Attorney General Nessel,
In 2017, my constituents came to me with a desire for justice. For months, they had been watching the trials of Detroit city officials; superintendents, councilmembers, and principles. They saw one after another charged with crimes — many of them felonies — for corruption, embezzlement, and even bank robbery. These officials were charged and sentenced, but then, to the great surprise of my constituents, left with their pensions intact.
I was just as shocked at this injustice as my constituents were, how could men and women, who had in some cases stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public coffers, still be set up with cushy pensions provided by the people of Michigan.
I decided to act. I introduced a bill to ensure that public officials, from the dog catcher to the governor, would not have the right to the government contributions made to their pensions if they were found guilty of a felony sprouting from their working for the people.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed that bill, Public Act 43 of 2017, saying, “Protecting the integrity of retirement contributions employers make is critically important, and this bill helps ensure employer contributions are not allocated to public employees who have been convicted of crimes that break public trust.”
Attorney General Nessel, I bring this legislation and the corruption that brought it about to your attention because of the more recent case of disgraced former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith. Mr. Smith was initially charged by your office with 10 felonies. However, your decision to offer the disgraced yet well-connected Mr. Smith a plea deal that gives the state of Michigan only pennies on the dollar for the amount he stole is a grave injustice to the people of Michigan.
Attorney General Nessel, I ask that you uphold your oath of office and punish Mr. Smith according to the fullest extent of the laws of this state by doing the following:
- Prevent any reinstation of Eric Smith’s pension following the freeze of the pension in 2022. The law I authored requires that politicians and public employees shall forfeit their taxpayer paid pensions if convicted of stealing from the taxpayers.
- Require Eric Smith to repay the $116,134.14 annuity cash payout taken in February 2020. He made the withdrawal, according to the attorney general’s office, “after learning the State Police started a criminal investigating Smith’s stealing $600,000 of taxpayer money and trying to hide this account.”
- Require Eric Smith to pay back all of the $600,000 he stole. The current deal would have him pay back less than 4 cents on the dollar, only $25,000. Authorities say Smith, along with others, used the funds to throw parties, put a security system on his home, and more.
- Prohibit Eric Smith from serving his new sentence at the same time as his 21-month sentence. The former prosecutor is serving a 21-month federal prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a fraud scheme. Smith admitted in court that he stole weekly amounts of cash that totaled nearly $70,000 in a kickback scheme.
- Charge Eric Smith with all 10 initial felony counts, not merely the three contained in the plea bargain. Those 10 counts being:
- One count official misconduct in office – a five-year felony.
- One count tampering with evidence in a civil proceeding – a four-year felony.
- One count accessory after the fact to Liston’s embezzlement by a public official – a five-year felony.
- One count conducting a criminal enterprise – a 20-year felony.
- Five counts embezzlement by a public official, a 10-year felony – one count each for years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
- One count of conspiracy to commit forgery – a 14-year felony and a $10,000 additional fine.
You must hold Mr. Smith accountable; demand the repayment of any government pension contribution and stop any of those contributions from being paid to him in the future. Uphold the law I wrote at the behest of the Michigan taxpayers and find justice in the face of this corruption. Argue to have Mr. Smith sentenced with all 10 original felonies. Argue for his sentence to be carried out in full and in prison.
On Sept. 6, 2023, when Mr. Smith’s sentencing will be heard, find yourself on the right side of justice and stand against the festering corruption that has taken ahold of Michigan.
Finally, Attorney General Nessel, I have decided to introduce another bill into the Michigan Legislature. This bill is aimed to combat the deals given to Mr. Smith’s co-conspirators, who accepted plea deals reducing their initial felony charges down to misdemeanors. This yet introduced bill will reinforce my 2017 legislation, mandating the forfeiture of government paid pension contributions to politicians and public employees of those who are charged with a felony in their work for the people but sentenced with a misdemeanor.
Corrupt government officials will no longer be able to skate out of the courtroom into a life generously padded in cash by the people of Michigan thanks to a misdemeanor plea deal of the prosecuting attorney.
State Senator Jim Runestad
The 23rd Senate District
Sponsor of PA 43 of 2017