SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — The Michigan Attorney General’s Office has opened a criminal investigation into several Shiawassee County officials, according to an attorney representing a woman suing the county over an Open Meetings Act violation.
Philip Ellison, who represents Nichole Ruggiero, said Sunday he has been contacted by a Michigan State Police detective who is investigating potential financial and other crimes by Shiawassee County board members and other public officials.
“I can confirm I was contacted by a (Michigan State Police) detective, acting for the Attorney General’s Office, regarding certain financial decisions made by the (Shiawassee County) board,” Ellison said. “We’re not sitting still right now. We’re going to continue to show the AG and MSP that, due to our investigation, this corruption has been brought to the public’s attention.”
Ellison did not specify which county officials he believes are under investigation.
The Attorney General's Office, in response to an email request for comment, also confirmed an investigation.
"I can confirm directly we're working with MSP to review the matter," Lynsey Mukomel, press secretary for the office of public information and education said.
Shiawassee County Coordinator Brian Boggs said Sunday the county is unaware of any investigation, and declined to comment further.
In July, Shiawassee County Board members voted to provide “hazard pay” to most county employees from American Rescue Plan Act funds. Ruggiero sued the county for violating the Open Meetings Act because the board conducted discussions on the topic in a closed session. A Genesee County judge ordered officials to return any payments of $5,000 or more.
That suit remains open under the jurisdiction of Genesee County Judge Mark Latchana. A second case by Ruggiero on an unrelated matter against the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office also is ongoing, according to online records.
“There are more spots that are going to fall,” Ellison said. “Many residents have filed complaints about the county with the AG’s office. We’re continuing to pursue our case in court.”
Ellison declined to comment further. Three other people connected to county government have said they have been contacted by the AG’s Office regarding the alleged criminal investigation. Those individuals requested their names not be used because they fear retaliation, but told The Argus-Press they have given statements and various documents to investigators.
Ruggiero said she is pleased the AG’s office is pursuing a criminal investigation, not only because of the dispersal of ARPA funds, but due to other unspecified acts by county officials she said were illegal.
“I am absolutely thrilled that the AG is not only investigating certain county departments but has also assigned one of the best MSP detectives, whose main area of focus is charging public officials with crimes,” Ruggiero said via text message. “They are taking the numerous complaints lodged against these bad actors seriously, which has been a long time coming. The constituents deserve better and it is my hope those bad actors are held accountable so that faith can be restored.”
After the ARPA funds were returned by county officials, several area residents initiated recall petitions against commissioners Jeremy Root, R-District 5, Cindy Garber, R-District 6, and John Plowman, R-District 7. The respective commissioners filed appeals challenging the language of the recall petitions, which is currently pending in 35th Circuit Court.