2004 - 
Deputy Bush was discharged from the Charleviox SD [RE: May 10, 2004 domestic violence call to Kur's residence and his DV report]













Jarema fined for late filing of campaign financing; 
Salary for new prosecutor to be cut
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, October 7, 2004
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - The Committee to Elect John Jarema, Republican candidate for Charlevoix County prosecutor, has been fined a total $4,625 in late fees for filings required by state law in connection with his primary campaign.

Two of the fines, one for $2,000 and a second for $1,625, were assessed by Charlevoix County Clerk Jane Brannon for late contribution reports. Both were due on Aug. 3, the date of the primary, and were received on Sept. 2.

A third fine, in the amount of $1,000, for late filing of a pre-election campaign statement, was due July 27 and was received on Sept. 2.

Brannon said she had assessed similar fines one other time in her 24-year career.

She said the Jarema campaign organization had not yet paid the fines. She said if they are not paid within 60 days they will be turned over the county treasurer for collection.

Committee treasurer Bob Hoffman, a Charlevoix CPA, said the pre-primary report was filed on time and was complete, but when he was preparing the post-primary report he realized a couple of expenditures had been omitted from the original report and he amended it.

He said Brannon has taken the position that the original report was incomplete and therefore invalid, and it wasn't until the amended report was filed that she considered it complete.

"We're asking the state board of elections to review the report as we considered it filed in a timely manner," Hoffman said.

On the second set of penalties, he said all the transactions were reported on the post-primary report but there were two transactions that the committee had failed to report on a late contribution report.

He said that if a committee takes in a late contribution between 15 and three days before an election, it is required to file a late contribution report within 48 hours listing those contribution.

"We failed to do that. It was an oversight. One was a $400 contribution and the other was a loan from John to his committee," Hoffman said.

"We're also asking the state board of elections to review the amount of the penalties to see if they are appropriate in the circumstances."

On a separate matter, the county board is considering reducing the salary of prosecutor from its current $84,700 to about $63,000.

At its meeting of the whole on Monday, the county board of commissioners reviewed budget recommendations for the prosecutor's office for 2005 as proposed by the current prosecutor, Mary Beth Kur .

Jarema defeated Kur in the Aug. 3 Republican primary by a narrow margin. He faces Green Party candidate Ellis Boal in the Nov. 2 general election.

Board chair Vic Patrick said Wednesday the final budget for the prosecutor's office would be adopted at the board's meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 27.

He said the board is considering separating the functions of prosecutor and civil counsel, which are now combined. He said a civil counsel could be put on retainer for between $20,000 and $30,000 a year.

Patrick noted that Jarema said during his primary campaign that he could do with fewer people and a smaller budget than in the current prosecutor's office. Patrick also noted that the board can adjust salaries of elected officials before they take office, but can only increase - not reduce - them afterwards.

Patrick said the proposed salary level and functions of the new prosecutor would be in line with those of Emmet County, where the chief assistant prosecutor, Jim Linderman, will presumably take the office of prosecutor on Jan. 1 at a salary of $65,000.

Emmet's prosecutors receive $9,072 in addition to their base salary for appearing on behalf of the state in paternity cases. Emmet also has a separate civil counsel, Kathleen Abbott, whose salary is currently $63,050 a year.

Linderman won the Republican Aug. 3 primary and faces no opposition in the November election. Last month the Emmet County board cut the prosecutor's 2005 salary from the $71,400 paid this year to Bob Engel, who is retiring at the end of the year after eight years in office.

Ellis Boal, the Green Party candidate for Charlevoix County prosecutor, said the county's practice, at least since Richard May was elected prosecutor in 1992, has been to set the prosecutor's salary at an appropriate level for the office, not for the officeholder.

Salary records provided by the clerk's office show that there has been an increase in salary each time a new prosecutor was appointed or elected.

The records show that in 1995, Kur, then an assistant prosecutor earning $41,200, took May's salary of $63,355 when May was named district court judge and she was appointed to fill his position.

Since then Kur has received an average 3 percent annual salary increase.

Both Jarema, a Charlevoix attorney, and Boal, who specializes in labor and environmental law, said they would not drop out of the race just because the board might lower the prosecutor's salary.















Alleged campaign finance irregularities filed against Jarema
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - A complaint alleging that John Jarema, the Republican candidate for Charlevoix County prosecutor, and his campaign organization violated state election finance laws has sparked a dispute with the Michigan Department of State. 

The initial complaint, dated Sept. 20, and subsequent documents related to it, were made available to the News-Review by Murray Kilgour, a retired law enforcement officer and campaign manager for prosecutor Mary Beth Kur in her unsuccessful Aug. 3 Republican primary race against Jarema. 

Jarema is running in the Nov. 2 general election against Green Party attorney Ellis Boal. No Democrat has entered the race. 

David Murley of the Department of State's legal and regulatory services administration initially rejected Kilgour's three-count complaint but offered Kilgour an opportunity to refile parts of his complaint with additional evidence

In the initial complaint Kilgour alleged that: 

- Jarema sent form letters in July to absentee voters that contained no information about who paid for the letter, as required by law; 

- Jarema used the postage meter of the law firm he works for to mail campaign-related material, without reimbursing the firm; and, 

- The income reported by the Committee to Elect Jarema for 2003 failed to match expenditures, "raising serious questions regarding the bookkeeping of the committee." 

Kilgour attached photocopies of relevant material to the complaint. 

In rejecting the first part of Kilgour's complaint, Murley said the requirements of the law was satisfied if the brochure referenced in Jarema's cover letter contained an identification statement, which it did. 

Kilgour responded to Murley on Wednesday, saying that his ruling "seemed" to be at odds with the rules listed in the Candidate Committee Manual, which state that "all printed materials" must contain the identification statement. 

Kilgour suggested to Murley that a ruling by the attorney general might be useful. 

On use of the law firm's postage meter, Murley said a candidate is not prohibited from receiving goods or services from a corporation, even though a corporation is prohibited from providing them to a candidate, unless it is fully reimbursed. 

Murley said that if Jarema's law firm did make an in-kind contribution to Jarema and has not been reimbursed, a complaint could be filed against the firm. 

Kilgour responded by filing a complaint against the law firm, Joseph, Corcoran, Telgenhof & Snyder P.C. of Charlevoix. 

On the allegations of accounting irregularities, Murley advised Kilgour he could bring the evidence to the attention of county clerk Jane Brannon and prosecutor Kur. 

In his response, Kilgour said:

"As Mr. Jarema defeated the prosecutor in the primary election and has so far ignored late filing fines issued by the county clerk's office, there may be conflicts of interest and I respectfully request your involvement in this matter."

Asked to comment on the allegations, Jarema said Wednesday, "It's not unexpected," and he laid the blame on Kur. Jarema said he would have no further comment until he has had the opportunity to review the allegations.

Earlier this month Brannon assessed the Committee to Elect John Jarema fines totaling $4,625 in late fees for filings required by state law in connection with his primary campaign.

Brannon said Wednesday that the fines had not been paid. She said if they were not paid within 60 days they will be turned over the county treasurer for collection.

Committee treasurer Bob Hoffman, a Charlevoix certified public accountant, said he considered that two of the reports were filed in a timely manner and the third was late as the result of an oversight. He said he has asked the state board of elections to review the reports and the amount of penalties as to whether they were appropriate.














Charlevoix County board cuts prosecutor's salary
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved the 2005 budget that includes a $22,000 salary cut for the new prosecutor who takes over from Mary Beth Kur on January 1. 

Both candidates for the position, Republican John Jarema and local Green Party chair Ellis Boal, were present for the public hearing on the budget. 

The salary of the new prosecutor was set at $63,000, down from the $85,000 paid to Kur this year. 

Board chair Vic Patrick said the board had decided to separate the functions of prosecutor and civil counsel, which had been combined under Kur, and had earmarked $30,000 to retain civil counsel in 2005. 

"We can't have a prosecutor who's involved in a lawsuit against the county acting as our civil counsel," Patrick said, referring to Jarema, the former chief assist prosecutor who defeated Kur in the Aug. 3 Republican primary by a narrow margin. 

"We'd still have to hire somebody to defend the county," Patrick said, adding that no decision had been made who might be retained as civil counsel. 

County clerk Jane Brannon said that for labor relations alone, the county had spent $33,700 over the last two years for outside legal counsel. 

Jarema said the county had retained separate labor counsel for years in addition to civil counsel, and asked whether the board would continue the practice. 

"We'll have to wait until after the election to decide," Patrick responded, adding that county had no financial interest in the outcome of the election. 

The 2005 budget also retains the $1 annual salary that has been paid to drain commissioner Jo Anne Beemon, who is running under the Green Party banner for re-election against the county's soil and sedimentation officer, Republican Marc Seelye. 

During the budget hearing Beemon told the board that she will seek an opinion from the state attorney general opinion on her authority to issues rules and standards for developers. 

Last February, Kur advised the commissioners that after a review of state law, she concluded that Beemon had no authority to set and enforce policy on storm water issues in the county. This fall she reaffirmed her opinion in a verbal report to chairman Patrick. 

In response to a question from the audience, board member Valerie Snyder, herself a lawyer, said she found no conflict in the work Kur is doing in private practice as a member of a Petoskey law firm and her duties as county prosecutor. 

Patrick said that as an elected official, Kur can perform her duties at any time of the day or week. 

Boal said that in his view, voters of the county have a right to expect that the prosecutor will be on duty throughout the day, and that any other matters should be attended to during evenings and weekends. 

He also said that he believed the drain commissioner should be paid a reasonable salary for the one day a week he or she is required by state law to conduct office hours. 

Following the public hearing, the board voted unanimously to approve the proposed 2005 budget. 
















State election bureau backs Jarema in dispute
Petoskey News-Review (MI)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER


The Michigan Department of State's Election Bureau has again rejected complaints alleging that Charlevoix County prosecutor-elect John Jarema and his campaign organization violated state election finance laws during the just-concluded election cycle.

Allen Telgenhof, of Joseph, Corcoran, Telgenhof and Snyder, the Charlevoix law firm that employs Jarema, said today:

"We're pleased to see that the state of Michigan confirmed what we knew all along, that our firm did nothing wrong and that John did nothing wrong."

The firm had been included in the most recent complaint to election officials.

David Murley of the election bureau's department of legal and regulatory services wrote Murray Kilgour, a retired law enforcement officer and campaign manager for prosecutor Mary Beth Kur , on Nov. 5 that his complaints had been dismissed.

Murley cited reasons he had outlined in his Oct. 14 letter to Kilgour dismissing all three counts of his complaint.

In the October letter Murley suggested that if Kilgour believed Jarema's math in his financial reports was incorrect, he bring it to the attention of county clerk, or if he had evidence that Jarema knowingly filed an inaccurate report, he bring it to the attention of the county prosecutor.

Kilgour responded that because Jarema had defeated Kur in the primary election for prosecutor, there might be conflicts of interest in taking the matter to the prosecutor, and he requested the department of state become involved.

In his Nov. 5 letter, Murley said the department of state had no authority to opine on questions of alleged conflict of interest that certain county officials may have regarding the completeness or accuracy of Jarema's campaign reports.

He said Kilgour may wish to contact the Attorney General for more information.

Regarding Murley's latest suggestions, Kilgour said Wednesday:

"I encourage John to file a complete report, and I trust that the county clerk will look it over to ensure it is accurate and take appropriate action if it is not."

In October Brannon assessed the Committee to Elect John Jarema fines totaling $4,625 in late fees for filings required by state law in connection with his primary campaign.

Brannon said this Wednesday that the fines had not yet been paid.

Committee treasurer Bob Hoffman, a Charlevoix CPA, said last month that he considered that two of the reports were filed in a timely manner and the third was late as the result of an oversight. He said he had asked the state board of elections to review the reports and the amount of penalties as to whether they were appropriate.

With regard to Kilgour's allegations that Jarema had used the postage meter of the law firm he works for to mail political material without reimbursing the firm, Murley wrote Kilgour that the alleged value of the postage appeared to be 37 cents.

Kilgour had submitted a single envelope in his filing as evidence of possible misuse of the law firm's postage meter.

Murley said that Kilgour had contended that Jarema's failure to record the 37-cent reimbursement in his reports was evidence of the law firm's violation of the Michigan law.

"First we note that you have not included sufficient evidence to support your charges," Murley wrote. "Instead of providing copies of Mr. Jarema's committee reports - which, ostensibly, would indicate that he has not reimbursed Joseph, Corcoran (the law firm) $0.37 - you have provided summaries, apparently generated from a home computer. Such summaries do not constitute evidence."


"Second, the fact that Mr. Jarema has not recorded a possible $0.37 reimbursement is, at most, evidence of failing to file a complete and accurate report; it does not suggest that the law firm has made an illegal contribution to the candidate. Thus, your Section 54 complaint against Joseph Corcoran for making a contribution to Mr. Jarema must be dismissed."

In conclusion, Murley wrote:

"The Department will not take any further action on this matter. We trust that Mr. Jarema, the elected county prosecutor and member of the Michigan Bar, has properly recorded all campaign expenses. If he has not done so, he should immediately amend his reports to reflect those expenses.

"If you are not satisfied that Mr. Jarema has filed a complete and accurate report, you should address those concerns to the county clerk. A person who knowingly files an incomplete or inaccurate report could be subject to fines up to $1,000."















County, sheriff named in lawsuit
Former deputy: Kur incident led to his firing
By KEITH MATHENY
Record-Eagle staff writer
Nov 27, 2004
http://archives.record-eagle.com/2004/nov/27suit.htm

CHARLEVOIX - A former Charlevoix County Sheriff's deputy fired in September filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the county and Sheriff George T. Lasater.

John Edward Bush Jr. alleged he was demoted and later fired from the sheriff's department after refusing to sign an "incomplete and inaccurate" police report at Lasater's request.

The report involved a May 10 domestic call at the home of county prosecutor Mary Beth Kur to which Bush responded. In that incident, Kur's 17-year-old son was upset about being pulled out of school by his parents that day. The son later was transported to Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey by Bush at Kur's request for a psychological evaluation.

Last week, Kur told the Record-Eagle: "For the past year-and-a-half our family has been dealing with a difficult situation with one of our children. Unfortunately, due to vicious politics, we are not allowed to deal with our problems in private like most families."

Bush's lawsuit alleged he received a call as he left the hospital that day from Undersheriff Don Schneider, telling him "not to say anything about the incident and that the office had been contacted by Kur, who threatened to sue the department if information regarding the incident were revealed."

Kur denied the allegation.

Bush's lawsuit also alleged that Lasater on June 12 supplied him with a statement on the incident for Bush to sign, and that Bush refused because it was "incomplete and inaccurate."

Lasater did not return messages seeking comment last week.

Four days after the alleged encounter with Lasater, Bush filed a report and asked that Kur and her husband, Stephen Kur, be charged with domestic violence.

Bush's report came more than a month after the police response to Kur's home.

Bush alleged he was demoted by Lasater to a position in the county jail the same day he filed his report, then was fired on Sept. 8.

Lasater referred the Kur incident to an investigative team from the Michigan Sheriffs Association, including Grand Traverse County Undersheriff Nathan Alger and Leelanau Undersheriff Scott Wooters. Their investigation was submitted to Delta County Prosecutor Thomas Smithson, who declined to press charges.

Kur called Bush an "ardent supporter" of her Republican opponent for prosecutor, John Jarema, who defeated her in the August primary.
















Sheriff Lasater and Charlevoix County sued by former deputy sheriff under state Whistleblowers' Act
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - Former Charlevoix County deputy sheriff John Bush Jr. has sued Charlevoix County and its sheriff, George T. Lasater, claiming he was wrongfully discharged after he refused to sign a prepared statement about an incident he responded to at the home of county prosecutor Mary Beth Kur . 

The suit, filed in Charlevoix Circuit Court by Flint attorney Glen Lenhoff under the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act, demands a jury trial and asks for unspecified economic, emotional and punitive damages. 

The suit alleges that a motivating factor in Bush's discharge was the fact that he reported or was about to report a suspected violation of law in connection with his investigation of the incident at the Kurs' home involving one of their two children. 

It also alleges that Mary Beth Kur threatened to sue the sheriff's department if information regarding the incident were revealed. 

Kur has vigorously denied the allegations about herself, her husband Stephen and her 17-year-old son, and in her defense provided the News-Review with a digital recording of the conversation between herself and Undersheriff Don Schneider in which the alleged threat was purportedly made (see related story). 

In late June, Lasater referred all allegations arising from the Kur incident to the Michigan Sheriff's Association for an independent investigation, after which a special prosecutor appointed by the state attorney general concluded there was no basis in fact to believe that Michigan law had been violated and declined prosecution. 

The association's investigators - Leelanau Undersheriff Scott Wooters and Grand Traverse County Undersheriff Nathan Alger - wrote a 13-page report discounting the allegations. 

It said the incident went unreported until Lasater received a phone call from John Jarema, Kur's opponent for office, indicating there was a citizens group that was concerned about a cover-up by the sheriff's office of the incident. 

The report stated that Lasater directed Bush to document the incident, which Bush did after some delay and requested an arrest warrant be issued for the Kurs for domestic assault on their son. 

Bush told the investigators he had never done a report at the sheriff's office without a warrant request being attached. 

The investigators interviewed the major parties to the incident, including the Kur family, the psychiatrist who had been treating the son, Bush, Lasater, Schneider and other law enforcement personnel. 

They reported the case closed and submitted their report to the Charlevoix County Sheriff's Office. 

In his disposition, the special prosecutor, Delta County prosecuting attorney Thomas Smithson, said he had reviewed the investigation and concluded that there was "no basis in fact to believe that Michigan law was violated by any person and, accordingly, prosecution in the matter is declined." 

Bush's lawsuit, filed on Nov. 18, lists a series of alleged facts that are at sharp variance with the investigative report. 

According to the suit, Bush, 29, who had been employed for less than a year by the sheriff's department, responded to a police run on May 10, 2004, to the Kurs home, after the Kurs' son called 9-1-1 reporting a disturbance at the home. 

The suit said Mary Beth Kur told Bush that she and her husband had been arguing with their son. 

When Bush asked the son what had happened, Bush's suit alleges, the son said he was upset that his parents pulled him out of school without giving him a reason. 

Bush then accompanied the boy to Northern Michigan Hospital where they met with his parents. 

"When talking to the doctor, a statement was made that Stephen Kur had hit his son the night before and attempted to push him down the stairs. It was also stated that both of the parents had been mentally abusive to their son," the suit says, an allegation disputed to the investigators by the Kurs and the boy's psychiatrist, Dr. Marit Vogel, MD. 

The boy was sent from NMH to a hospital in Grand Rapids and from there to out-of-state facilities for 90 days. He has since returned home. Kur told the News-Review that her son has never been in trouble with the law 

The suit states that on June 12, Bush refused to sign a statement Lasater had prepared regarding the May 10 incident on grounds it was "incomplete and inaccurate." 

However, when interviewed by the investigators Bush failed to mention any report that had been prepared for him and only discussed the circumstances of his own report. 

On June 16, the day that Bush filed a "Standard Domestic Relationship Incident Report," Lasater demoted Bush to duty in the county jail. 

On Sept. 8, Bush was discharged, according to the suit. 

In his suit, Bush maintained that at all times during his employment with the sheriff's department, he was an excellent deputy sheriff and performed his duties "competently and professionally." 

Bush claimed he suffered economic loss and emotional distress damages as a result of the incident. 

Under the Whistleblowers Act, it is unlawful for an employer to discharge an employee because the employee reports or is about to report a suspected violation of law. 

Bush also alleges that he was exercising his First Amendment rights in refusing to make an inaccurate and incomplete statement about the incident, and that a substantial cause for his demotion and discharge was the exercise of those rights. 

Kur, who is the county's prosecutor and civil counsel, said she will not be handling the case and that it has been turned over to the county's insurer. No date has been set for trial. 

In a statement, Kur said, in part: 

"It is true that John Bush was dispatched to my home on May 10, 2004, and at my husband's and my request, he transported our child to the hospital. No crime was committed. No arrests were made. No interviews were done by Bush. No referrals to child protective services (which would have been required by law had there been a legitimate concern about abuse) were made by Bush or hospital officials. No one was injured." 

She said that accusations of a cover-up were politically motivated, and that Bush had dragged her family "through the mud in a vicious and slanderous way, all apparently for his own personal gain." 

Lasater told the News-Review that he turned Bush's allegations over to the Michigan Sheriff's Association to investigate objectivity and without any signs of favoritism. Beyond that, he said he would make no comment on the lawsuit until he had been authorized to do so by the attorneys representing the county. 

Kur was narrowly defeated by Jarema, her former chief assistant prosecutor, in the Aug. 3 Republican primary. Jarema went on to defeat Green Party candidate Ellis Boal in the Nov. 2 general election. 

After Kur fired him in February of 2002, Jarema filed a three-count suit under the Whistleblowers Act, alleging Kur had mismanaged the office of prosecutor. Two of the counts were dismissed in court and the third was settled. 

Threat to sue? 
Here is the full text of the conversation between a highly emotional Mary Beth Kur and Charlevoix County Undersheriff Donald Schneider shortly after the incident at her home where sheriff deputy John Bush had been dispatched. Only the name of the Kurs' son has been omitted. 

Schneider: MBK? 

Kur: OK 

Schneider: How we doing? 

Kur: Not very well. 

Schneider: Well, that's understandable. 

Kur: I'm at the Charlevoix hospital right now, or not in the Charlevoix, the Petoskey one. You know why? 

Schneider: No. 

Kur: Oh. My son, he's is, he's got some mental health issues and his dad went to get him out of the school today to take him for a drug test and he got very violent and wouldn't do anything and ended up… He's bipolar, I don't know if you know anything about that, but he didn't take his medicine. (Our son) ended up calling 9-1-1 and telling them he wanted somebody there to come to our house to take him to school because he wanted to go back to school and he was just completely irrational. So Bush came out with (Charlevoix City Police Officer) Matt (Umulis) from the city and I had the psychiatrist on the phone and she directed him to take him here to the ER, which is where he's been for most of the afternoon and they're admitting him to a hospital down in Grand Rapids. And the only reason I was calling you guys is just because I would appreciate … I don't know Bush very well but if somebody would just please say something about respecting my son's privacy. 

Schneider: Mary Beth, Mary Beth. I'll take care of it, OK? 

Kur: Yes. 

Schneider: I'll take care of it. 

Kur: I mean, my head is going in a million different directions after the weekend, and … 

Schneider: I know. I understand. 

Kur: And all that. I'm sorry. 

Schneider: Mary Beth, I'm your friend. I will take care of it. 

Kur: OK. 

Schneider: OK? You just take care of your… 

Kur: I don't want anything like… I just don't know him well enough to just ask him that. 

Schneider: Right. 

Kur: And I don't know this other stuff. You know what I'm saying. 

Schneider: Yes. I know where you're going. You just take care of your son and I'll take care of Bush. 

Kur: OK. He's been great. And he's in there with him and they won't leave him alone. He just goes crazy sometimes. 

Schneider: OK. 

Kur: Anyway, I'll just talk to you later, and would you let the sheriff know? 

Schneider: I'll take care of it. You just take care of your son. 

Kur: OK. 

Schneider: And I'll keep you in my prayers, bud. 

Kur: I appreciate it, and I'll talk to you later on. 

Schneider: Are you going to be available tomorrow then, or no? 

Kur: Yes. I'll be there. There's nothing we can do the first 24 hours he's at this place I guess. I'm still going to do that. 

Schneider: If I could give you a hug right now, I would. 

Kur: Well thanks. I appreciate it. I could use it. 

Schneider: I'm sure you could. 

Kur: OK. I'll talk to you later then, and I'll see you in the morning. 

Schneider: Okey-doke. Take care. Bye bye. 













Jarema files suit against county clerk
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Author: FRED GRAYNEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - The law firm that employs Charlevoix County prosecutor-elect John Jarema and represents "The Committee to Elect John Jarema for Prosecutor" has sued county clerk Jane Brannon, asking a judge to void $4,625 in fines Brannon leveled against the committee for late filings. 

Mary Beth Kur , the current county prosecutor who leaves the office to Jarema at year's end, says the Petoskey law firm she recently joined, Schmoll, Martin and Kur PLLC, had been retained to defend Brannon. 

Brannon said she had no immediate comment on the suit, but one of her attorneys, Fred Schmoll, said today that he had reviewed the documents and concluded "the whole thing is frivolous, in my opinion." 

"The law is very specific when somebody violates it," he said. "It says the clerk shall assess a fine and goes so far as to specify how the fines must be assessed. The clerk merely plugs the facts into the formula and assesses the fine." 

In October, Brannon assessed The Committee to Elect John Jarema a total $4,625 in late fees for filings she said were required by state law in connection with his primary campaign. 

Two of the fines, one for $2,000 and a second for $1,625, were assessed for late contribution reports. Both were due on Aug. 3, the date of the primary, but Brannon said they were received on Sept. 2. 

A third fine, in the amount of $1,000, was assessed for late filing of a pre-election campaign statement, which was due July 27 and Brannon said was received on Sept. 2. 

Brannon said she had assessed similar fines one other time in her 24-year career. 

Shortly after Brannon filed the assessments, Bob Hoffman, a Charlevoix CPA and treasurer of the Committee to Elect Jarema, told the News-Review that the pre-primary report was filed on time and was complete, but when he was preparing the post-primary report he realized a couple of expenditures had been omitted from the original report and he amended it. 

He said Brannon took the position that the original report was incomplete and therefore invalid, and it wasn't until the amended report was filed that she considered it complete. 

The suit against Brannon was filed Friday by Allen Telgenhof of the law firm Joseph, Corcoran, Telgenhof & Snyder P.C. of Charlevoix, on behalf of the Committee to Elect Jarema. 

Telgenhof argued that the loans and contributions in question were actually "received" by the committee prior to the date of the statements and were therefore not late under the terms of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. 

Telgenhof said the act allows amended statements to be filed that list loans and contributions not included in the original filings. 

He alleged there were "clear violations of the act" in the campaign finance statements filed by Jarema's opponents, Kur in the Aug. 3 Republican primary, and Green Party candidate Ellis Boal in the Nov. 2 general election. 

Kur, who was not fined, and her treasurer Bill Gnodtke disputed the allegation that her reports contained errors. Kur noted that Telgenhof did not include any specifics in the suit to back his allegations. 

Boal, the Green Party candidate, was fined $75 for filing a late contribution report when the treasurer of his campaign committee brought the error to Brannon's attention. 

Telgenhof asked Judge Pajtas to issue a declaratory judgment vacating (voiding) the fines as "improper" and to allow "such other and further relief as may be equitable." 

In a separate count, he asked the court to issue a "writ of Mandamus" compelling Brannon to accept the committee's filings and rescind the fees imposed. 













Sparring continues in former Charlevoix County prosecutor civil case
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Friday, May 6, 2005
Author: Fred Gray, News-Review staff writer

CHARLEVOIX - Grand Traverse Circuit Judge Thomas Power cautioned attorneys on Thursday against allowing the trial of civil suits against Charlevoix County and its former prosecutor Mary Beth Kur to turn into a rehash of the political disputes between Kur and the current prosecutor, John Jarema. 

Power is hearing the combined suits of Kur's former employees Jacqueline Rozema and Sandra Ward, who allege they were made victims of "serial retaliation" and "workplace violence" by Kur for testifying under subpoena during a Whistleblowers lawsuit brought by Jarema against Kur and the county in 2002. 

Power said the proper way to fight a political dispute is through the election process, not in a trial. 

"Both parties have wanted to fight a political dispute. I will not let you expand the lawsuit," Power told attorneys for both parties. 

Trial of the combined cases, which Power once dismissed but allowed to continue on a technicality, began Tuesday in Charlevoix Circuit Court, where it is being heard on assignment. It will resume on Monday and is expected to conclude on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

During proceedings on Thursday, Power turned down a motion for mistrial brought by plaintiffs' attorney Grant Parsons of Traverse City. Parsons said Power's statements on avoiding a rehash the Kur-Jarema political disputes, made out of hearing of the six-member jury, could prejudice his clients' right to a fair trial. 

Power also refused to grant Parsons' motion for a gag order on members of the media who might report the judge's comments that could be read or heard by members of the jury. 

Power later repeated his earlier instructions to the jury not to listen to or read accounts of the trial until it is over. 

Parsons has alleged that Ward and Rozema, former members of Kur's support staff, suffered a combined economic loss of more than $857,000 as well as extensive non-economic loss for stress and health problems related to the stress. 

He said the county had actual knowledge of the "intolerable" working conditions his clients worked under and took no action to remedy the situation. 

Parsons alleged that his clients' problems arose after Kur discovered in February of 2002 that then-chief assistant prosecuting attorney Jarema was planning a Whistleblower's suit over his belief that Kur was submitting fraudulent timesheets. 

Neither Ward nor Rozema was terminated by Kur, but they claimed they were forced to leave their jobs because of the treatment they received. 

During testimony this week, Ward and Rozema gave examples of what they believed to be retaliation taken against them, which included having to attend regular staff meetings and having to implement and enforce a confidentiality policy. Expert witnesses also testified as to the plaintiff's medical conditions and treatments. 

In cross examination, defense attorney Dennis Taylor sought to portray Kur's actions as those of a competent and responsible manager, and not retaliatory. 

Jarema is now Charlevoix County prosecutor after narrowly defeating Kur in the August 2004 Republican primary and Green Party candidate Ellis Boal by a substantial margin in the November election. 















Marquette prosecutor testifies in Ward, Rozema case; Says Kur acted appropriately in managing support staff
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - Marquette County Prosecutor Gary Walker on Monday testified as an expert witness on behalf of Charlevoix County and its former prosecutor Mary Beth Kur in the combined civil suits brought by two of Kur's former office staff. 

Walker, who heads a prosecutor's office twice the size of Charlevoix's, gave lengthy testimony about what he as a prosecutor of 31 years expected of his support staff, and compared his expectations to those of Kur during her nine-year tenure as prosecutor. 

Walker said he had reviewed the volumes of depositions taken in the case and concluded that Kur had maintained professional standards in all of her office policies. 

The plaintiffs in the case, Jacqueline Rozema and Sandra Ward, allege they were made victims of "serial retaliation" and "workplace violence" by Kur for testifying under subpoena in a Whistleblowers lawsuit brought against Kur and the county by John Jarema after he was fired as chief assistant prosecutor in 2002

Jarema was elected Charlevoix County prosecutor last year. 

Plaintiffs' attorney Grant Parsons of Traverse City has alleged that Ward and Rozema suffered a combined economic loss of over $857,000 as well as extensive non-economic loss for stress and health problems related to the stress. 

Walker said the examples of harassment and retaliation cited by Rozema and Ward were standard and appropriate management practices. 

He said, for example, he considered it critical that a prosecutor's professional and clerical staff adhere to confidentiality and phone answering policies. 

"If I cannot rely on my staff to work with me and one of them violated my confidentiality policy, I would not hesitate to reprimand that person," Walker said. 

He said he found it "incredulous" that an employee who had worked as long as Ward had in the prosecutor's office would say she did not understand the prosecutor's confidentiality policy. 

He said the "audit" of cases that Ward, as the county's victim advocate, had been asked to do, was reasonable and not an act of retaliation, and that requiring attendance at regular staff meetings and similar practices could not be characterized as harassment. 

Asked how he would characterize the atmosphere in Kur's office between October 2002 to March 2003, Walker said: 
"People were unhappy that (the Jarema) lawsuit had been filed and had chosen sides. It was a source of conflict and created a great deal of tension in the office." 

Asked whether Kur's response to certain allegations that she was "not going to take this lying down" constituted a threat to her staff, Walker said the prosecutor's office is political and political accusations had to be dealt with. 

"I find it appropriate that she said she intended to refute the allegations," he said, adding he found it "unreasonable" that either Rozema or Ward should take Kur's language as a threat. 

When Parsons asked whether defense attorney Dennis Taylor had discussed Walker's upcoming testimony with him, Walker said he had and found it "preposterous" to believe that those conversations should not have taken place. 

Walker took the stand in mid-afternoon of the fourth day of the trial as defense's first witness. 

Earlier in the day the seven-member jury, one of whom will be chosen as an alternate, viewed a two-hour videotaped deposition of Lisa Irish, a mental health nurse who treated Rozema. 

Irish, who at the time of treatment had maintained a practice in Petoskey, was deposed by telephone from Arizona where she now works for a Native American tribe. 

When defense attorney Dennis Taylor asked Irish to cite specifics to back her conclusions about Rozema's conditions, Irish said she no longer remembered what they were and was unable to find reference to them in her notes. 

"I am sure I knew them at one time. I can't remember them now but I would not have come to an assessment without having known them. Professionals record assessments without recording the details. That does not lessen the accuracy of the assessment," she said. 

Irish admitted that the sole basis for her opinions was what Rozema told her. 















Witnesses: 'No arm-waving or cursing in prosecutor's office'
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - Witnesses at the $1-million civil trial against Charlevoix County and its former prosecutor Mary Beth Kur testified on Tuesday that they had observed no cursing, arm-waving, stomping around or other abusive behavior that the plaintiffs said took place in the prosecutor's office. 

The plaintiffs, Jacqueline Rozema and Sandra Ward, allege they were made victims of "serial retaliation" and "workplace violence" by Kur for testifying under subpoena in a Whistleblowers lawsuit brought against Kur and the county by John Jarema after he was fired as chief assistant prosecutor in 2002. 

Jarema, who was elected Charlevoix County prosecutor last year, observed much of Tuesday's session from a backrow seat in the chamber. 

Plaintiffs' attorney Grant Parsons of Traverse City has alleged that Ward and Rozema suffered a combined economic loss of over $857,000 as well as extensive non-economic loss for stress and health problems related to the stress. 

Sheriff George T. Lasater testified on Tuesday that from October 2002 to March 2003, the period in which the plaintiffs are making their claims of abuse, he was impressed with efficiency and politeness of the professional and support staff. 

"On a scale of 10, I'd give them a 10 plus, from the prosecutor (Kur) to Sandra Ward (the victim's aid advocate)," said Lasater, who added that he visited the prosecutor's office daily as part of his duties. 

Like the others who testified on Tuesday, Lasater said he never observed any of the yelling, stomping around the office or loud swearing or abusive behavior that the plaintiffs allege took place. 

Other witnesses who worked in, or visited, the prosecutor's office during the period in question included Ken Doty, the county's building official; former chief assistant prosecutor Jennifer Deegan; former assistant prosecutors Brian Seelye, Michael Atchison and Lori Coates Hay. 

Doty said he had not been influenced by anyone, including Kur, in his decision to hire someone other than Rozema for the secretarial position she had applied for in his department. 

"It was my decision, and I made it without influence or coercion from anyone," Doty said. 

Rozema alleged that Kur told Doty she considered her to be an excellent employee and would hate to lose her, a statement Rozema alleged was in fact an attempt to thwart her application. 

She said that she felt Kur was trying to keep her in her department so that she could eventually fire her as punishment. 

Doty said the person selected for the position was simply more qualified than the other two candidates from the county, including Rozema. 

He said the only pressure he received in the hiring process was from county commissioner Shirley Roloff, who told him it would "surely be nice to hire someone from the prosecutor's office." 

In response to questions from the jury, Doty said he was aware of the friction in the prosecutor's office at the time, and the legal actions that had been taken, but did not allow them to influence his decision. 

Atchison, who worked as assistant prosecutor from June 2001 to late May 2002, said Rozema and Ward were close friends with Jarema and were "dismayed" to learn that Kur fired him in February 2002 as chief assistant prosecutor. 

Atchison, backed by others who worked in the office at the time, testified that Rozema and Ward, as well as others, avoided all unnecessary contact with Kur following Jarema's firing. 

"I felt everyone was being professional but some of the social aspects in the office were quieted," Atchison said. 

Expert witness Jeffrey Sauter, Eaton County's prosecutor, echoed Marquette County Prosecutor Gary Walker's testimony of Monday that Kur's policies and practices were standard in the industry. 

The trial continues with seven more defense witnesses today and the case is expected to go to the jury on Thursday. 

The price of justice… 
Grant Parsons, attorney for Sandra Ward and Jacqueline Rosema, asked Eaton County prosecutor Jeffrey Sauter on Tuesday what he was being paid as an expert witness for the defense. 

Sauter replied he was being paid $150 an hour, the same as Marquette County Prosecutor Gary Walker who testified the previous day. He said each expected to be paid a total of $3,000 for their work. 

At that, Thomas Power, the presiding judge, looked at the jury and said: 

"Even at $150 an hour the price of justice is never too high." 















Judge: Jarema-Kur case like 'a skunk in the courtroom'
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

Saying it was like letting a skunk in the courtroom, Circuit Judge Thomas Power on Wednesday cautiously allowed the defense in the high-stakes Ward-Rozema case to refer to the politically charged Jarema-Kur lawsuit that was settled out of court two years ago. 

Power permitted the defense to present evidence that contradicted the claim that then-prosecutor Mary Beth Kur had created a hostile work environment for plaintiffs Sandra Ward and Jacqueline Rozema in retaliation for depositions they gave in the Jarema lawsuit. 

The two, members of Kur's support staff, allege they suffered a combined economic loss of more than $857,000 as well as extensive non-economic loss for stress and health problems related to the stress resulting from the alleged abusive treatment. 

On Wednesday Sandy Jasinski, the county's lead defense attorney in the Jarema suit, testified she told Kur that depositions taken from Ward and Rozema were not harmful to the county's case. 

Judge Power said that although he was reluctant to open up a host of political issues unrelated to the current case, he would allow Jasinski's testimony about the Jarema case into evidence because it could show a lack of motive for Kur to have retaliated against Ward and Rozema. 

In her testimony, Jasinski said Kur was not present when she met with Kur's staff, and at no time did she take orders from Kur. She also said Rozema did not cooperate in her investigation and in fact refused to meet with her unless Jarema and his attorney were present. Jasinski said it was the first time in 20 years of practicing law that an employee of an entity she had been hired to defend had not cooperated with the defense investigation. 

Called later to testify, Kur said Rozema and Ward had "grossly over-reacted" to events in the office. She denied she had ever attempted to retaliate against any of her office staff. 

Kur said she never discussed the Jarema lawsuit with Ward or Rozema because she didn't think it would be appropriate. 

County clerk Jane Brannon and Kur testified that the jobs held by Ward and Rozema in the prosecutor's office were held open for them for 14 months after they took medical leaves. They said the positions were filled by temporary staff. 

The final witness to be called, Kur was expected to conclude her testimony this morning before both sides present their final arguments and Power instructs the six-member jury and turns the case over to them for deliberations. 

Power had earlier cautioned both parties to the case against turning the trial into a replay of the political dispute between Jarema, Charlevoix County's current prosecutor, and Kur, who as prosecutor in 2002 had fired Jarema as her chief assistant prosecutor. 

The bitter political contest that followed was settled by voters in last August's primary, when Jarema narrowly defeated Kur and went on to win the November general election against Green Party candidate Ellis Boal to become the county's prosecutor. 

The price of justice… 
Grant Parsons, attorney for Sandra Ward and Jacqueline Rosema, asked Eaton County prosecutor Jeffrey Sauter on Tuesday what he was being paid as an expert witness for the defense. 

Sauter replied he was being paid $150 an hour, the same as Marquette County Prosecutor Gary Walker who testified the previous day. He said each expected to be paid a total of $3,000 for their work. 

At that, Thomas Power, the presiding judge, looked at the jury and said: 

"Even at $150 an hour the price of justice is never too high." 















Former Charlevoix County workers Ward, Rozema, awarded $500,000 each
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Friday, May 13, 2005
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - The six-member Charlevoix Circuit Court jury found that former Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur "constructively discharged" her former employees Sandra Ward and Jacqueline Rozema through abusive behavior that created intolerable working conditions in the office, and awarded them approximately $500,000 each in damages. 

The unanimous verdict came at the end of a seven-day trial of the suits that had earlier been dismissed by Grand Traverse Circuit Judge Thomas Power for lack of merit. Power later allowed the suits to be heard under an amended complaint based on the state's Whistleblowers Act. 

Kur said she was "stunned" by the verdict, which she said would be appealed. She said she would have no further comment. 

County clerk Jane Brannon said the county's insurance carrier will be responsible for paying the judgment. 

Rozema and Ward, who testified early in the trial but otherwise sat expressionless to the side of their attorney, had no comment on the verdict, but Sandra Ward's mother-in-law, Frances Ward, who was present during most of the trial, said today: "I feel that truth prevailed. That was my prayer as I sat in the courtroom." 

The jury deliberated about six hours before reaching their verdict at 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Several hours into their deliberations the jurors asked Judge Power to provide them with a written copy of his oral instructions to them on what constitutes "constructive discharge," the major element of liability in the case. 

Without a finding of constructive discharge - that working conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable person would have no other choice but to quit - the jury could not have reached a verdict for the plaintiffs. 

Rozema and Ward alleged they were made victims of "serial retaliation" and "workplace violence" by Kur for testifying under subpoena in a Whistleblowers lawsuit brought against Kur and the county by John Jarema after he was fired as chief assistant prosecutor in 2002. 

Jarema, who was elected Charlevoix County prosecutor last year, observed much of the Ward-Rozema trial from a back row seat in the chamber. 

Plaintiffs' attorney Grant Parsons of Traverse City alleged that Ward and Rozema suffered a combined economic loss of over $857,000 as well as extensive non-economic loss for stress and health problems related to the stress. 

During the high-stakes trial dozens of witnesses, including county officials and health care consultants, were called to testify in the combined cases that have been watched by legal and political observers for its future effect on the ability of officials to manage their offices. 

In closing arguments Thursday, Parsons asked the jury to consider the totality of complaints against Kur when considering their verdict. 

Parsons acknowledged that some of the complaints, such as one about a cartoon that came to the plaintiffs' attention but was never connected to Kur, might seem trivial and even ridiculous when considered individually. 

But Parsons said more substantive complaints included denial of Ward's request to attend a victims' rights conference, a request for her to perform an audit of her cases, requiring both Ward's and Rozema's attendance at regular staff meetings and issuing a confidentiality policy and a memo on phone etiquette, both of which the plaintiffs said were unclear and applied in an inconsistent manner. 

Parsons said the atmosphere in the office changed markedly after Jarema had been fired, and that Kur's attitude toward Rozema and Ward had become noticeably cooler. 

Rozema alleged that Kur told county building official Ken Doty that she considered Rozema to be an excellent employee and would hate to lose her, a statement Rozema alleged was in fact an attempt to thwart her application for a position in the building department. 

Rozema said she felt Kur was trying to keep her in her department so that she could eventually fire her as punishment. 

Defense attorney Dennis Taylor presented evidence to refute the plaintiffs' examples of the alleged abusive treatment they said had created an "intolerable" atmosphere in the office and forced them to take medical leave.

Taylor sought to portray Kur's actions as those of a competent and responsible manager, and not retaliatory. 

Early in the case Judge Power, who heard the case on assignment from Charlevoix County, cautioned attorneys against allowing the trial to turn into a rehash of the long-standing political disputes between Kur and Jarema. 

Power said the proper way to fight a political dispute is through the election process, not in a trial. But on Wednesday, Power permitted the defense to present evidence from the Jarema case that contradicted plaintiffs' claim that Kur had created a hostile work environment in retaliation for depositions they gave in the Jarema lawsuit. 

Sandy Jasinski, the county's lead defense attorney in the Jarema suit, said the defense could file motions with Judge Power to either set aside the judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or to reduce the amount of the verdict. 

Defense attorney Taylor could not be reached for comment on his future plans. 

County clerk Brannon said today she expected the verdict will make it difficult for department heads to run their offices for fear of retaliation. And she said the county's insurance fees would undoubtedly increase as a result of the awards, if a company could be found to insure the county. 

Brannon also commented that no one had mentioned in the trial that the county has dozens of employees with over 20 years of service. 

"It can't be that bad a place to work," she said. 















$1.1 million awarded
Grand Rapids Press, The (MI)
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Author: Press Wire Services

CHARLEVOIX -- A jury has awarded about $1.1 million to two former Charlevoix County employees who claimed then-county Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur created a hostile work environment. The award for lost wages and punitive damages was given following a seven-day jury trial that ended Thursday in Charlevoix Circuit Court. 















Ex-prosecutor wants judge to recuse himself from her cases
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Friday, June 3, 2005
Author: Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer

The long-standing dispute between Charlevoix County's former and current prosecuting attorneys has spawned yet another legal battle. 

This time former prosecutor, Mary Beth Kur , who lost last fall's election to her former chief assistant prosecutor John Jarema, is asking the lone district court judge for Charlevoix and Emmet counties to disqualify himself from hearing her cases because, she claims, he is biased against her and supported Jarema. 

Kur, who entered private practice in the Petoskey law firm of Schmoll, Martin & Kur after losing the election, is representing a woman on a straightforward drunken driving case currently pending in Emmet County's 90th District Court. The case was unremarkable until late March. 

That's when 90th District Court Judge Richard May sent a memo to the Charlevoix County Commission in which he refused to sign-off on the county's hiring of Kur as one of four attorneys who represent indigent defendants in the county's district and circuit courts. A week earlier Charlevoix County Circuit Court Judge Richard M. Pajtas wrote a memo in which he approved of Kur's appointment. 

As required by their contract with the county, the three other members of the indigent defense consortium, Kraag Lieberman, Christopher Turkleson and Robert Banner had asked the judges to give the OK for Kur to replace attorney Mark Muniak, who left the consortium to take a position in the Charlevoix County Prosecutor's office earlier this year. 

It was the comments that Judge May made in the memo to the county commission and in a conversation with Judge Pajtas that Kur said served as the "straw that broke the camel's back" and forced her to file the motion to have May disqualify himself from presiding over further proceedings involving her. 

In the memo to the commission, Judge May writes: "I do not believe the recommended appointment of Mary Beth Kur as a court appointed attorney is in the best interest of the community, the operation of the 90th District Court, or for defendants." 

The judge went on to write: "It is imperative in the operation of this court that people work together cooperatively and with the utmost respect for other participants in the court system. Based upon past litigation and current litigation involving the county, I am not comfortable that decisions are going to be made sole upon what is in the best interest of clients. With other qualified attorneys available, I am not willing to create situations that may continue to add fuel to these disputes, to the determent of defendant's cases." 

In her various pleadings and in the court hearing held to consider her motion to disqualify the judge, Kur contends that Judge May did not approve her appointment because he does not like her and is a supporter of Jarema. She also claims the memo May wrote explaining his denial was, in itself, a direct attack on her and clear evidence of Judge May's bias against her. 

In a recent pleading Kur wrote, "The memo contains derogatory remarks about (me) and disparages (my) professionalism." 

The court held a hearing on Kur's disqualification motion on April 14 and 15 during which Judge Pajtas, testified under a subpoena from Kur. 

In his testimony, Judge Pajtas said he and Judge May had more than one conversation regarding their difference of opinion regarding Kur's appointment as an indigent defender. 

Judge Pajtas said after discussing the matter with Judge May, he "was concerned enough (about May's opinion) that I asked Judge May if he was going to disqualify himself regarding matters that (Kur) handle(s) before him and he (May) said 'no.'" 

Pajtas also testified that he told Judge May, that he had experience in the courtroom with Kur and Jarema since the election and that he admired both of them for their civility toward one another and their "ability to get the job done in a professional way." 

"And so I opined to Judge May that I didn't think it was a problem," Judge Pajtas said. 

But Judge May said he had plenty of good reasons for his denial of Kur's appointment as an indigent defender. 

Judge May said his actions regarding Kur's bid to become a court-appointed attorney had nothing to do with personal bias against her, but rather were based on concerns growing out of the long-standing dispute between her and Jarema. Judge May went on to say that his memo does not question Kur's ability as a lawyer or that he doesn't like her, but rather that he is concerned that, given the highly contentious relationship between Kur and Jarema - which has included litigation - the likelihood is high that either one of them could allow the ill-will to get in the way of justice. 

As examples of the animosity between Kur and Jarema, Judge May pointed to testimony at the hearing from the current prosecutor's staff that Kur's administration had left computers in the office in an unusable state, and that the whereabouts of thousands of dollars in law books and a cell phone were unknown and that a phone line had apparently been re-routed. He also pointed to the low-ball budget Kur proposed to the county commission for the prosecutor's office (that would then be Jarema's) for the following year after she lost the election in November. 

The judge also pointed to a time after Kur fired Jarema where Kur required that all communication with her from Jarema (for court-related matters) be done only in writing. 

While Kur explained this was done at the suggestion of her defense attorney in the civil case Jarema brought against Kur and the county, Judge May said such a requirement by either Kur or Jarema in the future would make for a very inefficient working relationship between the two if Kur were appointed as an indigent defender. 

As further evidence of May's alleged bias, Kur pointed to comments that Judge May made to Judge Pajtas that factors in his refusal to approving Kur's appointment included the fact that she had purportedly said bad things about him and that in the past she had tried to solicit someone to run for office against Judge May. 

Judge May acknowledged that he did make the comments to that effect, but said they those factors have never affected his rulings in court on Kur's cases. 

"I made comments that Mrs. Kur, I felt, … did not think I was doing a good job," Judge May said. "And (Kur) did attempt to, three years ago, solicit someone to run against me at the time of that election … and I've known that fact for three years and that fact has never entered into how I interact with (Kur) or decide any of (Kur's) cases." 

He later said, "I think it's counter-productive to appoint an attorney that doesn't think that I'm doing a good job, or that doesn't think that I care about defendants or that I make fair decisions and may communicate that belief to (the defendants) consciously or subconsciously." 

Judge May said that he believes that Kur's effort to have him disqualified from his cases is "solely based upon my administrative decision" not to approve her appointment. 

Kur acknowledged that an order perpetually disqualifying Judge May from her cases would create numerous scheduling problems as each time she had a case in district court in either county, the court would have to find another judge - likely from another county - to handle the case. 

May addressed the same issue as he detailed his reasons for denying Kur's motion at the end of the last hearing on the matter in April. 

"A perpetual disqualification deprives the electorate of the judicial officer of choice. In districts with few judges, it increases the workload of the remaining judges and imposes administrative burdens on the judges and their staff," Judge May said during the hearing. 

Ultimately Judge May refused Kur's motion to disqualify himself from Kur's cases. 

Kur has since appealed Judge May's ruling and the Michigan Supreme Court Administrator's Office has assigned Grand Traverse County Circuit Court Judge Phillip E. Rodgers to hear Kur's appeal. 

The deadline for pleadings to be submitted to Rodgers is June 14. After that time Rodgers could consider the matter without hearing further oral arguments from the attorneys. He could also grant a request on Kur's part to have another hearing. Kur said she made the request because she felt that Judge May did not allow testimony during the earlier hearing that he should have allowed. 

"Judge May systematically excluded evidence in support of defendant's theory. Judge May did this by consistently inserting himself into the proceedings," Kur wrote. 

Even if Judge Rodgers doesn't overturn Judge May's ruling, Kur still could get her wish. Kur has filed a complaint with the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission about May's conduct in general and specifically his handling of the case at hand. The commission could order that Judge May be disqualified. A message seeking information about the status of Kur's complaint left with the commission was not returned before press time today, Friday. 

Judge May said today, Friday, he was unable to comment on the case.













Judge says lawyer, judge must work together
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Monday, July 11, 2005
Author: Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer

A circuit court judge has found no evidence that 90th District Court Judge Richard W. May is biased in his decisions involving former Charlevoix County Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur . 

In an opinion issued last week, 13th Circuit Court Judge Philip E. Rodgers Jr. upheld Judge May's decision not to remove himself from all future proceedings involving Kur. Judge Rodgers issued his opinion on Kur's appeal of Judge May's decision. 

Earlier this year, Kur had filed a motion in a drunken driving case to have Judge May exclude himself from hearing her cases on the grounds that he his biased against her. 

The bias allegation has its roots in the long-running dispute, both in and out of the courtroom, between Kur and current Charlevoix County Prosecutor John Jarema. 

Jarema worked as Kur's chief assistant prosecutor until Kur fired him. Jarema then filed a Whistleblower's Protection Act lawsuit against Kur and the county claiming Kur fired him because he was about to reveal Kur's alleged mismanagement of the prosecutor's office. The suit was eventually settled before going to trial. 

Jarema then ran against, and defeated, Kur in the 2004 election. Several other lawsuits have also arisen out of the Kur-Jarema dispute. Kur has since entered private practice in the Petoskey law firm of Schmoll, Martin and Kur. 

Kur cited several examples of evidence of Judge May's alleged bias against her, including May's support of Jarema in the prosecutor's race; claims that the judge received free labor from Jarema in the construction of his house and the judge many years ago helped Jarema edit a court document; his handling of the hearing and other matters surrounding her request for disqualification; and a "derogatory" memo May penned to the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners. 

Judge Rodgers said, "Whether the judge edited a pleading for Mr. Jarema and whether Mr. Jarema provided free labor … may give rise to legitimate ethical questions, but do not speak to whether the judge is biased or prejudiced against Ms. Kur and incapable of impartially hearing cases." 

Judge Rodgers also took note of a complaint Kur has filed with the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission and noted it is "the appropriate forum for such allegations. 

Information on the status of Kur's complaint was not available today, Monday, because the person with that information will not be in the office for a week. 

Judge Rodgers said he found no evidence on the record that Judge May ever indicated that he "does not like" Kur and said the point basically irrelevant anyway. 

"Judges are human beings and naturally have personal opinions of counsel who appear before them. So long as those personal opinions do not favorably or unfavorably influence the judge's decision making in the case, there is no basis to complain. In (this) case there is absolutely no evidence that Judge May ever allowed his personal opinions of Ms. Kur, whatever it may be, to influence his judicial decision making." 

The judge also found no merit in Kur's request to have Judge May barred from permanently hearing her cases, noting that such moves are very rare and require a high burden of proof. 

"In (this) case, some of the incidents cited by (Kur) in support of the request to perpetually disqualify Judge May actually illustrate Ms. Kur's penchant for misinterpreting and unfavorably reacting to Judge May's otherwise benign remarks." 

In her motion to have Judge May disqualified and a subsequent hearing, Kur pointed to a memo in which Judge May disapproved of Kur to fill a vacancy in Charlevoix County's court-appointed attorney group. 

"This court has read that memo and does not find the memo to be 'derogatory' of Ms. Kur or her professional ability. Instead the memo clearly expresses Judge May's legitimate concerns over whether Ms. Kur, as appointed defense counsel, and Mr. Jarema, as prosecuting attorney, would be able to work together cooperatively … or whether their animosity toward one another would get in the way of the fair administration of justice." 

Judge Rodgers also found no problems with the manner in which Judge May conducted a hearing in the case. That hearing included testimony from Charlevoix County Circuit Court Judge Richard M. Pajtas. 

In his conclusion, Judge Rodgers writes: "After a thorough review of (Kur's) allegations as well as the transcript of the hearing, the briefs and the exhibits, the court finds that Judge May can imparitally hear this case and is not disqualified from doing so 

Kur could not be reached for comment before press time today, Monday. 















Jarema, Brannon suit settled
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Author: Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer

CHARLEVOIX - The lawsuit between the Committee to Elect (now-Charlevoix County Prosecutor) John Jarema and the Charlevoix County Clerk has been settled. 

Jarema said he has agreed to drop the lawsuit in exchange for county clerk Jane Brannon dropping $4,650 in fines she had assessed against Jarema's campaign. 

In the suit, the election committee contended that Brannon inappropriately assessed the fines against the committee for late filing of Jarema's campaign finance reports. 

Jarema defeated former Charlevoix County Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur in a hotly contested campaign in 2004. The friction between Kur and Jarema has been at the center of numerous lawsuits and other legal action since. 

The case had been slated for a bench trial Monday. 

The case is being handled by Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Alton Davis. 

"I'm just glad that it's over and I'm ready to move on," Jarema said. "This is the relief I had requested before filing the suit." 

Neither Brannon nor her attorney Frederick Schmoll III of Petoskey were available for comment before press time today, Tuesday. 















Jury award stands in case against former prosecutor
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, August 4, 2005
Author: Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer

CHARLEVOIX - A judge has denied a motion to throw out a circuit court jury verdict that earlier this year awarded a total of more than $1 million to two former Charlevoix County Prosecutor's office employees. 

In a decision and order signed on July 20, Grand Traverse County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power threw out a motion filed by the defendants in the case, Charlevoix County and former Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur . The defendant's motion had asked the court to for a "judgment notwithstanding the verdict, new trial and/or remittitur" in the Whistleblower's Protection Act lawsuit in which former county employees Sandra Ward and Jacqueline Rozema prevailed earlier this year. 

On May 12, following a seven-day trial, a jury found that Kur had "constructively discharged" former employees Ward and Rozema and awarded them about $500,000 each. 

In the lawsuit, Ward and Rozema claimed that in retaliation for testimony they gave in depositions in another lawsuit, Kur had treated them so badly that they were forced to quit their jobs. 

In this motion, the defendants had asked Judge Power (who has presided over the entire case) to essentially throw out the jury's verdict on the grounds that it goes "against the great weight of the evidence" presented during the trial. 

Judge Power instead struck down the defense motion on the grounds that it was not filed in a timely manner. 

The judge notes in his order that court rules require such a motion to be made within 21 days after the entry of the judgment and that a judgment is considered entered on the date it is signed. 

In this case, the judge signed the judgment on May 26 and the defendants filed their motion on June 20. 

In a motion for a deadline extension, the defendants' attorney had argued that someone from his office mistakenly counted the days from the time the judgment was filed (May 31). 

The judge noted that the court does have the discretion to extend a such a deadline "if the failure to act was the result of excusable neglect," but said he found no evidence to that effect in this instance. 

Still to be determined in the case is the matter of the assessment of legal fees and costs. An order requires the defendants to pay legal fees to the plaintiffs, but the amount of those fees has yet to be determined. 















Charlevoix board gives Jarema vote of confidence
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Author: FRED GRAYNEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - Charlevoix County prosecutor John Jarema convinced the county's board of commissioners that his office could and should represent the county on civil matters, unless he advised the board otherwise in specific cases. 

The board, which had been presented with a draft resolution that would allow it to employ outside counsel on civil matters, voted unanimously to give Jarema a vote of confidence and allow him to handle civil cases as a matter of course for the present time. 

Jarema appeared before the board at its meeting on Wednesday, demanding to know who had written the draft resolution that apparently had come from the county's internal affairs committee. 

No one admitted to authorship of the resolution. 

Commissioner Shirley Roloff said the resolution reflected the board members' own private agendas. Jarema said the resolution would likely have been discussed at the committee's Nov. 23 meeting but he could find no reference to it in the minutes. 

He said he considered the county's hiring the firm that employs former Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur to write the county's personnel policy to be a "slap in the face." 

He asked the board what duties he hadn't done that board had requested of him. 

County clerk Jane Brannon said Jarema's office had taken no action on the board's request for revising the county's mass gathering ordinance and to represent the transportation authority (Ironton ferry) in an action against a supplier. 

"I'm addressing the board, not you," Jarema responded, adding: "I can handle the county's civil affairs." 

Commissioner Josh Barnes said he was annoyed to read in the local newspaper of a letter Jarema sent to a private citizen on setting a date for a special election, before the county board members had read it. 

Commissioner Ron Reinhardt told Jarema that he should concentrate his efforts on his primary duties - dealing with criminal matters - and avoid "empire building" by insisting on representing the county in civil matters. 

"I'm not saying that you haven't been doing a good job. You are. But I hear your office is very busy. Why not free yourself up?" Reinhardt asked. 

"Because by statute it's one of the duties of the office," Jarema said. 

"It's because he's dedicated," a member of the audience said. 

Board chair Vic Patrick said his understanding of the law is that the board can hire outside counsel if it wants, and that the board will require civil counsel at every board meeting from now on. 

Jarema said someone from his office would attend the meetings and he considered it a waste of taxpayer money to hire outside counsel do so. 

John Haggard, a former county commissioner and the Republican candidate in the Feb. 28 special election to represent the county's 1st district, requested that civil counsel be kept within the prosecutor's office. 

"Hiring outside civil counsel would be very cost ineffective," he said. 

Reinhardt said that for the prosecutor's office to represent the county in civil matters would likely have to be done on an overtime basis. 

Patrick noted that Emmet County has its own civil counsel separate from the prosecutor's office. 

After further debate, Roloff called for a vote on her motion to deny the resolution, give Jarema a vote of confidence and keep him as civil counsel. 

"I think John Jarema is man enough to say when he cannot handle it," Roloff said, adding: "Throw the resolution in the garbage." 

"If necessary I will recommend outside counsel," Jarema told the board. 

Meanwhile, 1st district commissioner Josh Barnes, who narrowly lost to Haggard in the Nov. 8 Republican primary, told the News-Review that he had decided not pursue recourse in circuit court over the election results because of confusion over absentee ballots, but would run against Haggard in next August's primary. 















Ex-employee files suit against Charlevoix County for lost medical benefits
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Author: Fred Gray, News-Review staff writer

CHARLEVOIX - Jacqueline Rozema, who was awarded a half-million dollar settlement last May in a suit against Charlevoix County and her one-time employer, former county prosecutor Mary Beth Kur , has sued the county for at least $400,000 for medical benefits she alleges were denied her when she was "constructively discharged" by Kur. 

In the suit, filed in Charlevoix Circuit Court on Jan. 23, Rozema claims that prior to resigning, she was assured that she was entitled to, and would receive, retirement health benefits for herself and her husband for life upon retirement. 

She claims that two days after she and her colleague Sandra Ward were awarded over $1 million by a Charlevoix County Circuit Court jury, the county terminated her health benefits. 

Rozema claims the denial of health benefits was a violation of the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act, which was the basis for the suit she and Ward had filed against the county and Kur. 

Charlevoix County Clerk Jane Brannon said today that Rozema is not entitled to the health benefits. Brannon said that in order to retain retiree health benefits Rozema would have to draw a pension, but she was not eligible to retire because she does not have enough years of service credit. 

Last May the six-member jury found that Kur had "constructively discharged" Rozema and Ward through abusive behavior that created intolerable working conditions in the office. 

The verdict came at the end of a seven-day trial of the suits that had earlier been dismissed by Grand Traverse Circuit Judge Thomas Power for lack of merit. Power later allowed the suits to be heard under an amended complaint based on the state's Whistleblowers Act. 

Rozema and Ward alleged they were made victims of "serial retaliation" and "workplace violence" by Kur for testifying under subpoena in a Whistleblowers lawsuit brought against Kur and the county by John Jarema after he was fired as chief assistant prosecutor in 2002. 

Jarema was subsequently elected Charlevoix County prosecutor. 

In the new lawsuit, Rozema states that the county's personnel committee found that conditions in Kur's office were intolerable for her and others, but refused to ameliorate them. 

Rozema states that after she left her job, she was paid no further salary but her health insurance was continued. 

She claims that even after she left, she was informed expressly in writing that her lifetime health insurance benefits would continue for life if she terminated employment. 

On April 15, 2004, Rozema submitted a formal written resignation/early retirement to the county and Kur, informing them she was doing so under protest. 

She stated that the May 2005 verdict did not include an award for future health insurance benefits, because they had been voluntarily guaranteed by the county to continue for life. 

Subsequently, Rozema's attorney negotiated a settlement agreement with the county and the prosecuting attorney that expressly included a term that her existing health insurance benefits would not be impaired. 

According to the lawsuit, two days after the settlement agreement was finalized, the county canceled Rozema's lifetime health insurance benefits, and she and her husband are now required to pay about $1,000 a month for the health benefits she had received, without payment by her or her husband, up to and including the date of settlement. 

Rozema claims that over the course of their lives, the cost of medical insurance for her and her husband will exceed approximately $300,000, and is suing for an additional $100,000 settlement finances she waived. 















Judge Power releases Kur from personal liability in Rozema, Ward judgment
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Author: FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER

CHARLEVOIX - Grand Traverse Circuit Judge Thomas Power has dismissed former Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur in her individual capacity from the judgments entered last May against her and the county in favor of Kur's former employees, Jacqueline Rozema and Sandra Ward. 

At the same time, Power signed amended judgments against the county and Kur in her official capacity as county prosecutor, in the amounts of $505,713.65 for Rozema and $552,069.72 for Ward. 

The amended judgments also declare that Rozema and Ward are each entitled to attorneys' fees in the amount of $39,242, and taxable costs for Ward of $4,518.35 and Rozema of $4,198.33; and interest in the amount of $60,971.16 for Ward and $56,195.80 for Rozema. 

Charlevoix County Clerk Jane Brannon said Power's signing the additional documents did nothing but remove Kur from personal liability in the case. 

"I was pleased to see that happen," Kur said. 

Last month Rozema sued the county for at least $400,000 for medical benefits she alleges were denied her when she was "constructively discharged" by Kur. 

In the suit, filed in Charlevoix Circuit Court on Jan. 23, Rozema claimed that prior to resigning, she was assured that she was entitled to, and would receive, retirement health benefits for herself and her husband for life upon retirement. 

She claimed that two days after she and her colleague Sandra Ward were awarded more than $1 million by a Charlevoix County Circuit Court jury, the county terminated her health benefits. 

Rozema claimed the denial of health benefits was a violation of the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act, which was the basis for the suit she and Ward had filed against the county and Kur. 

Brannon said Rozema was not entitled to the health benefits. Brannon said that in order to retain retiree health benefits Rozema would have to draw a pension, but she was not eligible to retire because she does not have enough years of service credit. 

Last May the six-member jury found that Kur had "constructively discharged" Rozema and Ward through abusive behavior that created intolerable working conditions in the office. 

The verdict came at the end of a seven-day trial of the suits that had earlier been dismissed by Judge Power for lack of merit. Power later allowed the suits to be heard under an amended complaint based on the state's Whistleblowers Act. 

Rozema and Ward alleged they were made victims of "serial retaliation" and "workplace violence" by Kur for testifying under subpoena in a Whistleblowers lawsuit brought against Kur and the county by John Jarema after he was fired as chief assistant prosecutor in 2002. 

Jarema was subsequently elected Charlevoix County prosecutor. 















Plea deal lightens ex-deputy's conviction
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Author: Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer

CHARLEVOIX - The special prosecutor appointed to handle an assault case involving a now ex-Charlevoix County Sheriff's deputy and the former deputy's attorney say a host of factors played into a last-minute plea-agreement that prevented the case from going to trial Monday. 

Brian VanMeter, 42, of Charlevoix had been slated to face a one-day jury trial in 90th District Court Monday on misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and assault and battery. But on Friday VanMeter pleaded responsible to a civil infraction of careless driving in exchange for which the other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to pay $200 in fines and costs. 

VanMeter was employed as a deputy with the Charlevoix County Sheriff's office at the time of the Oct. 5 incident that led to the charges. Although VanMeter was not on duty at the time of the incident, county sheriff George T. Lasater placed VanMeter on unpaid suspension a short time after. 

Both attorneys in the case said the deal also included an agreement on VanMeter's part to resign from his position effective at 5 p.m. Monday and an agreement that he would not sue the sheriff's office or the county over the ending of his employment. For his part, Lasater agreed to pay VanMeter for the time while he was on suspension and to provide him with a letter confirming his time of employment with the sheriff's office and the fact that he resigned, the attorney's said. 

The case was prosecuted by Antrim County prosecuting attorney Charles Koop, who was appointed to handle the case by the state attorney general's office at the request of Charlevoix County prosecuting attorney John Jarema. 

Koop said a call from the victim saying he didn't want to proceed with the case was one factor that played into the plea deal. Another factor, Koop said, was that the agreement "provided certainty that (VanMeter) will not be reinstated (to his deputy position)." 

Koop explained that the move to allow for VanMeter to receive his back pay was done to prevent the county from the hassle and expense of arbitration. 

"In my experience, if the sheriff had fired him, you'd be looking at three months of arbitration. With the attorney's fees, it would far exceed the cost of just paying him," Koop said. 

VanMeter's attorney, Mary Beth Kur , said her client took the plea deal, because he felt it was in his and his children's best interest, given the risks involved in going to trial. 

"From the beginning (VanMeter) has maintained his innocence in all criminal charges," Kur said. "His acceptance of the plea illustrates that. If anything, this incident amounts to a simple traffic matter." 

"When he balanced all the risks of going to trial against a traffic ticket and a $200 fine and not having to put his kids through the publicity surrounding the trial, the choice was pretty clear," Kur added. 

The charges stem from an incident that took place in and south of Charlevoix early Oct. 5 between VanMeter and his estranged wife's boyfriend, Brad Sanderson. According to police reports and earlier testimony, VanMeter allegedly confronted Sanderson shortly after he had left the VanMeter home. 

Sanderson said VanMeter threatened him and then followed Sanderson as he drove back toward Charlevoix. Sanderson said VanMeter drove aggressively, following very closely at times and eventually forcing him to stop near the intersection of U.S. 31 and M-66. Sanderson said VanMeter got out of his car and, after attempting unsuccessfully to make Sanderson get out of his car - ostensibly intending to fight with him - VanMeter fled the scene. 

VanMeter was originally charged with a felony count of assault with a dangerous weapon (the car). But a judge threw that charge out following a preliminary examination in November. The judge found that there was not enough evidence showing that VanMeter had the "specific intent" to use his vehicle to put the alleged victim in fear of immediate harm to warrant sending the matter on the circuit court. 
Also See:















Rozema suit against Charlevoix County settled;
Former county employee claimed damages of over $400,000 
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
By Fred Gray News-Review Staff Writer

CHARLEVOIX - Jacqueline Rozema, who was awarded a half-million dollar settlement last May in a suit against Charlevoix County and her one-time employer, former county prosecutor Mary Beth Kur , has settled a second suit against the county for an undisclosed amount. 

County clerk Jane Brannon told the News-Review on Tuesday that Rozema's suit for the medical benefits she alleged had been denied her was settled in December of last year. 

She said papers confirming the settlement were recently filed with the clerk's office. Brannon told the News-Review the settlement could not be disclosed to the public. 

In her suit Rozema claimed damages of at least $400,000 for medical benefits she alleged were denied her when she was "constructively discharged" by Kur. 

Rozema claimed that prior to resigning, she had been assured that she was entitled to, and would receive, retirement health benefits for herself and her husband for life upon retirement. 

She claimed that two days after she and her colleague Sandra Ward were awarded more than $1 million by a Charlevoix County Circuit Court jury, the county terminated her health benefits. 

Rozema claimed the denial of health benefits was a violation of the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act, which was the basis for the suit she and Ward had filed against the county and Kur. 

At the time of filing, Brannon said Rozema was not entitled to the health benefits. Brannon said that in order to retain retiree health benefits Rozema would have to draw a pension, but she was not eligible to retire because she did not have enough years of service credit. 

In May 2005, a six-member jury found that Kur had "constructively discharged" Rozema and Ward through abusive behavior that created intolerable working conditions in the office. 

The verdict came at the end of a seven-day trial of the suits that had earlier been dismissed by Grand Traverse Circuit Judge Thomas Power for lack of merit. Power later allowed the suits to be heard under an amended complaint based on the state's Whistleblowers Act. 

Rozema and Ward alleged they were made victims of "serial retaliation" and "workplace violence" by Kur for testifying under subpoena in a Whistleblowers lawsuit brought against Kur and the county by John Jarema after he was fired as chief assistant prosecutor in 2002. 

Jarema was subsequently elected Charlevoix County prosecutor. 

In the subsequent lawsuit, Rozema stated that the county's personnel committee found that conditions in Kur's office were intolerable for her and others, but refused to ameliorate them. 

Rozema stated that after she left her job, she was paid no further salary but her health insurance was continued. 

She claimed that even after she left, she was informed in writing that her lifetime health insurance benefits would continue for life if she terminated employment. 

On April 15, 2004, Rozema submitted a formal written resignation/early retirement to the county and Kur, informing them she was doing so under protest. 

She stated that the May 2005 verdict did not include an award for future health insurance benefits, because they had been voluntarily guaranteed by the county to continue for life. 

Subsequently, Rozema's attorney negotiated a settlement agreement with the county and the prosecuting attorney that expressly included a term that her existing health insurance benefits would not be impaired. 

According to the lawsuit, two days after the settlement agreement was finalized, the county canceled Rozema's lifetime health insurance benefits, and she and her husband were required to pay about $1,000 a month for the health benefits she had received, without payment by her or her husband, up to and including the date of settlement. 

Rozema claimed that over the course of their lives, the cost of medical insurance for her and her husband would exceed $300,000, and sued for an additional $100,000. 















Roloff challenges secrecy of county’s settlement with Rozema
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Author: Fred Gray News Review Staff Writer

CHARLEVOIX - Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners chair Shirley Roloff says she is upset that the settlement with former county employee Jacqueline Rozema prevents her from disclosing its terms. 

"It's outrageous," Roloff said of the secrecy stipulation. "It's Charlevoix taxpayers' money and they have the right to know how we're spending it." 

Rozema, who was awarded a half-million dollar settlement last May in a suit against Charlevoix County and her one-time employer, former county prosecutor Mary Beth Kur , settled a second suit against the county for an undisclosed amount in December. 

In her second suit Rozema claimed damages of at least $400,000 for medical benefits she alleged were denied her when she was "constructively discharged" by Kur. 

After the suit was settled and the case was formally dismissed by the judge, a reporter asked the board at last Wednesday's meeting how they could justify agreeing to pay out what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars without disclosing the amount to the people they represent. 

Roloff said the settlement had been agreed to by the previous board, of which she was a member. She said she had been one of the signatories for the county along with Vic Patrick, board chair at the time. 

Only Roloff and Ron Reinhardt remain on the current six-member board as a result of last year's elections. 

Roloff said she would check with the county's attorney in the case, Jan Hildenbrand of a Southfield law firm.

Several days later Roloff said Hildenbrand told her she (Roloff) could not talk about the case. Repeated efforts to reach Hildenbrand for comment were unsuccessful. 

Roloff said the secret settlement put the current commissioners in a bad situation. 

"It's not fair to them," she said. "They have to answer to the people of the county for this." 

Reinhardt said the decision to settle was out of his hands. 

"I wouldn't have any trouble with the court revealing the amount," he said, adding: "I think the taxpayers should know." 

Patrick, who attended a day-long negotiating session in December with Rozema's attorneys, said that while he could not disclose the final settlement, it was less than $300,000. 

"The amount I tendered was not as much as the board authorized me to spend," he said. 

He said it was Rozema's attorney, the judge and the county's lawyers who wanted the final amount kept secret. 

"And I don't know why," he said. 

Patrick said that in December he had signed what he believed would be the final agreement, but Rozema's attorney held it up to change some wordage. 

"As a result my signature was not on the final document. (Rozema and her attorneys) started dragging their feet again so the settlement wasn't finalized until January, when I was no longer on the board. Shirley signed it as chair of the current board." 















Rozema suit settled for $275,000
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Author: Fred Gray News-Review Staff Writer

CHARLEVOIX - Former Charlevoix County employee Jacqueline Rozema settled for $275,000 in her second successful suit against the county, according to court documents obtained by the News-Review through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

Last May a jury awarded Rozema and her colleague Sandra Ward over $1 million in a suit they filed against the county and their one-time employer, former county prosecutor Mary Beth Kur . 

In her second suit against the county settled last month, Rozema claimed at least $400,000 in medical benefits she alleged had been denied her when she was "constructively discharged" by Kur. 

The amount of the settlement was not publicly disclosed until Wednesday, when a request for court documents was granted. 

The settlement provides that Rozema release the county from further liability and not disclose the terms of the settlement to anyone other than tax advisers. The same section describes the terms of the agreement as "confidential" but nowhere in the agreement is there a parallel statement preventing the county from disclosing the terms. 

Rozema claimed that prior to resigning, she had been assured that she was entitled to, and would receive, retirement health benefits for herself and her husband for life upon retirement. 

She claimed that two days after the May 2006 jury award, the county terminated her health benefits. 

Rozema claimed the denial of health benefits was a violation of the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act, which was the basis for the suit she and Ward had filed against the county and Kur. 

At the time of filing, county clerk Jane Brannon said Rozema was not entitled to the health benefits. Brannon said that in order to retain retiree health benefits Rozema would have to draw a pension, but she was not eligible to retire because she did not have enough years of service credit. 

In May 2005, a six-member jury found that Kur had "constructively discharged" Rozema and Ward through abusive behavior that created intolerable working conditions in the office. 

County board chair Shirley Roloff, who with Brannon signed the settlement agreement on behalf of the county on Feb. 5, 2007, told the News-Review earlier this month that the county's attorney in the case, Jan Hildenbrand of a Southfield law firm, had advised her not to disclose the terms of settlement. 

Repeated efforts to reach Hildenbrand for comment were unsuccessful. 

Roloff said even though she had signed the papers, she found the secrecy requirement to be "outrageous" and put the current county commissioners in a bad situation. 

"It's not fair to them," she said. "They have to answer to the people of the county for this." 

Former board chair Vic Patrick, who had negotiated on behalf of the county until his term expired at the end of last year, said it was the attorneys for both sides and the judge who wanted the final settlement amount kept secret. 

"And I don't know why," he said. 

Roloff said Wednesday she regretted not having read the final settlement document more closely. 

"I didn't read it; I only glanced through it," Roloff said. 

Speaking of the amounts of awards the county has made in lawsuits over the years, Roloff said: 

"We've made some drastic mistakes. I hope we have learned by some of them. I wish this case never had happened." 

She said the county needed a new labor attorney as the next thing on her to-do list. 

"We need someone closer by, but we need a good one," she said. 















What went on in the dark, came out in the light
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

You would think taxpayers have a right to know when their local government spends $275,000. 

However, some people in Charlevoix County government and the courts didn't seem to want the taxpayers to know this in at least one case. 

It was recently reported that former Charlevoix County employee Jacqueline Rozema will be getting $275,000 from the county coffers as part of a settlement to a lawsuit she brought against the county seeking $400,000 in medical benefits she alleged had been denied to her. Last May a jury awarded Rozema and her colleague Sandra Ward over $1 million in a suit they filed against the county and their one-time employer, former county prosecutor Mary Beth Kur . 

Rozema claimed the denial of health benefits was a violation of the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act, which was the basis for the suit she and Ward had filed against the county and Kur. 

However, the amount of the settlement would not have been known by taxpayers had the Petoskey News-Review not filed a Freedom of Information Request. 

The settlement provides that Rozema release the county from further liability and not disclose the terms of the settlement to anyone other than tax advisers. The same section describes the terms of the agreement as "confidential" but nowhere in the agreement is there a parallel statement preventing the county from disclosing the terms. 

However, county board chair Shirley Roloff, who with county clerk Jane Brannon signed the settlement agreement on behalf of the county on Feb. 5, 2007, told the News-Review earlier this month that the county's attorney in the case, Jan Hildenbrand of a Southfield law firm, had advised her not to disclose the terms of settlement. Roloff said even though she had signed the papers, she found the secrecy requirement to be "outrageous" and put the current county commissioners in a bad situation. 

Perhaps Roloff needs some explaining on what is outrageous? 

What is outrageous is that the county even agreed to this type of secrecy and Roloff and Brannon signed off on it. What is outrageous is that the taxpayers would not have known about this amount if it were not for the Freedom of Information Act. 

We hope in the future, Charlevoix County understands it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to know how much money they are spending in the courtroom and never again agree to this type of secrecy.















Charlevoix County commissioner to file grievance against prosecutor
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Author: Brandon Hubbard

CHARLEVOIX - A Charlevoix County commissioner says she plans to file a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission of Michigan against the county prosecutor for allegedly abusing his elected office. 

Charlevoix County Commissioner Shirlene Tripp, of Hayes Township, read at length from a prepared statement Wednesday at the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners meeting, leveling several allegations against Charlevoix County Prosecutor John Jarema, including abusing his office staff, lying to elected officials and not acting in the best interest of the municipality. 

"I think it is time for the public to know what is really going on behind the scenes," Tripp read, beginning her statement. 

Tripp told the News-Review following the meeting she will be filing a complaint with the grievance commission via certified mail today, Thursday. 

The grievance commission serves the Michigan Supreme Court to perform investigations and prosecution for attorney misconduct. If the Attorney Grievance Commission finds a member of the Michigan Bar Association has potentially committed misconduct, a three-volunteer attorney panel is appointed by the state Attorney Grievance Board to conduct trial-level proceedings. 

Tripp accused Jarema of coordinating to bring potential criminal charges over a discrepancy that Tripp, who represents District 1, was paid for meetings she did not attend. However, Tripp says the issue is years old and there was a sealed agreement by the prosecutor's office to allow her to repay some of the funds. 

She denied the incident was criminal and said the questions regarding the meetings had been resolved previously. 

"That is outrageous. Frankly, Jarema is misrepresenting this to his client Charlevoix County," Tripp said. "He has been vindictive and if I need to get an attorney because John Jarema lied to me and this board then I will do that. That isn't something I thought I would ever have to say." 

Jarema, who did not attend the meeting Wednesday night, said Thursday morning by phone: "Let me get this straight. Tripp is now, because she has a criminal investigation against her on how she got paid or didn't get paid on per diems, now is bringing out allegations against me?" 

Jarema said the matter involving Tripp had been brought to the attention of the Michigan State Police by two private citizens. 

"I don't make charges, the police do," Jarema said. "I don't have a warrant request. I don't even know if the investigation is done, and if it is done and comes to my office, I'm going to refer it for a special prosecutor anyway. That is typical on conflict cases." 

Although the agreement between Charlevoix County and Tripp came from an office Jarema governs, he said he did not have detailed knowledge about the dollar amounts or what was agreed upon. 

"I didn't sign it," he said, although he admitted having oversight as the elected official in charge. 

Jarema said the agreement was made between Tripp's attorney Mary Beth Kur and his chief assistant prosecutor Shaynee Fanara, which according to Jarema, had an agreement that there would not be further prosecution or charges. 

"Obviously, that is not a lawful or ethical agreement," Jarema said. "My chief assistant prosecutor should have known that ... She can not tie the hands of the public from demanding she repay the rest of the amount. Ethically, you can't." 

The commissioner also alleged Jarema has "run out" seven employees from the prosecutors office since holding the elected office. One employee, she said, was forced to bring lunches daily to the prosecutor even when he was at his private residence and not working on county business. 

"Why am I just learning that (the employee) was so unhappy about how Jarema treated her, she left the prosecutor's office to go to work for the Friend of the Court for less pay?" Tripp asked. 

Chief Assistant prosecutor Fanara, she said, could become the next person forced out. 

Fanara came before the board last month, telling the board her boss had lied to commissioners, a judge, refused to pay her for work done and alleged Jarema spread false rumors she - a married woman - had sex with a defense attorney for better plea bargains. 

She said earlier this month that the false allegations continue. 

The chief assistant prosecutor had been placed on medical leave under a doctor's recommendation because of stress headaches attributed to her work environment. 

The prosecutor denied having abused or misused staff, saying all the employees listed left under normal circumstances. 

"The only time this is an issue or this is brought up is when Shirlene Tripp lashes out or my chief assistant prosecutor does the same thing," Jarema said. 

Other allegations included violating Freedom of Information Act rules by delaying information requests made by the Petoskey News-Review and doing so without cause, as well as attempting to pay an attorney county funds after the defense attorney had previously declined payment. 

There was no direct response by Charlevoix County Commissioners Joel Evans of South Arm Township, Rich Gillespie of Beaver Island or Ronald Reinhardt of Wilson Township. Commissioners Robert Drebenstedt and Chris Christensen of Boyne City were absent from the meeting. 

Gillespie said he did plan on addressing the prosecutor's office, but felt the issue had been exhausted. 

CIVIL COUNCIL DECISION POSTPONED 
A decision to hire a new civil council was postponed Wednesday night. Commissioners unanimously recommended the issue be referred to the Committee of the Whole at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 31. A motion to hire Young, Graham, Elsenheimer and Wendling was offered but then retracted because it lacked enough support to pass and all the commissioners were not present. 

Prosecutor Jarema stepped down at the end of April as civil council saying "I simply cannot devote the time to county civil matters and give those matters the time and thought they deserve." 

In the interim, Charlevoix County will use Petoskey-based Plunkett Cooney for its legal needs. 















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