Lucido forced to seek outside attorney due to conflict with county attorney – Macomb Daily

Macomb County District Attorney Peter Lucido has been forced to seek an outside taxpayer-paid attorney to represent him in civil lawsuits because the county won’t represent him due to his “stated” conflict with their lawyers.

Lucido has racked up approximately $15,000 that has been paid and an additional $37,000 that has not been paid to date in legal fees since the dispute began last April. But those numbers will likely increase in the coming months and beyond if the situation remains the same.

County Commissioner Julie Matuzak lamented the prosecutor’s office’s potential increase in court costs during a council committee meeting earlier this month.

“I really feel like the taxpayers are really getting ripped off here because the prosecutor and the company attorney can’t get along,” she said. “It’s just going to go on and on and on.”

The conflict stems from Lucido accusing County Attorney John Schapka last April of inappropriately commenting on court rulings related to a lawsuit between Lucido and County Executive Mark Hackel regarding the addition of four posts to the prosecutor’s office.

Lucido accused Schapka of violating the lawyers’ code of ethics by commenting on the case he was not part of.

“It is inappropriate for him to comment on a matter where he is not the attorney of record,” Lucido said.

Hackel and Lucido both secured outside counsel to represent them in the case, placing Schapka as a third party. Schapka refused to represent Hackel, who is his boss, in the Lucido trial.

Schapka counters in several memos that he had a First Amendment right to make the comments and accuses Lucido of retaliating and potentially defaming him “in the form of a patently false accusation of unethical conduct.

“His false accusation of retaliation gives rise to an independent level of conflict of interest,” Schapka wrote in a recent memo. “As a result, even absent the impact of the (County’s) Charter on the issue of representation, I would be precluded from undertaking representation of Lucido.”

Macomb County Corporation Attorney John SchapkaMACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO

Lucido has indeed “declared a conflict of interest between himself and the company’s attorney,” Schapka said in an April 27 memo. In the recent memo, he reiterated his position on the board.

Schapka suggested that Lucido might face the consequences of his accusation.

Schapka wrote to the prosecutor on April 14, “Your attention is drawn to the Constitution of the United States and the protections afforded to free speech and freedom of speech by its First Amendment, the right not to be misrepresented by government officials. as found in the due process component of the Fourteenth Amendment, and (a federal law) which provides that an individual may bring a civil action for damages for the restriction of a constitutionally protected right. Please be more circumspect in your deliberately indifferent use of accusatory language.

Lucido says his allegation is justified and the county has a duty to provide him with representation.

“The charter requires the company attorney to represent elected county officials (attorney, sheriff, clerk, treasurer, commissioner of public works),” Lucido said. “(State law) also provides the county-wide elected prosecutor with counsel.”

Lucido hinted that a grievance should be filed against Schapka.

“I think the (State) Bar (Association) should address this issue because I don’t want to keep asking for a lawyer,” Lucido said.

Grosse Pointe lawyer Timothy Dinan, who practices legal ethics, said Schapka’s remarks did not violate lawyers’ conduct because of freedom of speech.

“There is no violation of the Code of Conduct,” Dinan said. “He has the right to speak. It’s an opinion. »

In the recent memo, Schapka also refers to Lucido’s connection to Michael Goetz, grievance administrator for the Michigan Grievance Commission, which reviews complaints against attorneys. Schapka says her decision not to represent Lucido “is made more emphatic given her recently discovered curious relationship with the attorney’s grievance commissioner.”

Three employees of the district attorney’s office told the author of the investigative “Butzel report” that Lucido hired Michael Goetz’s wife, Lin Goetz, a former assistant district attorney for Oakland County, in exchange for the dismissal of a grievance filed against Lucido by three law professors regarding his comments on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and nursing home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Michael Goetz denied the allegation and said he backed out of the grievance because he knew Lucido. They went to law school together and socialized “three or four times,” he told the Macomb Daily.

Moreover, the allegation was “unsubstantiated” by the report, which was written by Butzel’s attorneys and advisers. Hackel commissioned the investigation after receiving workplace complaints about Lucido from employees of the district attorney’s office.

Schapka’s comments in the media were brief.

When the March 31 appeals court decision in the Hackel-Lucido case was released, Schapka told the Macomb Daily: “I don’t think it’s correct on all counts. An appeal to the (state) Supreme Court is extremely likely than not.

About six weeks later, Lucido criticized Hackel’s attempt to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Schapka said, “The prosecutor started this fight and now he has taken the position that he is shocked that the county executive is defending itself. It’s actually not Mark defending himself but defending the charter.

The high court refused to review the decision of the court of appeal, thus upholding Lucido’s victory. The decision allowed Lucido to add two full-time, two-part positions to its 2022 budget that Hackel had not added to the proposed budget. Lucido circumvented the normal budget process by going directly to the board to seek approval for positions instead of going through the finance department, which is part of Hackel’s administration. The county council supported Lucido’s position and his right to add positions.

Lucido files an ethics complaint

Lucido also filed an ethics complaint last April with the county ethics committee about Andrew Mckinnon, then director of human resources, who is now assistant county director, for making comments to the Macomb Daily on matters staff in Lucido’s office.

Macomb County Deputy Executive Andrew McKinnonMACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO
Macomb County Deputy Executive Andrew McKinnonMACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO

Ethics committee chairman Don Amboyer summarily dismissed the complaint because the information provided by McKinnon is public and not confidential as Lucido claims.

“It is the public policy of this State that all persons, except those incarcerated in state or local correctional facilities, are entitled to full and complete information respecting the business of government and official acts of those who represent them as civil servants and public employees,” Amboyer said in the response. “The people must be informed so that they can participate fully in the democratic process.”

Amboyer retired from the county as a longtime senior sheriff’s office official.

“I was shocked, quite honestly, to read the nature of the complaint knowing how transparent the county government is,” he adds in the response.

On April 25, Lucido asked Amboyer to reinstate the complaint, alleging that “the factual findings or conclusions you state in your letter of 04/20/2022 are not valid grounds for summarily dismissing the complaint before investigation.”

The Ethics Ordinance “appears that none of its provisions give you the power to invoke a summary provision, before a full investigation,” Lucido wrote.

Amboyer did not respond.

Lucido reiterated his request on July 5.

Amboyer responded on July 7: “The complaint was dismissed as having no legal or factual basis, and on that basis it will remain dismissed.”

Lucido seeks relief

Although the attorney’s office legal fees are currently minimal, they are expected to increase due to ongoing cases and potential lawsuits in the future.

Earlier this year, Lucido was awarded $10,000 by the County Board of Commissioners to pay attorney Timothy Ferrand to represent him in the abortion lawsuit filed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The board, however, denied his request for an additional $37,000 to pay approximately $5,000 of accrued bills and an additional $32,000 of expected bills.

On August 18, Lucido received $5,000 from the Board of County Commissioners to pay attorney Cameron Evans for Lucido’s response to the Butzel Report.

As an “alternative solution,” Lucido suggested that the board allocate him $5,000 per month or $60,000 per year for Evans to perform “day-to-day routine duties, such as handling HR issues. , employee relations, union contract, budget execution, etc. per the request of Lucido’s chief deputy, Donn Fresard.

Lucido wants this money to come from Corporation Counsel’s budget, a suggestion strongly opposed by Schapka.

Schapka, in the recent memo, notes that Lucido’s list of attorneys grew by 11, to 74, over the past 18 months, primarily due to Hackel’s approval of 10 2022 budget hires.

“If a genuine need for a permanent civilian attorney really existed, Lucido could easily, and should have by now, simply hired one within its existing budget” of nearly $18 million, Schapka says.

The transfer of $60,000 to the DA’s office budget would result in the layoff of one of Corporation Counsel’s five attorneys, “which, in turn, will result in the outsourcing of all defensive litigation”, costing approximately $1 million. dollars a year, Schapka wrote. .

Schapka notes that his office continues to represent individual assistant prosecutors who are the subject of lawsuits or other legal proceedings.

Lucido won approval to spend up to $90,000 to pay attorney Todd Perkins for the Hackel trial, but this was approved by the board before the dispute with Schapka.

State Supreme Court rules in favor of Lucido in legal dispute with Hackel

Macomb Commissioners Support Representation of Lucido in Hackel Lawsuit

Critical Macomb Lucido Prosecutor’s Report

Report: Lucido tried to break up a trio of veteran Macomb County prosecutors

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