ARE WE PASSING THE “TIPPING POINT” FOR BLACK HABITATION IN THE CITIES?

gentrificationIn Harlem and elsewhere in New York City, the tipping point has clearly been passed.”

June 4, 2014

BAR logo 2A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The term “tipping point” used to be synonymous with white flight from the cities. Now that Blacks are being forced from high priced urban neighborhoods, what is the “tipping point” for maintaining the Black urban presence? “How many upscale, mostly white people does it take to make a neighborhood, and ultimately whole cities – like San Francisco – unaffordable and downright hostile to Black habitation?”

Back in the early Sixties, sociologists began to use the term “tipping point” to describe white response to the entrance of Blacks into formerly white neighborhoods. The raw statistics showed clearly that such “tipping points” existed, although sociologists argued about the dynamics of precisely when white exits turned into sudden, wholesale flight. Certainly, real estate agents and developers understood the phenomenon, having set it in motion in city after city in the Forties and Fifties in order to make a killing in the market. So-called “block-busters” played on racist hysteria, buying up white properties at rock bottom and selling them at inflated prices to Blacks desperate to escape densely-packed ghettos.

white flightThe churning of neighborhoods generated billions in profits and changed the face of America in a remarkably short period of time. Ultimately, whites’ refusal to share urban space with Blacks created an American racial and economic geography unique in the world, in which the Black and brown poor resided in hollowed out, shrunken, capital-deprived central cities surrounded by a belt of suburban white wealth – the exact opposite of the historical world model of urban development.

America, which invented modern white racism through the establishment of Black chattel slavery, had once again been reshaped through the socio-economic dynamics of white racism.

For more than half a century, racial tipping points referred primarily to the behavior of white people, a predictor of white flight, creating new spaces for Black habitation in the cities. But, racism is irrational, as were the socio-economic landscape created by white racism, with whites traveling ridiculous distances to find racially exclusive environments at affordable prices. The corporate class longed for the centralized amenities that only big cities can provide, and finance capitalists looked forward to trillions in added values if only the Blacks and browns could be evicted from urban real estate.

It is more like a purge, an ethnic cleansing.”

Finance capital, corporate muscle, and the political parties that serve them have set in motion the new phenomenon of Black flight from the cities, and white return. Unlike white flight of the previous era, the current Black exodus is mainly involuntary and economic. In reality, it is more like a purge, an ethnic cleansing based on the reality that, in a racist society, the very presence of substantial numbers of Black people brings down the value of land and other assets.

Mogul Dan Gilbert's vision for Capitol Park in downtown Detroit. Hundreds of mostly Black, senior and disabled residents of the subsidized Griswold Apartments, shown at right, have been driven out effective May 31.

Mogul Dan Gilbert’s vision for Capitol Park in downtown Detroit. Hundreds of mostly Black, senior and disabled residents of the subsidized Griswold Apartments, shown at right, have been driven out effective May 31. Other senior buildings located in the area will soon follow suit, to make way for luxury condos.

Today, the question in city after city is, What is the tipping point for maintaining Black populations? How many upscale, mostly white people does it take to make a neighborhood, and ultimately whole cities – like San Francisco – unaffordable and downright hostile to Black habitation? In Harlem and elsewhere in New York City, the tipping point has clearly been passed, as it has in Washington DC, and will soon occur in Atlanta. Blacks are under siege – up against the tipping point – in Chicago. Even in cities such as Baltimore, where Black majorities make wholesale purges impractical – for the moment – targeted Black neighborhoods are rapidly tipping.

Outrageously, the governor of Michigan proposes to bring in a steady stream of upscale immigrants to dilute the 82 percent Black population of Detroit.

Glen FordAnd yet, there is nothing approaching a national Black consensus on a response – which means the political tipping point may have already passed, and the purge of the cities will continue, without effective Black resistance.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.


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CONTEMPT OF COURT — THINKING FOR OURSELVES

Corruption in Wayne County Probate Court.

Corruption in Wayne County Probate Court.

By Shea Howell

(submitted to VOD by Anita Peek of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development)

June 17, 2013

Week 63 of the occupation

Wayne Co. Chief Probate Milton Mack

Wayne Co. Chief Probate Milton Mack

Lennette Williams and her daughter Mailauni first came to public attention in 1998. Ms. Williams then challenged the Chief Judge of Wayne County Probate Court Milton Mack because of his mishandling of her $30 million settlement with Henry Ford Hospital. The money was intended to provide for her and Mailauni because of complications that had arisen during the birth of Mailauni, 16 years earlier.

Their case became a symbol of the corruption endemic in Probate court. Over the next decade stories abounded of lawyers and judges lining their pockets at the expense of clients who were often unable to defend themselves.In a thoughtful article in 2002 then Metro Times reporter Curt Guyette did an extensive expose of the corruption surrounding probate court. In the course of this article he quotes Ms. Williams saying, “I resent to have to keep coming through this court and be ripped off. It is wrong. I have told the truth. I have papers proving what I am saying and you have constantly turned a blind ear to it.”

Mailauni Williams is at bottom left in white dress with her mother Lennette Williams behind her in this earlier photo of members of the Original Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality. Arnetta Grable (center), Cornell Squires (behind her) and Arnetta Grable, Jr. were among those in court to support the WIlliams family June 13.
Mailauni Williams is at bottom left in white dress with her mother Lennette Williams behind her in this earlier photo of members of the Original Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality. Arnetta Grable (center), Cornell Squires (behind her) and Arnetta Grable, Jr. were among those in court to support the WIlliams family June 13.

Last week, Ms. Williams not only found herself in court, but in jail. She was stripped of the guardianship of her daughter Mailauni, now a young adult, who sheriffs took from their home in late May. Judge Kathryn George ordered Ms. Williams locked up for 10 days for contempt of court.

 

It is hard to imagine why Ms. Williams would have anything other than contempt for a court process that has repeatedly placed her family at risk. Currently they are facing the possible loss of their home.

Without explanation, Judge George refused to accept the recommendation of the estate trustee, Walter Sakowski, that Monique Williams, Mailauni’s older sister, be granted custody. Mailauni [VOD: was first placed in a group home and is now under the guardianship of Attorney Mary Rowan, who immediately removed her from that location.]

In contrast to the intense battling going on in court, Guyette also describes the love and support Ms. Williams gives her children. As a single mother raising three children, often on income that was disrupted by court procedures, she managed to provide a home of love and affection. No one has ever alleged that she was anything other than a loving, supportive mother.

Caregiver beats young autistic woman, Vera Gossett, at Strathmoor Manor in Detroit. That home is not linked to Faith Connections.

Caregiver beats young autistic woman, Vera Gossett, at Strathmoor Manor in Detroit.
That home is not linked to Faith Connections.

The same cannot be said for the system of group homes to which her daughter has been sent. Just last month the vicious beating of a young woman at Strathmoor Manor by a woman charged with her care made national news. No one thinks this was an isolated case.

Reports of the chaotic court proceedings emphasized the disrespect shown the family by the Judge. Voice of Detroit reported: “The judge’s demeanor showed that she was a racist,” said Cornell Squires of We the People for the People, who has worked with the Williams family for 20 years. “Her behavior was offensive to Lennette, her attorney, and all the Black people in the courtroom. It was unbecoming a judge. I’ve seen some wicked judges, but she is the worst. She crushed Mailauni by taking her away from her mother. We are going to ask for a federal investigation of this matter, and there needs to be a forensic audit of the Williams estate.”

Maryanne Godboldo (2nd from left) with her attorney Allison Folmar (center), child's father Mubarak Hakim to Folmar's right, after 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles dismissed criminal charges against her for the second time.
Maryanne Godboldo (2nd from left) with her attorney Allison Folmar (center), child’s father Mubarak Hakim to Folmar’s right, after 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles dismissed criminal charges against her for the second time. Folmar also represents Lennette and Mailauni Williams.

The abuses in this case echo those of Maryanne Godboldo who defied a SWAT team in 2011 over her decision to cease administering a drug to her daughter that she thought harmful. Charges have been dismissed three separate times against Ms. Godboldo, who still faces a court hearing.

 

Ms. Williams is an original member of the Coalition Against Police Brutality. Edwards and Arnetta Grable, Cornell Squires of We the People for the People, and Elaine Steele and Anita Peek of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development support her.

Almost everyone in Detroit has a story to tell of abuses suffered at the hands of arbitrary uses of authority. Today, Ms. Williams symbolizes not only the abuses of a probate system, but the assault by unaccountable authorities on all that we love and value.

Related:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/06/16/shady-probate-judge-kathryn-george-jails-mom-seizes-daughter-and-estate/

http://www.wxyz.com/news/patient-at-detroit-adult-care-facility-beaten-by-woman-who-was-supposed-to-be-her-caregiver

http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/25531122/video-caregiver-accused-of-beating-special-needs-patient

http://www.freep.com/article/20120720/NEWS02/120720045/Rosa-Parks-estate-Milton-Mack-Steven-Cohen


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SHADY PROBATE JUDGE KATHRYN GEORGE JAILS MOM, SEIZES DAUGHTER AND ESTATE

Newly-appointed GAL Mary S. Rowan (seated in blue dress) grabs Maulauni Williams' arm as she berates VOD reporter (r) for covering the story in the courtroom. Pamela Reid of Faith Connections is at left, with Mailauni's sister Monique Williams at center. The day after the hearing, Rowan seized Mailauni from Reid's group home. Her whereabouts are currently unknown.

Newly-appointed GAL Mary S. Rowan (seated in blue dress) grabs Maulauni Williams’ arm as she berates VOD reporter (r) for covering the story in the courtroom. Pamela Reid of Faith Connections is at left, with Mailauni’s sister Monique Williams at center. The day after the hearing, Rowan seized Mailauni from Reid’s group home. Her whereabouts are currently unknown.

Lennette Williams given 10 days for “contempt of court,” loses guardianship of daughter Mailauni, access to birth lawsuit estate

 Grosse Pointe Farms cops, sheriffs seized Mailauni from home May 21

 State Supreme Court earlier removed Judge Kathryn George as Macomb Probate Court head for likely estate fraud

 By Diane Bukowski

June 15, 2014

Metro Times cover story on Lennette and Mailauni Williams, by Curt Guyette, July 10, 2012.

Metro Times cover story on Lennette and Mailauni Williams, by Curt Guyette, July 10, 2012.

DETROIT – Mailauni Williams begged to hug her mother Lennette Williams and her sister before Judge Kathryn George ordered the mother jailed 10 days for contempt during a chaotic, hostile hearing June 13 in the chambers of Wayne County Probate Court Chief Judge Milton Mack.

“I am her daughter,” Mailauni cried out from the audience to the judge. “I just came to give her respect.” She told the judge “I cried,” when she was taken away from her mother during a raid May 22 by Grosse Pointe Farms police and deputy sheriffs.

She got up and hugged her mother during the hearing after she heard the judge berate her. Her temporary guardian, Pamela Reid of Faith Connections, took her out of the courtroom later so that she would not have to watch sheriffs put her mother under arrest.

Williams has been her child’s guardian for over 20 years, but George stripped her of that role. She also denied her access to a $30 million lifetime support settlement paid by Henry Ford Hospital for birth trauma that left Mailauni with cerebral palsy and her mother, now 62, with physical injuries.

Under Mack, that estate had already been substantially stripped by attorney fees, with mother and daughter relegated to monthly payments at the court’s whim. Investigative reporter Curt Guyette did a comprehensive expose of the family’s ongoing troubles in Wayne County Probate Court which was published in the Metro Times in 2002. (See link to “Mother and Child Rebellion” in “Related Stories.”)

Lennette and Mailauni Williams in 2002; photo Metro Times.
Lennette and Mailauni Williams in 2002; photo Metro Times.

 Without access to those funds, Williams is in danger of losing the home she purchased for herself and Mailauni in Grosse Pointe Farms. She has been a full-time caregive for her daughter since her birth.

George, blatantly hostile towards Williams and her attorney, denied an alternate petition for guardianship from Mailauni’s sister Monique Williams, despite estate trustee Walter Sakowski’s recommendation in favor of it. She then appointed a white guardian ad litem, Mary S. Rowan. George said she would not consider any alternative for at least one year.

“The judge’s demeanor showed that she was a racist,” said Cornell Squires of We the People for the People, who has worked with the Williams family for 20 years. “Her behavior was offensive to Lennette, her attorney, and all the Black people in the courtroom. It was unbecoming a judge. I’ve seen some wicked judges, but she is the worst. She crushed Maulauni by taking her away from her mother. We are going to ask for a federal investigation of this matter, and there needs to be a forensic audit of the Williams estate.”

Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Kathryn George

Macomb County Probate Court Judge Kathryn George was removed as Chief of that Court in 2008 for assigning most of her cases to an agency that an audit found had egregiously defrauded wards of the court.

Mailauni’s sister testified that she was petitioning for guardianship only as an alternative to the temporary guardianship of Faith Connections, enacted when Mailauni was seized. She told Folmar during the hearing that she felt Mailauni was safe with her mother.

But George said, “Lennette Williams has caused tremendous difficulty. She ran up estate bills, interfered with police and APS, and responded to the court not in a lawful manner. . . She is one of worst guardians I have ever seen from the standpoint of the court, based alone on what she has posted on the house, based on everything the court has witnessed and experienced.”

George then authorized MORE legal fees from the estate at the rate of $75 an hour to one Robert Kent.

Reid, who brought Mailauni to the hearing, testified about the young woman’s seizure from her home in Grosse Pointe Farms May 22 by carloads of city cops and sheriffs.

“She is a sweetheart,” Reid said of Mailauni. “She said she didn’t want to go anywhere. She also asked for her puppy and showed me how she taught him to say ‘I love you.’ She wanted me to speak to the police to be sure her mom was safe because there was a hole in the door.”

Home of Lennette and Mailauni Williams, where Grosse Pointe Farms police and sheriffs kicked in door May 22. This has been the only home Mailauni has had for most of her life.
Home of Lennette and Mailauni Williams, where Grosse Pointe Farms police and sheriffs kicked in door May 21. This has been the only home Mailauni has had for most of her life.

 

Police kicked in the door after Adult Protective Services (APS) worker Hiram Williams went to the home, ostensibly for a “wellness visit,” according to testimony. Mailauni, however, was at the home of family friend Deborah Edwards at the time.

Lennette Williams testified she called Edwards to have Mailauni brought home when the APS worker appeared. Edwards told VOD that the APS worker actually left the home for two to three hours at the time, saying he was going to lunch. But he drafted a court order to seize Mailauni during that time, and returned with Grosse Pointe Farms police and sheriffs to take her. Police invaded the home, kicking down the door and pointing guns according to witness accounts.

“She didn’t want to die,” Folmar said. “My client wasn’t served with any order or warrant.”

Folmar is also the criminal defense attorney for Maryanne Godboldo, who stood off a SWAT team of Detroit police in 2011 for hours before they seized her daughter, to force her to take the dangerous drug Risperdal. Two judges have dismissed criminal charges against Godboldo three times, but she faces another court hearing June 25, 2014 at 9 a.m. in front of Judge Gregory Bill, who dismissed the charges earlier. In the interim, a hearing was held May 19 in front of Chief Judge Timothy Kenny, evidently to reinstate the charges after 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles dismissed them again.

Attorney Allison Folmar speaks to media about police arrest of Maryanne Godboldo, after court hearing July 8, 2011.
Attorney Allison Folmar speaks to media about police arrest of Maryanne Godboldo, after court hearing July 8, 2011.

 

George gave Faith Connections temporary custody of Mailauni after her seizure. Reid took Mailauni to a group home on East Grand Boulevard. The morning after the June 13 hearing, Rowan went to the group home and removed Mailauni yet again, over Reid’s protests that she was safe and loved there. Her current residence is unknown.

“When the police and APS show up, they have all the authority,” George contended, citing Williams’ alleged failure to allow them in to her home and, earlier, to produce her daughter’s medical records as cause for finding her in contempt. She also showed photos of signs on Williams door threatening trespassers. She said she originally intended to jail Williams for 30 days.

Folmar objected to George’s presentation of her court clerk as an unsworn witness. The clerk read an email from the APS worker, who was not present at the hearing for cross-examination. Folmar also said she had the right to cross-examine police who seized Mailauni, who were not in the court, and to present witnesses on Williams’ behalf.

Grosse Pointe Farms police. The Williams family has faced racist harrassment for years in the predominantly white suburb of Detroit.
Grosse Pointe Farms police. The Williams family has faced racist harrassment for years in the predominantly white suburb of Detroit.

 

“There wasn’t any warrant or signed order, and they never showed one to the mother,” Folmar told VOD afterwards, “She can plaster her house with whatever signs she wants. They’ve been illegally kicking in her door for years. She didn’t have a fair chance to defend herself at that hearing. Judge George told me to shut up and sit down when I tried to advise my client in order to protect her.”

George held Folmar in contempt of court twice during the hearing, fining her $150.

“She clearly wanted to put Attorney Folmar in jail, too,” Squires commented.

At the outset of the hearing, Folmar, newly retained after many hearings where Williams had no attorney, asked for a new beginning.

Members of the Original Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality after they testified at a Police Commission hearing several years ago. Mailauni is at center in white dress, with her mother Lennette behind her; to her left is Arnetta Grable, and behind her is Cornell Squires. Grable spearheaded a 10-year campaign for justice for her son Lamar Grable, killed by Detroit police officer Eugene Brown in 1996.

Members of the Original Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality after they testified at a Police Commission hearing several years ago. Mailauni is at center in white dress, with her mother Lennette behind her; to her left is Arnetta Grable, and behind her is Cornell Squires. Grable spearheaded a 10-year campaign for justice for her son Lamar Grable, killed by Detroit police officer Eugene Brown in 1996.

“I spoke with my client and a team of people helping her,” Folmar said. “Despite [disorganized] conditions at the home, Maulauni was never in any danger. Ms. Williams just needed some help. This is a child who has known none other closer than her mom for her entire life. I’m here to assist, bridge the gap in communications, speak on behalf of Ms. Williams, because she believed her voice wasn’t being heard. I would respectfully ask the court to return Maulauni home, and provide whatever safeguards are necessary. Along with her team of loved ones, we will resolve the issues and protect the love between Maulauni and her mom.”

Family supporters present in court included Edwards and Arnetta Grable, both long-time friends of Williams, Cornell Squires of We the People for the People, who has worked with the family for over 20 years, Elaine Steele and Anita Peek of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, and Barbara Banks, whose daughter Starletta Banks lost custody of her three pre-school children in 2000. Banks said two of the children, now 18 and 19, went straight back home to their mother after aging out of the foster care system.

Then Detroit Councilwoman Joann Watson, from left, Lloyd Wesley, Jr., Detroit postmaster, Elaine Eason Steele, co-founder of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, and Sen. Carl Levin applaud at the unveiling of the Rosa Parks' 100th birthday commemorative postage stamp at the Museum of African American History in Detroit today.  ASSOCIATED PRESS

Then Detroit Councilwoman Joann Watson, from left, Lloyd Wesley, Jr., Detroit postmaster, Elaine Eason Steele, co-founder of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, and Sen. Carl Levin applaud at the unveiling of the Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday commemorative postage stamp at the Museum of African American History in Detroit today. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Folmar said she will file an emergency interlocutory appeal of George’s orders to the state Court of Appeals.

It is unclear how Judge George was appointed to handle a Wayne County Probate Court case. She is listed as a Macomb County Probate Court Judge. The Michigan State Supreme Court removed her as Chief Judge of the Macomb Court in Jan. 2008 for reasons including her appointment of a high number of cases to one agency, ADDMS Guardianship Services, her high rate of abstenteeism, and her questionable service in the Genesee County Probate Court during her tenure in Macomb County.

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver

After reviewing an audit of the Macomb Probate Court, former State Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver wrote, “the Report confirms not only Judge George’s apparent inappropriate involvement with ADDMS guardian services, but also her apparent failure to properly oversee numerous guardianship cases. . . .The majority of the Report discusses the numerous problems in Judge George’s oversight of her cases, as well as Judge George’s questionable overuse of ADDMS.”

ADDMS was cited for double-billing estates and mismanaging their wards’ affairs, in numerous reports to the State Supreme Court Administrators’ Office filed by Macomb County Probate Court Register Donald Housey. Housey was later fired from his position and filed a whistleblowers’ lawsuit, which was dismissed by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He died of a heart attack at the age of 70.

Mother from www.StopGuardianbuse.org website, who her daughter says was badly abused by a guardian appointed by George.
Mother from www.StopGuardianbuse.org website, who her daughter says was badly abused by a guardian appointed by George.

After her demotion, George was barred from handling any cases involving wills and estates. She has been investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office,  and the state Judicial Tenure Commission, but no charges have been filed.

Among numerous reports of abuse in cases handled by George, the website for the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, at www.StopGuardianAbuse.org, includes the following report by a daughter regarding a guardian appointed by George for her mother.

“My mother’s medical appointments were cancelled; medications were altered or eliminated. She broke her wrist but did not receive medical treatment, resulting in loss of function and a permanent ‘forked hand’ deformity. She suffered from undiagnosed illnesses and “bleeding”, untreated infections, concussions, facial lacerations, a reported broken arm, unexplained bruises and abrupt, acute vision loss unrelated to the fact that her prescription glasses were taken away upon assertion that she could no longer read. Her handicapped permit was “lost”. Two Adult Protective Services claims were investigated. The Guardian failed to return calls concerning her urgent health matters, medical advocacy, care and living arrangements.” 

Atty. Alan Polack, head of ADDMS guardianship services.
Atty. Alan Polack, head of ADDMS guardianship services.

State Court Administrator Carl Gromek said the Whall report cited other financial shenanigans by ADDMS.

“For example, in ‘numerous instances’ ADDMS sold wards’ vehicles without the bill of sale and a copy of the Secretary of State title. Real estate was sold at significantly less than market value,” Gromek said in an article in the Macomb Daily News. He added that ADDMS “sold the entire contents of a ward’s home and  petitioned to sell the ward’s home at significantly less than market price.After the ward petitioned to have ADDMS removed as conservator, ADDMS refused to turn over any of the proceeds from the sale unless the ward removed his petition.”

VOD is contacting Mack’s office for an explanation of Judge George’s role on the Wayne County Probate Court bench.

Little information is available on the attorney George appointed for Mailauni, Mary S. Rowan, but she also displayed a hostile demeanor towards the Williams family’s supporters as they gathered outside the courtroom.

Wayne County Probate Chief Judge Milton L. Mack Jr., (left) received the William W. Treat Award from Judge John W. Voorhees, president of the National College of Probate Judges, at the NCPJ’s fall conference.

Wayne County Probate Chief Judge Milton L. Mack Jr., (left) received the William W. Treat Award from Judge John W. Voorhees, president of the National College of Probate Judges, at the NCPJ’s fall conference. Mack appointed Kathryn George to hear Williams case.

 

Judge George in her order gave Rowan blanket control of Mailauni’s life and finances, asking her to evaluate at the end of one year whether Mailauni could be placed with her sister

VOD found the following comments about Rowan on two websites.

“She grinds up the elderly and turns them into cash (4/21/12),” a Yahoo commenter on its “All Law Firms” site said. “Ms. Rowan seems very unconcerned with the care and welfare of the patients which she takes guardianship over seems to have issues answering the phone and often seems unavailable for the duties which she has pledged to take care of for her clients” (1/25/12). “The Attorney Mary Rowan is not very concerned about the family or the children of a family member that is an Incapacitated Individual. Sitting in court so many times and watching her talk to the family members are disheartening…. never really listening to the members and their loved ones.” (5/16/11).

Commenters on another site who rated her 1 out of 5 (top) said, “After looking for help and guidance, I turned to Mary Rowan for assistance. Not only was she very unprofessional and difficult to work with, she has very poor listening skills. After three attempts by phone with each call opening and ending with Mary either yelling, insulting or being disrespectful, I had to end a potential working relationship with her.” (12/20/13)

A second commenter said, “Ms. Rowan serves as a court appointed guardian for many patients in hospitals throughout the Metro area… she ducks phone calls does not seem to care anything about her clients nor her duties as a guardian and is abrasive and difficult to deal with all in all a real gem!”

The only positive rating of Rowan was a 4.4 out of 5 on a “peer review” website, limited to evaluations by other attorneys.

Related articles and documents:

(Thanks to David Scheid for alerting VOD to various of these articles.)

Mother and child rebellion Lennette Williams Metro Times, by Curt Guyette

Weaver opinion on George

Housey opinion re George et al

Judge Kathryn George Under Investigation

Katheryn George shakeup ProbateCourt

Kathryn George _ The Michigan Lawyer

My Mother KG case

Probate Judge letter on Kathryn George


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PUERTO RICO UNIONS THREATEN STRIKE AGAINST AUSTERITY BUDGET; JONES DAY LAW FIRM INVOLVED

Mass protest in Puerto Rico during 2009 general strike.

Mass protest in Puerto Rico during 2009 general strike.

In These TimesBY Yana Kunichoff

June 10, 2014

Union workers in Puerto Rico are resisting a crippling budget proposal.

(VOD editor: Note similarities to the current takeover of Detroit. They are no accident. Detroit EM Kevyn Orr’s law firm Jones Day is intricately linked with this latest attack on the Puerto Rican people, as described in Bloomberg article at end of story.)

Puerto Rico — Public union workers from a handful of unions across Puerto Rico have spent the last week blocking ports, shutting down thoroughfares and slowing public transit. But that may be just the beginning: In the coming week, workers are expected to vote on whether to hold a general strike across the country.

May Day protesters take the streets to stop Emergency Management of Detroit May 1, 2014.
May Day protesters take the streets to stop Emergency Management of Detroit May 1, 2014.

 

The unions are standing against the austerity budget proposed this spring by members of the U.S. commonwealth’s General Assembly to deal with the country’s recent bond downgrade and looming payment of its debts to bondholders. The Fiscal Sustainability Act of the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as the budget is called, would allow the government to bring in “emergency powers” to deal with the crisis.

Under this authority, it could renegotiate all public employees’ contracts, liquidate unused sick days, and freeze salaries—thereby gutting workers’ collective bargaining powers. Privatizing the commonwealth’s electrical company, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, has also been placed on the table as an option for stanching the crisis; the emergency measures would also include closing 100 public schools.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority facility.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority facility.

The budget must be passed on June 30 to coincide with the beginning of the 2015 fiscal year on July 1. And as that deadline nears, unions across the island have been escalating their protests. On June 5, the union of transportation employees prevented ferries around the country from functioning. That same day, workers from the bus and port authorities, as well as the state insurance funds, blocked the entrance to the central government building in San Juan. Amid the disruptions, the labor secretary said at a council meeting he would not speculate as to whether the actions already constituted a general strike, or were just a series of protests.

Nora Vargas-Acosta, a labor lawyer in Puerto Rico who represents several of the unions who would be affected by the bill, including healthcare workers and correctional facility workers, says that although the fiscal crisis is certainly real, its effects shouldn’t be wholly shouldered by workers. “The way the government wants to address the economic crisis is falling on the right of workers,” she says. “From my perspective, it is right that the unions feel that it should not be this way. There are some costs but the government does not want them to bear equally on all.”

Atty. Nora Vargas Acosta represents some of the unions.
Atty. Nora Vargas Acosta represents some of the unions.

 In February, several credit rating services, including Moody’s Investor Service and S&P, brought Puerto Rico’s bond rate down to “junk” status. But the alarm bells set off by the rating are only the latest signs of trouble for the island, considering the strong hold financial markets from the United States have on Puerto Rico. The country is in its eighth year of recession, with more than $70 billion in public debtheld largely by U.S.-based investors.

Blame for much of this crisis has been laid at the doorstep of the United States, which has held Puerto Rico as a territory for 115 years. In 2006, the U.S. Congress did away with the island’s main economic development strategy—federal tax credits for companies who made profits in Puerto Rico—which caused many Puerto Rico-based companies to flee to other tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and the Netherlands. In recent years, the island has again begun wooing the super-rich from the United States, with a handful of millionaires already taking up its offer of low taxes and warm weather.

Detroit May Day protesters invaded the Westin Book Cadillac, where Detroit EM Kevyn Orr currently resides.
Detroit May Day protesters invaded the Westin Book Cadillac, where Detroit EM Kevyn Orr currently resides.

On the ground, the nation of 3.7 million people has a 15.4 percent unemployment rate; government pensions are underfunded by $37 billion. These problems have prompted an exodus of people to the United States, with more than 35,000 people leaving between April 2010 and July 2011 alone, several years into Puerto Rico’s recession. The economy is dominated by manufacturing, finance and public sector jobs, but the government is the island’s largest employer—meaning that its workers are the most liable to suffer from public cutbacks. Puerto Rico’s constitution goes so far as to legally stipulate bonds will be paid off even before government paychecks.

2009 general strike by Puerto Rican workers targeted privatization among other issues.

2009 general strike by Puerto Rican workers targeted privatization among other issues.

And the Fiscal Sustainability law isn’t the first time the government has put its employees on the line to deal with its financial problems. In October 2009, then-Gov. Luis Fortuño’s firing of 17,000 workers, ostensibly to avoid an immediate government shutdown caused by the fiscal crisis, had already set off protests from public workers as well as political parties and community organizations, all of which culminated in a general strike. Despite the unrest, Public Law 7, passed in March 2010, gave Fortuño’s conservative administration the leeway to suspend union contracts and dismiss even more public sector workers without due process rights laid out in their contracts.

Detroit workers demanded cancellation of the city's debt to the banks during this May 9, 2012 protest.

Detroit workers demanded cancellation of the city’s debt to the banks during this May 9, 2012 protest.

Despite the similarities of Law 7 to the fiscal sustainability law, current governor Alejandro García Padilla has taken steps to publicly separate the two measures. Padilla, whose party criticized Law 7 when it was initially introduced and has said its effects have been negative, defended his party’s fiscal sustainability law by saying it won’t create layoffs in the public workforce. Still, unions regard the budget as yet another way to leach civil employees of their rights.

Vargas-Acosta doesn’t deny that there are troubles within the labor organizations themselves, such as corruption and unions who work closely with the administration. But, she says, unions have helped provide public workers with a good standard of living, one she would like to see shared by all workers in the country.

“The things that you are hearing from the government is ‘look how many rights they have, look how well they are doing,’” she says, referring to the government’s implication that the public sector is the place to trim the fat. “This means unions are in fact doing their jobs and doing it well.”

As rumors of a nationwide public workers’ strike swirl, Vargas-Acosta says unions have put forward their own suggestions for how to fix the crisis. Among the proposals are suggestions that state agencies should minimize their number of outside contractors, which they heavily rely on or, as the head of the electrical workers’ union has suggested, place a moratorium on debt payments. With debt payments expected to total $18.35 billion through 2018, according to estimates from Moody’s Investors Service, and the aforementioned constitutional clause promising the payment of debt services, its unclear how likely these plans are to gain traction.

“The unions have for years been telling the government, let’s address this, and offering an alternative plan,” she said. “But workers’ attempts to have fruitful dialogue with the administration are not having any results.

PUERTO RICO TO GET SPOTLIGHT FROM JONES DAY AT MEETING

Bloomberg NewsBy Michelle Kaske and Steven Church

Jan 16, 2014 11:58 AM ET

Jones Day, the law firm shepherdingDetroit through bankruptcy, is extending its restructuring skills to Puerto Rico with a seminar on the $70 billion market for commonwealth debt.

The firm plans to brief investors today in New York on Puerto Rico’s fiscal outlook and the “possible paths going forward,” according to an invitation to the event. The seminar follows similar meetings last year with investors to assess the benefits and risks of Puerto Rico securities.

The three major rating companies grade Puerto Rico one step above junk, with a negative outlook. Moody’s Investors Service Dec. 11 warned that it may cut the island to speculative grade within 90 days. Puerto Rico officials plan to sell bonds this month or in February.

Bruce Bennett of Jones Day, William Buckfire of Buckfire/Stifel and Detroit EM Kevyn Orr at creditors' meeting June 14, 2013.
Bruce Bennett of Jones Day, William Buckfire of Buckfire/Stifel and Detroit EM Kevyn Orr at creditors’ meeting June 14, 2013.

“There are a number of clients and friends of the firm that are interested in the topic,” Bruce Bennett, a Jones Day attorney who is helping lead Detroit’s $18 billion bankruptcy, said in an interview. The briefing “is forward-looking and not in response to any near-term developments,” he said.

Puerto Rico’s fiscal health affects the $3.7 trillion municipal market because 70 percent of U.S. local-debt mutual funds held commonwealth securities as of Jan. 9, according to Morningstar Inc. The funds own about $14 billion of the debt sold by the U.S. territory and its agencies, according to Morningstar. The securities are tax-exempt nationwide.

Below Grade

Puerto Rico debt trades below its investment-grade ratings.

Unemployed Puerto Rican workers check job board.
Unemployed Puerto Rican workers check job board.

Tax-free general obligations maturing in July 2041 traded today with an average yield of 8.59 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That exceeds the 6.7 percent yield on a Standard& Poor’s index of high-yield munis with an average maturity of 20 years.

While the commonwealth isn’t eligible to file for bankruptcy, a default could surpass Detroit’s record bid for Chapter 9 protection in July.

Timothy Coleman of Blackstone private equity group.
Timothy Coleman of Blackstone private equity group.

Along with Bennett, Jones Day partner Beth Heifetz and Timothy Coleman, head of Blackstone Group LP’s restructuring and reorganization group, are scheduled to speak at the meeting, according to the invitation.

Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who took office a year ago, has said the island of 3.6 million people will repay its obligations on time and in full. Puerto Rico’s 14.7 percent jobless rate in November was higher than in any U.S. state.

Payment Promise

“We made significant progress in implementing our fiscal and economic development plans in 2013, and are determined to continue that progress in 2014,” Jose Pagan, interim president of the Government Development Bank, and Treasury Secretary Melba Acosta said in a statement regarding reports of today’s meeting.“Puerto Rico will take every step necessary to continue honoring its obligations.”

Earlier strike by Puerto Rican students.
Earlier strike by Puerto Rican students.

Commonwealth officials aren’t involved in the Jones Day meeting and didn’t call for it, according to the statement.

In November, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, a New York-based law firm that advises on distressed munis, held a conference on Puerto Rico, said a person who attended.

In October, bankers at Citigroup (C) Inc. and Morgan Stanley (MS) made private presentations to investors in New York, according to people who attended. Lazard Capital Markets LLC said it hosted a similar meeting that month.

To contact the reporters on this story: Michelle Kaske in New York at mkaske@bloomberg.net; Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware at schurch3@bloomberg.net


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KIDNAPPED MCGRUDER BABY STILL HELD BY CPS DESPITE EVIDENT ENDANGERMENT BY ANJELA A. FREEMAN

Cornell Squires with Tamikia McGruder and her baby Atjamino, kidnapped by CPS.

Cornell Squires with Tamikia McGruder and her baby Atjamino, kidnapped by CPS. Mother was afforded a one-hour visit with her baby at the Children’s Center May 23, 2014.

 

Police report filed on foster mother’s reckless driving after visit at Children’s Center May 23 – VOD ID’S HER AS ANJELA ANTONAZZO FREEMAN

Tamikia McGruder informed caseworker on earlier visit of evident abuse and neglect of baby by foster family; nothing done

Mother told by caseworker baby would be removed from foster household; nothing in writing, no removal yet

By Diane Bukowski

June 10, 2014

A mother's pride and joy: Tamikia and Atjamino.

A mother’s pride and joy: Tamikia and Atjamino.

DETROIT — Tamikia McGruder visited her baby Atjamino at the Children’s Center for one hour May 23, then again was forced to relinquish the infant to foster mother Anjela Antonazzo Freeman of the metro Detroit area, and apparently also of Florida.

Freeman promptly endangered the baby’s life, driving recklessly at high speeds away from the Center in her brand new black van, then passing three vehicles waiting at a red light on Woodward. She raced around all three to the left, in the oncoming lane of traffic, and turned right in front of them onto Woodward while the light was still red. She left no time even to see if there was oncoming traffic on Woodward.

This reporter, who was going in the same direction in her car, observed the incident first-hand, and promptly filed a police report of “child endangerment” at Woodward and W. Grand Blvd.

A caseworker from the Hamilton Avenue office of the state’s Child Protective Services division took Atjamino from her grandmother Doras Davis two months after a judge ordered her placement there. Davis said the worker produced no new court order.

Children's Center of Wayne County
Children’s Center of Wayne County at 79 W. Alexandrine in Detroit.

Since the May 23 visit, McGruder said, her caseworker at the Children’s Center, Megan Haddad, has told her Atjamino will be taken from the foster home and placed with her paternal aunt instead. She has been given nothing in writing, including any court order,  and still wants Atjamino back home with her and the baby’s father, Arthur Simmons, Jr.

“I raised holy hell with them the other day,” McGruder said. “I told them they had no court order to take my baby from her grandmother and give her to that couple. On an earlier visit, I reported that my baby had a severe rash in her vaginal area and chest, and it looked to me like her anus was wider,” McGruder told VOD. “I also told them the foster mother had brought dirty baby bottles with her and about other uncleanliness.”

child-abuse It should not hurt to be a childThe cell-phone photo McGruder took of her baby’s genital area is literally horrifying, showing a very broad reddened patch on one side of the vagina and a darker patch on the other side, with what appear to be welts and bruises as well, and a reddened vaginal opening. The baby’s anus did indeed appear to be distended. VOD has a copy of the photo but is not publishing it due to its sensitive nature. It will be turned over to McGruder’s attorney for admission at the next court hearing.

When this reporter showed Haddad the photo from her camera, Haddad refused even to look at it or to address the issue.  McGruder said the Children’s Center refused to act on the matter when she discovered her baby’s condition and asked that Atjamino be taken to Children’s Hospital for an examination.

McGruder said her inspection of the infant on the May 23 visit showed no abnormalities, to her relief. A supervisor at the Children’s Center allowed this reporter and Cornell Squires of We the People for the People to attend the visit that day.

Tamikia mothers day card 2
Tamikia shows Mother’s Day card, sent by her oldest daughter with all six children’s names included.

With Squires’ assistance, McGruder is pursuing legal recourse to have the baby returned, as her court-appointed attorney and the baby’s father’s attorney begged Referee Mona Youssef to do during a recent hearing, as a minimum request. Youssef refused to do so, instead postponing any further movement on the case until a hearing July 24, 2014, at 1:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Juvenile Hall on E. Forest and the 1-75 service drive.

Youssef wanted both parents to undergo psychiatric examinations, although there had been no previous orders for them to do so.

“I went for two evaluations since then,” McGruder said. “They both said there was nothing wrong with me. They wondered why I was even there, since no doctor had referred me.”

Parents Tamikia McGruder and Arthur Simmons, Jr.
Parents Tamikia McGruder and Arthur Simmons, Jr.

Both the baby’s father, Arthur Simmons, Jr,  and McGruder report they are in constant turmoil worrying about Atjamino and their five other children. All of them were placed in separate foster homes or agencies beginning May 30, 2013, pursuant to a court order rubber-stamped with a judge’s signature and without a hearing in front of that judge.

Since that time, their 12-year-old son, taking the notorious drug Risperdal, tried to hang himself with a phone cord, according to medical records. He also reported sexual abuse in the home of his single foster father. CPS did nothing about that incident and ignored it in their family treatment plans, despite the fact that the mother filed a police report about the sexual abuse.

Another son also visited Children’s Hospital with reports that he was constantly fighting in school. According to Ms. McGruder, that son, since then, has ben disciplined by Wolverine Center staff for a minor incident, by being forbidden to see his family for one month.

“He has been hurting himself, banging his head against the wall because he can’t see us,” McGruder said.

Tamikia sons
Two of the couple’s sons during visit at Hamilton DHS office.

She also reported that CPS workers Samantha Burks and Sherrie Howard, as well as Children’s Center worker Haddad, have prevented the children’s  paternal grandmother and paternal aunt from participating in weekly family visits. The workers claim only the father and mother are allowed during the visits.

All of the couple’s children except the baby are being given psychotropic drugs with side effects including suicide attempts, depression, aggression, and gynecomastia while in foster care. To add to that horror, a recent “Family Treatment Plan” drawn up by CPS indicates that the baby will also be evaluated for mental health issues.

McGruder said she emailed Pres. Barack Obama at the White House and received the following response, dated May 20, 2014 from the Department Of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families Division.

Dear Ms. McGruder:

This is a response to your email to Pres. Barack Obama regarding your safety concerns for your children while they are in the custody of the child welfare system and your desire to regain custody of your children. Your correspondence was forwarded to the Children’s Bureau located within the administration for Children and Families. The Children’s Bureau is the federal agency responsible for helping states to improve the safety and well-being of the nation’s children and youth. I appreciate that this must be a very difficult situation for you and your family.

The circumstance you described in your correspondence relates to a matter over which the state has legal jurisdiction, through their family courts and agencies. Although the federal government does not have equal authority to intervene in child welfare and individual family law matters such as custody and visitation arrangements, we can provide the following information that may be of assistance. Because your children are currently in state care you may find it helpful to discuss this case with Nancy Rostoni, the State of Michigan’s foster care program manager at Nancy Rostoni, Michigan DHS Bureau of Child Welfare, Children’s Service Administration. Her email is rostonin@michigan.gov.”

Pres. Barack Obama's daughters lead happy lives; why shouldn't the rest of the country's children do the same?

Pres. Barack Obama’s daughters lead happy lives; why shouldn’t the rest of the country’s children do the same?

McGruder said she has spoken with an individual in Rostoni’s office, who said she was “appalled” at her report of her son’s suicide attempt and the other issues, and would have someone get back with her by June 13, 2014.

Meanwhile, she said, she wants Referee Youssef and the chief judge of the court to have an emergency hearing on her children’s condition and their need to be returned to the arms of their mother and father before they experience any more harm in state custody.

VOD ID’S FOSTER “MOTHER”WHO ENDANGERED ATJAMINO

Anjela Antanazzo Freeman of Michigan and Florida has “No comment”

By Diane Bukowski

June 10, 2014

Anjela Antanazzo Freeman
Anjela Antanazzo Freeman

 

DETROIT – Anjela Antanazzo Freeman is the full name of the woman who took Atjamino McGruder, now six months old, from the hands of CPS worker Willie Campbell on Feb. 25, 2014, after he seized the baby from her grandmother Doras Davis. He did not have a court order to remove the child from Davis’ custody, but there does exist a court order placing the infant in Davis’ custody.

VOD located Freeman’s photo online. Tamikia McGruder verified her identity on viewing the photo. VOD also called a phone number listed for her on-line, saying a reporter was calling. VOD asked her if she is the foster mother of Atjamino McGruder. Instead of answering “No,” she said “No comment.”

On-line sources indicate she was born in June, 1975.

UDM School of Law downtown Detroit campus.

UDM School of Law downtown Detroit campus.

On the website “Linked-In,” where her photo was discovered, Freeman says she has a Juris Doctor, meaning she is a lawyer, and claims to have a law practice. She is not however listed on the Michigan Bar Association’s website as a member.

She claims to have graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 2012, and says she previously attained a “Bachelor of Music” from the University of Miami in 1997. Prior to that, she attended Kimball High School, location not noted.

She also says she was a “Broker/Associate” with the ReMax Property Centre from 2002 until 2006. She is not, however, currently listed on the Michigan website as a licensed real estate broker or salesperson. Another on-line source says she worked at Volusia, Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens, and St. John’s Episcopal Church as well.

Online sources indicate numerous addresses for her including Ormond Beach, FL, Daytona Beach, FL, Madison Heights, MI, and Royal Oak, MI.

VOD is further researching her background and any connections to CPS personnel.

Related articles:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/05/06/family-says-cps-kidnapped-baby-from-grandma-in-violation-of-court-order/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/04/14/mcgrudersimmons-family-wins-cps-court-adjournment-until-mon-april-28-files-sex-crimes-report-with-police/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/03/26/12-year-old-child-hangs-himself-after-rubber-stamped-cps-seizure-from-family-prescription-of-drug-risperdal/


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BANKS STILL GET MORE UNDER OBAMA’S STUDENT DEBT RELIEF ORDER

Protesters in LA called for student debt cancellation, explaining that Wall Street banks got trillions from taxpayers and should provide free education in turn.

Protesters in LA called for student debt cancellation, explaining that Wall Street banks got trillions from taxpayers and should provide free education in turn.

 

The One-Two Punch of Income-Based Repayment and Student Loan Refinancing 

By Mark Huelsman Senior Policy Analyst, Demos 

June 9, 2014

(VOD editor’s note: Pres. Barack Obama could instead have signed an Executive Order cancelling all student debt, as Occupy Wall Street, Moratorium NOW!, the Green Party, and other groups across the country have been demanding for years, along with FREE EDUCATION FOR ALL.)

Pres. Barack Obama signs student debt re-financing order.
Pres. Barack Obama signs student debt re-financing order.

Big news! President Obama announced an Executive Order this afternoon that would extend the protections of Income-Based Repayment to an estimated five million more student borrowers.

At a time when one in seven student loans default within the first three years of a student leaving school, and when graduates are taking on larger and larger amounts of debt, it makes sense to use everything in the toolbox to make sure that students aren’t financially ruined before they have a chance to get a start on life. But bigger structural changes are needed to end the radical shift to a debt-for-diploma system.

Rally to cancel student debt was held at Wayne State University in 2011 during the Occupy Wall Street heydays.
Rally to cancel student debt was held at Wayne State University in 2011 during the Occupy Wall Street heydays.

 

Our research at Demos has shown that states are spending less and less money per student in higher education, even as we are telling students that a college degree is more important than ever

This Executive Order also recognizes that student debt is something that hits households well beyond college age. Around a third of student debt is held by those over 40, and delinquency rates generally rise by age. My colleague Robert Hiltonsmith showed in At What Cost that college educated households with debt will lose over $200,000 in lifetime wealth compared to those without debt.

This is where refinancing comes in. Allowing borrowers to refinance student loans is one of the only ways to reduce the total amount of debt a borrower must repay. Senate Democrats have coalesced around a plan—supported by the president—to allow for a one-time refinancing for borrowers with interest rates above those currently set by Congress.

Students demand free education. Other countries have it--why not the U.S.?

Students demand free education. Other countries have it–why not the U.S.?

There’s only so much the president can do on his own. Only Congress can give students the ability to refinance loans, allocate more funds to need-based aid, or structurally change our debt-for-diploma system.

The president doesn’t have a magic wand at his disposal, but making sure that more borrowers are covered under existing protections and repayment plans is an essential place to start.

CAUTION! BANKS STILL GET MORE WITH HIGHER INTEREST RATES

(From longer article by this author at http://www.demos.org/blog/6/9/14/one-two-punch-income-based-repayment-and-student-loan-refinancing#_ftn1 )

Marchers protest banks' role in destruction of Detroit.
Marchers protest banks’ role in destruction of Detroit.

 

“One of the only problems with IBR, however, is that because it lowers monthly payments, it can increase the total amount a borrower pays over the life of the loan, since interest still accrues. In fact, almost every protection or non-standard repayment plan that the Federal Government offers on student loans ends up increasing the total amount a borrower must pay to offload the debt,[1] in exchange for more manageable monthly payments. For some, this trade-off is a no-brainer—particularly if the alternative is defaulting on a loan. For others, it requires careful consideration.

This is where refinancing comes in. I’ve written before about how allowing borrowers to refinance student loans is one of the only ways to reduce the total amount of debt a borrower must repay. Senate Democrats have coalesced around a plan—supported by the president—to allow for a one-time refinancing for borrowers with interest rates above those currently set by Congress. For those with undergraduate debt, this—combined with expanded income-based repayment—could actually make a dent in their short- and long-term loan burden.”


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WHY I’M VOTING ‘NO’ ON THE ‘GRAND BARGAIN’

May 1, 2014 march against Detroit bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment.

May 1, 2014 march against Detroit bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment.

It’s ‘Grand Larceny”

Retirees stand to lose 35-50%, not 4.5%

Must sign off on all constitutionally-allowed appeals

Mike Mulholland at informational picket at Huber facility in 2012. Not only does the Detroit bankruptcy plan affect retirees, it will end up seizing control of the Water Department. Hundreds have already been laid off and more are expected. The more city employees laid off, the greater the damage to city pension funds.
Mike Mulholland at informational picket at Huber facility in 2012. Not only does the Detroit bankruptcy plan affect retirees, it will end up seizing control of the Water Department. Hundreds have already been laid off and more are expected. The more city employees laid off, the greater the damage to city pension funds. Meanwhile, thousands of Detroit residents are having their water shut off without notice under EM Kevyn Orr and an essentially regionalized Water Board.

 By Michael Mulholland

June 7, 2014

As a retiree from the City of Detroit, and acting president of AFSCME Local 207, I oppose the so-called Grand Bargain. Every dollar stolen from us will not be given to the people of Detroit, but merely help the greedy banks cut their losses. The banks manufactured the 2008 finance crisis and got bailed out while foreclosing on 100,000 families in Detroit alone. They should be jailed for racist predatory lending. Yet they expect us to bail them out with our modest pensions. This deal should be called Grand Larceny.

This deal is not guaranteed. If the DIA or corporate foundations don’t make good on their pledges, if pension funding levela drop below 80% or if investment returns drop below 6.75%, our pensions will be cut again, without a vote. 

This is more than a 4.5% cut. It is more like 35-50%. Almost half of the General Fund retirees who planned for our retirement through the annuity savings plan will see a total pension cut of up 20%. That’s my situation. We are not even allowed to pay back what Kevyn Orr calls “excess interest” in a lump sum. The 20% cut will continue for my entire life. Since I opted for a reduced pension so that my wife could have financial security after I die, the 20% cut will continue for her entire life, long after the “debt” is repaid. The state’s $194 million contribution is a small portion of the revenue sharing they owe Detroit. Annuity savings participants are being extorted for at least $240 million, or more if we live too long.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent time in prison for leading massive civil rights movement, then was assassinated.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent time in prison for leading massive civil rights movement, then was assassinated.

Elimination of cost of living allowances will cost us and our beneficiaries 2.25% per year. Medical insurance cuts add up to an additional 30% loss, especially for those who are not old enough for Medicare. I am on Medicare, yet my monthly drug costs increased 400%.

Pioneers of the union and the civil rights movements faced threats and repercussions. But they took the risk, and changed history. As always, the experts say that this is “the best we can get,”  that the cuts are merciful, and that resistance is futile. The same arguments will be used to impose the “Detroit blueprint” on pensions throughout the nation. We are told that if we vote NO then even more punitive cuts will be imposed on us. But it has been our experience that whenever injustice is tolerated for the illusion of security, more demands soon follow.

If we vote yes, we lose the right to sue. We should keep fighting and continue our legal appeals. However, as the US Supreme Court’s recent racist ruling against affirmative action shows, we cannot simply rely on the courts for justice. AFSCME Local 207’s Executive Board urges everyone to vote NO and to help build a mass movement of resistance. That is the only way we can secure our pensions and a brighter future for the people of Detroit and workers everywhere.

May Day marchers blockade E. Jefferson Ave. at beginning of march.

May Day marchers blockade E. Jefferson Ave. at beginning of march.

 


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BENTON HARBOR: REV. PINKNEY TO FACE TRIAL ON FELONY CHARGES JULY 21 DESPITE NO EVIDENCE

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

DISMANTLING OF DEMOCRACY: THE STORY OF REV. EDWARD PINKNEY, BENTON HARBOR AND MICHIGAN 

Targeted for years-long battle against Whirlpool’s destruction of BH

One of first to come forward against Mich. Gov. Snyder’s EM laws

From the People’s Tribune

June 9, 2014

Rev. Edward Pinkney speaks against Whirlpool takeover of Benton Harbor May 26, 2012.

Rev. Edward Pinkney speaks against Whirlpool takeover of Benton Harbor May 26, 2012.

BENTON HARBOR — You probably noticed in the June, 2014, edition of the People’s Tribune the articles about the attack on leaders and the movement in Benton Harbor, Michigan. A trial date for Rev. Edward Pinkney, charged with trumped up vote fraud charges related to an effort to recall a Whirlpool-allied mayor, James Hightower, is July 21, 2014.

In light of this date and the dangerous political climate in Benton Harbor and Michigan as a whole, breaking the media blackout and broadening the outrage against the attack on this leader are urgent. Truth be told, the charges leveled against Reverend Edward Pinkney are but the latest saga in a ruthless pursuit of naked corporate rule that is gripping the state of Michigan.

Rev. Pinkney (r) speaks at first mass rally against Emergency Manager Law Public Act 4, later repealed and replaced with PA 436. Rally of thousands was held at New Triumph Baptist Church in Detroit.

Rev. Pinkney (r) speaks at first mass rally against Emergency Manager Law Public Act 4, later repealed and replaced with PA 436. Rally of thousands was held at New Triumph Baptist Church in Detroit.

In 2011, current Governor Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that codified the fascist offensive already in motion. The law, a.k.a., Emergency Manager law, dispatches unelected ‘managers’ to designated cities and school districts and issues ‘edicts’ that fast track the sale of precious public assets to bondholders, banks or other corporate interests, privatizes public services, dismantles collective bargaining agreements, and more. They are empowered to even dissolve municipalities and school districts, all the while replacing local elected officials altogether.

Benton Harbor, home of corporate giant Whirlpool, is a poster child of the Rust Belt’s post-industrial destruction of the manufacturing life we once knew. Benton Harbor is 90% African American and 42.6% of the population lives in poverty.

Benton Harbor's beautiful beach on Lake Michigan, located at Jean Klock Park, now surrounded by luxury condos and a world-class golf course.
Benton Harbor’s beautiful beach on Lake Michigan, located at Jean Klock Park, now surrounded by luxury condos and a world-class golf course.

 

With its rich Lake Michigan beachfront property park, (which has now been stolen from the people,) Benton Harbor was one of the first to experience the wrath of Emergency Managers. Now more than 17 municipalities and school districts, including Detroit, have been pulled into the mire of dictatorship. Reverend Pinkney has become the face of resistance – resistance to the notion that the working class has no rights that the corporation is bound to respect. Any and all efforts must be made to overturn the charges against Pinkney as a step toward overturning the spread of this model to the rest of Michigan and the nation.

Rev. Pinkney reads award to actor Danny Glover at fund-raising dinner last October.
Rev. Pinkney reads award to actor Danny Glover at fund-raising dinner last October.

 

In closing, we would like to give you a brief update of the case. The State is determined to get Rev. Pinkney. Because they don’t have solid evidence, they say that in the State of Michigan circumstantial evidence is enough to convict. The prosecutor also mentioned that he wanted to use the habitual offender law which could mean, if convicted, that Pinkney could be put away for 15-20 years.

A further disadvantage is that it takes 30 days to get the transcript. The State’s plan is to limit the amount of time that the lawyers have to prepare for the trial.

People in Michigan and throughout the country are not letting this fascist assault on our leaders and communities go unanswered. People are rallying to Pinkney’s defense. In addition, the Benton Harbor community is considering launching another recall drive to get the Whirlpool-allied mayor James Hightower out of office.

People from across the state supported Rev. Pinkney at his preliminary exam May 31, 2014. His wife Dorothy Pinkney is 4th from left.
People from across the state supported Rev. Pinkney at his preliminary exam May 31, 2014. His wife Dorothy Pinkney is 4th from left.

 

Such activity will be very important. What we need to do now is to get Pinkney and other speakers, especially from Michigan who are in the battle against the Emergency Managers, on radio and television, promoted on social media, and out speaking in communities throughout the country. Breaking the media blackout is urgent.

Letters of support sent to banco9342@sbcglobal.net will be posted on the BANCO (Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizations) website. Fundraising for the defense is also critical. The defense is trying to raise an immediate $5000 for the transcript and for an appeal of the Judge’s decision to take this sham case to trial. Money is needed in the next 10 days. Send donations to Banco, 1940 Union St., Benton Harbor, 49022 or make donations at bhbanco.org.

Please feel free to share this post. We ask that you credit the source: peoplestribune.org

For more information on how you can get involved, or to order papers to get out in your community, contact the People’s Tribune at 800-691-6888, email info@peoplestribune.org or visit the website at peoplestribune.org.

Support PinkneyPinkney Framed Again

 Statement by Rev. Edward Pinkney on BANCO website

 June 8, 2014

My case is one where there is no evidence whatsoever that proves the acts constituting a crime were in fact committed by me.

–There is no physical evidence that I was the person who changed any petitions.

–There is no expert testimony that I was the one who changed any petitions.

–There are no statements to the police or anyone else that I committed acts constituting a crime.

–There are no confessions or witnesses to show that I committed a crime, or if there was a crime.

In short, the alleged crime consisted of the alteration of documents, and there is no evidence that I committed those acts or that I was the only person in a position to commit the acts.

Based on the evidence presented at the preliminary examination, it appears the prosecution will not be able to present sufficient evidence at trial unless they do what the Berrien County Court normally does: fabricate evidence.

Judge Sterling Schrock and Prosecutor Mike Sepic have been working together. They are a tag team. Corruption rolls on in Berrien County.

Related articles:

http://peoplestribune.org/pt-news/2014/06/fighting-the-corporate-dictatorship-in-michigan-2/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/06/03/rev-pinkney-in-the-mouth-of-the-beast-in-benton-harbor/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/05/27/dismiss-all-charges-against-rev-pinkney-court-fri-may-30-save-benton-harbor-boycott-whirlpool/


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DGRS SELLS OUT; RETIREES, BARROW SAY ‘VOTE NO’ ON DETROIT BANKRUPTCY PLAN!

Vote No flier

Download copy of flier above at Vote No flier.

VOD BREAKING NEWS: THE JUNE 5TH “INFORMATIONAL” MEETING ON THE PLAN OF ADJUSTMENT, CALLED BY THE DETROIT GENERAL RETIREMENT SYSTEM (DGRS) AT WENDELL ANTHONY’S FELLOWSHIP CHAPEL, CONSISTED ALMOST ENTIRELY OF PRESENTATIONS BY MICHAEL VAN OVERBEKE, ATTY. FOR THE DGRS, AND A BENEFITS SPECIALIST, WITH ONLY TEN MINUTES ALLOWED FOR RETIREES’ QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS. ONE RETIREE, OUTRAGED, WAS ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY REMOVED FROM THE MEETING FOR SHOUTING ‘VOTE NO.’

THE NEXT DGRS MEETING IS SET FOR THURS. JUNE 12, 2014 FROM 6 PM TO 8 PM AT RENAISSANCE UNITY CHURCH, 11200 E. ELEVEN MILE RD, WARREN, MI. WITH THE SAME FORMAT EXPECTED. RISE UP RETIREES! DO NOT LET YOUR ELECTED TRUSTEES SELL YOU OUT!!! DO NOT BE SILENCED AT THE NEXT MEETING!

LIVE STREAMING www.renaissanceunity.org/livestreaming.

Claude Montgomery of Denton's, paid by City of Detroit to represent Official Retirees Committee appointed by U.S. Trustee through Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes

Claude Montgomery of Denton’s, paid by City of Detroit to represent Official Retirees Committee appointed by U.S. Trustee through Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes

DGRS votes to give $5.5 million to phony VEBA health care bank trust

DGRS not included on VEBA board

By Cecily McClellan

May 29, 2014

DETROIT  — Please be informed, that several retirees and citizens attended the Pension Board Benefits Committee Meeting yesterday, May 28, 2014. Attorney Claude Montgomery of the Denton Law Firm presented a very vague presentation (2-3 pages) of a Volunteer Employee Benefits Agreement (VEBA) to the Board and requested 5.5 million dollars for the VEBA.

This request was made last week also, without the professionalism or respect of any written materials. However, the board did not vote or endorse last week.

Tom Sheehan, DGRS chair
Tom Sheehan, DGRS chair

The board voted 3-2 to give the US Bankruptcy Court-appointed board (see attached order and membership below) $5.5 million (yeas Thomas Sheehan, Lou Hatty, Lori Cetlinskii-nays June Nickelberry and Tasha Cowan). The board benefits committee approved a motion requesting membership on the VEBA board, which was not tie barred to the $5.5 million. During the discussion trustee Hatty was concerned whether 5.5 million dollars was sufficient, particularly as it relates to prescription costs.

(VOD note: The 4th Plan of Adjustment specifies clearly that only the Official Committee of Retirees (OCR), which Denton represents, and the Detroit Retired City Employees Association–DRCEA, led by Shirley Lightsey, will sit on the DGRS VEBA board.

Lou Hatty
Lou Hatty

 For the Police and Fire Retirement System, only the Official Committee of Retirees and the Detroit Police and Firefighters Association, led by Don Taylor, will sit on that board. This opportunity to make money off the VEBA’s, which are nothing but bank trusts which DO NOT GUARANTEE payment of ANY health benefits (as specified in the 4th Plan of Adjustment,) is clearly behind the DRCEA and DPFFA endorsements of the 4th Plan of Adjustment.

These associations DO NOT represent the majority of city retirees, despite their lies to the contrary. Their leadership is NOT ELECTED by city workers and retirees.  There will BE NO MEMBERSHIP FOR DGRS on the VEBA board. If the 4th Plan of Adjustment goes through, the retirement systems, the unions and all parties who have lawsuits pending in the Sixth Circuit Court, the U.S. District Court, and the state courts, will have to WITHDRAW city retirees’ last hope of legal appeal.)

Pension board trustees need to be knowledgeable of the 4th Plan of Adjustment specifically related to “other post employment benefits” OPEB and VEBA. It appears that they are endorsing privatization of our health care benefits and relinquishing oversight to an unknown and unproven authority. VEBA’s have only been used in the private sector and generally have expensive administration costs. This creates a new entity at our expense.

The GRS and PFRS already have a historical knowledge base or access to expertise in providing benefits and could purchase a group health care plan via request for proposal. This court appointed retirees committee board has already endorsed the 4th Amendment to the Bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment and are used as an authority replacing our elected Pension Board.

U.S. Bankrupty Judge (3rd from left) approved the appointment of the Official Retirees Committee, which is now selling out retirees. Here Rhodes is shown as chair of a "Municipal Distress Forum" held Oct. 10, 2012, with pro-EM and pro-Chapter 9 participants, Frederick Headen (state treasury) Edward Plawecki, EM trainers Douglas Bernstein and Judy ONeill, who helped co-author Public Act 4, and most glaringly, Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, a chief witness for Kevyn Orr/Jones Day during the bankruptcy trial.

U.S. Bankrupty Judge steven Rhodes (3rd from left) approved the appointment of the Official Retirees Committee, which is now selling out retirees. Here Rhodes is shown as chair of a “Municipal Distress Forum” held Oct. 10, 2012, with pro-EM and pro-Chapter 9 participants, Frederick Headen (state treasury) Edward Plawecki, EM trainers Douglas Bernstein and Judy ONeill, who helped co-author Public Act 4, and most glaringly, Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, a chief witness for Kevyn Orr/Jones Day during the bankruptcy trial.

Remember, this is the bankruptcy court-appointed retiree board (click on Court Appointed Retiree Committee letter) that voted (3 to 5-one member abstained) to eliminate health care benefits for retirees under 65 years of age and allocated a measly $125 dollars stipend for health care. Retirees by design were forced to apply for the President’s Affordable Health Care Act plan, which is affordable up to about 130% of the Federal Poverty Level (see attachment) or $1245 monthly for an individual. Most retirees pensions are about $1583 monthly and now are paying between $300-600 monthly for health care benefits, not including prescriptions.

NOTE; THE DETROIT BANKUPTCY PLAN USES 105% OF FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL AID FOR RETIREES. EVEN CHURCHES GIVING OUT FREE FOOD USE 200% OF THE GUIDELINE!
NOTE: THE DETROIT BANKUPTCY PLAN USES 105% OF FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL AID FOR RETIREES. EVEN CHURCHES GIVING OUT FREE FOOD USE 200% OF THE GUIDELINE!

(Click on 2014 Federal Poverty Levels to view chart above in larger PDF file.)

Remember, litigation is still pending and objections have been filed against the legality of dumping a health care benefit contractually promised. (VOD–Chapter 9, while not protecting public pensions except against an unfair and unequitable plan, DOES protect retiree health care benefits.)

Please note that the Denton Law Firm represents the court appointed retiree committee, sounds like the fox may be in the hen house. The Denton Law firm is being paid for by the city via Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes and the U.S. Trustee’s approval. The US court appointed committee has also been indemnified (held Harmless) against law suits for the decision they make and the members they represent. Pension Board Trustees must be held accountable for the decision that they make with our money. CALL THE TRUSTEES!

VOD has located likely home phone numbers on People Smart for Trustees who voted for the $5.5 million, since the DGRS general number at 224-3362 has been swamped, and those answering it cannot respond to questions about the board members’ votes. 

  • Thomas R. Sheehan, DGRS Chair 248-677-3320 (Royal Oak) 313-822-5783  
  • Lou Hatty 313-882-6017
  • Lori Cetlinski 313-642-0124 734-301-3053, 734-642-0124, 313-521-3703 (who according to People Smart lives in Grosse Ile)
Mayoral candidate Tom Barrow and supporters after hearing on his appeal of 2009 mayoral election results.

Mayoral candidate Tom Barrow and supporters after hearing on his appeal of 2009 mayoral election results.

STATEMENT ON THE GRAND BARGAIN–VOTE NO!

By Mayoral Candidate Tom Barrow

June 4, 2014–Facebook

A number of Detroit pensioners have asked me whether they should vote “Yes” or “No” on the so-called “Grand Bargain”. While I explained that I am not a city retiree, I also explained that my mother was and therefore I agreed to say what I believe would have been in my mom’s best interest.

Mattie Barrow
Mattie Barrow

 

I begin by stating that I have read the voluminous 3″ thick document (no average senior citizen will likely ever read nor understand its complex legalese). I have also read the proposed ballot received to cast a vote. Having said that, I am convinced the “Grand Bargain” is not a bargain for retirees. It is a proposal which shifts the focus to the most vulnerable as if somehow they are responsible for the city’s phony malaise.

The first glaring abnormality of the “Bargain” is that it requires retirees to waive essential constitutional rights to sue the State or City. This means that if current pending lawsuits surrounding the EM law are struck down, retirees will have consented to cut their own income and all of their generationally promised benefits. Why, because the pension is a state constitutional obligation. This alone should cause any retiree to question how grand the “Bargain” truly is.

Senior city retirees protest bankruptcy plan at court April 1, 2014.
Senior city retirees protest bankruptcy plan at court April 1, 2014.

In my view, the truth is the “bargain” is a subliminal deal to get state funding necessary to transfer the DIA and its art assets into others hands allowing it to spin off from the control of the City of Detroit and thus its people. The “bargain” also provides for a extreme reductions in benefits to those barely living and already sacrificing food for medicine. In short, it is a license to imprison and impoverish yourself.

It is no secret that I have long stated that this entire bankruptcy was phony, contrived and intended to transfer wealth and a nearly last piece which involves pensioners who have relied on the promise. It wants seniors to consent to cut their own throat and is, in my view, absurd. For these and a bevy of other unspoken reasons, I would have urged my own mother to vote “NO” as the “Bargain” is no bargain for you as the City of Detroit’s consent to transfer its own wealth should not be on your back. In my view, Conservatives are going to do what ever they want to do…he just would like to have your consent to point to it later! – - PLEASE SHARE -

Related article:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/05/20/racist-detroit-bankruptcy-plan-11-5-billion-for-banks-0-for-retirees-vote-no-or-lose-appeal-rights/ 

VOD related article also available in PDF at RACIST DETROIT BANKRUPTCY PLAN VOD,

To read the entire POA4 and its Disclosure Statement, click on

4th amended Plan of Adjustment http://www.mieb.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/detroit/docket4392.pdf

4th amended Disclosure Statement http://www.mieb.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/detroit/docket4391.pdf.

(P.S. thanks to Jamon Jordan for asking what the heck DGRS is. I should have spelled it out right at the beginning of the story, which I have done above–it is the Detroit General Retirement System, one of the city’s two pension systems. The other is the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System (DPFRS).


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REV. PINKNEY ‘IN THE MOUTH OF THE BEAST’ IN BENTON HARBOR

Rev. Pinkney's supporters outside Berrien County Courthouse May 31, 2014. His wife Dorothy Pinkney is fourth from left.

Rev. Pinkney’s supporters outside Berrien County Courthouse May 31, 2014. His wife Dorothy Pinkney is fourth from left.

Supporters turn out for preliminary exam on 5 felony counts May 31 

“Can’t pin it on Pinkney”—Herald Palladium 

MSP documents examiner can’t say who altered recall petitions

By Diane Bukowski 

June 1, 2014 

Pinkney flier revisedBENTON HARBOR –Supporters of Rev. Edward Pinkney packed the courtroom for his day-long pre-trial exam on five felony charges of election law forgery May 31. The charges, each carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison, relate to a recall campaign against current Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower.

“Rev. Pinkney is in the mouth of the beast,” Pinkney told VOD. “What they don’t understand is that I’m a beast killer. The exam today proved they have not a single drop of evidence to even take this to trial. But always remember—Berrien County needs no evidence.”

Even the normally conservative Benton Harbor newspaper the Herald-Palladium said in headline coverage of the exam, “Expert witness can’t pin it on Pinkney.”

Hightower is an ally of Whirlpool, a $19 billion global corporation which Pinkney and the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizations (BANCO), have targeted for years, saying it destroyed the city’s job base by closing its plants, grabbed its land, and now pays no city taxes. The recall petition cited Hightower’s failure to approve a city income tax which would have forced Whirlpool to pay taxes to Benton Harbor.

Sterling Schrock
Judge Sterling Schrock

 

The recall election, which was to have been held May 6 after Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler certified 402 petition signatures, was indefinitely postponed by Fifth District Judge John Dewane, citing the charges against Pinkney.

Fifth District Judge Sterling R. Shrock, who has contributed campaign funds to Pres. Barack Obama and other Democratic causes, is presiding over the criminal case. He said he will announce his decision on whether Pinkney should be bound over on Thurs. June 5, after he reviews the exhibits and examines the meaning of “probable cause.”

“EXPERT WITNESS CAN’T PIN IT ON PINKNEY”

In key testimony, Sgt. James Goff of the Michigan State Police Forensics Lab in Lansing said he found evidence that dates on several petitions for the recall had been altered, using various methods. He referenced several petitions admitted into evidence. They had been enlarged, with the second side missing, then photographed with blocks indicating his findings covering parts of the petitions.

MSP Sgt. James Goff
MSP Sgt. James Goff

 

“I can’t say who altered them or when,” Goff told Pinkney’s attorney Tat Parish on cross-exam. “Different ink formulations were used is all I can say.”

Goff said he used infrared luminescence examination to identify different ink formulations, and “impression” techniques to find dates on the petitions had been altered. Impression techniques involve looking at the petitions directly beneath the ones in question to find impressions of the original written dates.

How Goff accomplished that is unclear, since he had only 10 of 62 petitions submitted according Berrien County Sheriff’s records, which do not indicate the 10 petitions were in sequential order.

Goff said he has been a “Forensics Document Examiner” for four years, but is not certified as such by any organization, national or otherwise, although organizations such as the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners exist to do so.

ABFDEHe works for the MSP’s “Questioned Documents” unit in Lansing, where he is its only employee. He said he trained for three years under other Forensics Document Examiners, but did not say if they were certified. Parish objected to qualifying him as an expert but was overruled.

Goff identified a photographic image of one petition, shown on a screen, which he claimed had 12 dates changed, from Nov. 8 to Nov. 18 and Nov. 28. The date, Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic said, was crucial because under state election law, only petitions with signatures dated on Nov. 9 or afterward, 60 days prior to their submission, could be counted.

Parish pointed out, however, that county offices were closed on Jan. 6 and 7 due to a snowstorm, apparently inferring that there was no reason to change the Nov. 8 date since the turn-in period should have been extended due to “an act of God.”

ORIGINAL PETITIONS NOT IN EVIDENCE; WERE THEY ‘DISAPPEARED?’

Carolyn Toliver

Carolyn Toliver

None of the petitions admitted into evidence over Parish’s objections were the originals. Instead Sepic used Xeroxed and photographic images. Berrien County Elections Commissioner Carolyn Toliver said she thought the Sheriff’s Department had the originals, while Sepic said Goff had them (although he only received 10 of 62 petitions.) Sgt. Zizkovsky testified he took possession of the originals from Toliver, but they never surfaced at the exam.

“If the issue is to prove alterations, of course the original document is at the heart of the case,” Parish told Judge Schrock. “To allow introduction of copies is improper.”

Schrock, however, said, “Under evidence rules, copies are as admissible as the originals.” Schrock denied virtually every objection made by Parish during the exam.

Berrien County sheriffs.
Berrien County sheriffs.

 

Berrien County Sheriff Sgt. David Zizkovsky, who said he had served with the military in Iraq, said in his report that he turned 10 original petitions over to the lab, out of 62 submitted.

But only five COPIES of the ten, the ones circulated by Pinkney, were admitted at the exam. Summarizing Goff’s findings in his report, Zizkovsky said Goff noted evidence of date changes on the five other petitions, not circulated by Pinkney, as well.

In the same report, he also said he himself asked the lab to change the dates on five petitions from 1/13/14 to 1/3/14.

Parish pounded away at both Goff and Zizkovsky about the length of time that expired from Jan. 8 until the petitions were turned in to the crime lab. Goff said he got them on Feb. 26, allowing plenty of time for others with access to the petitions to alter them.

Pinkney ICHAT

According to the Michigan State Police ICHAT website, which records state criminal cases, charges against Pinkney were brought Jan. 8, 2014, the day the petitions were submitted, prior to their submission to the crime lab Feb. 26, and prior to mass interrogations in Benton Harbor homes by Berrien County Sheriffs. Zizkovsky admitted the Sheriff’s Department had begun investigating Pinkney prior to obtaining the petitions.

Former Benton Harbor City Commissioner Dennis Knowles
Former Benton Harbor City Commissioner Dennis Knowles

 

The charges, which include five misdemeanor counts of “Election Law/ False Cert Circulatory” not considered that day, followed lengthy, detailed and often multiple interrogations by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department of petition signers and circulators in their homes, on a scale not seen since the “red scare” days of U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, according to Sheriff’s Department records.

“Their purpose is to distort and debase elections because Whirlpool wants Benton Harbor,” Dennis Knowles, a former Benton Harbor City Commissioner who attended the exam, told VOD. “They want to tar and feather Rev. Pinkney for the rest of his life so there will be no more recalls and so the people will be too terrified even to vote.”

SHERIFFS, ELECTIONS OFFICIAL ALSO COMBED, ALTERED PETITIONS 

Benton Harbor Commissioner Marcus Muhammad, who is running for mayor against Hightower (l) talks with James Cornelius, who initiated recall campaign against Hightower. Final Call photo
Benton Harbor Commissioner Marcus Muhammad, who is running for mayor against Hightower (l) talks with James Cornelius, who initiated recall campaign against Hightower. Final Call photo

Of 62 petitions with 728 signatures, 54 petitions, including 34 circulated by Pinkney, were NOT examined by the lab. Zizkovsky said in his report that sheriff’s deputies, not trained in forensic document examination, selected the 10 petitions based on their own observations of what they determined to be irregular.

Toliver testified first, then remained in the courtroom for the rest of the day-long hearing. Toliver said the petitions in evidence were actually copies of copies kept in the Clerk’s office safe.

She said Rev. Pinkney attempted to turn the 62 petitions in on Jan. 8, but that she would not accept them because James Cornelius, not Pinkney, was the sponsor of the campaign. Cornelius, who faces one misdemeanor count in the case, then turned them in himself.

According to the Sheriff’s Report, however, Toliver told Pinkney she would not accept them was because he did not live in Benton Harbor, but Benton Harbor Township.

Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler first certified petitions, then withdrew certification.
Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler first certified petitions, then withdrew certification.

 

Toliver said she combed through all the petitions before turning them over to County Clerk Sharon Tyler for the Elections Commission to “begin the verification process.” She said she herself eliminated certain signature lines with names, addresses and dates prior to turning them in, because she felt they were questionable, then took a red pen and crossed out all the blank signature lines.

“I scrutinize the individual’s handwriting, and check the dates for similar handwriting, and then I disqualify that line [if they don’t compare],” Toliver, who has no forensic training, said.

Despite her efforts, the Elections Commission certified 402 signatures, verifying the signers were registered voters, enough for the 393 needed, and Tyler scheduled the recall election.

TOLIVER’S CONNECTIONS

Toliver testified that she phoned Mayor Hightower about the submission of the petitions at 9:30 a.m. that day, and kept in contact with him throughout the examination process to update him. She said she blacked out Hightower’s cell phone and address on her work sheet, originally submitted as an exhibit but then withdrawn by Sepic.

Al Pscholka and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder after signing of Public Act 4, the first "emergency manager" law.
Al Pscholka and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder after signing of Public Act 4, the first “emergency manager” law.

 

Knowles told VOD that he himself had been subjected to a recall campaign in Benton Harbor that failed. He said he never received any calls from Toliver about the campaign in his case, only a written notice that it had begun.

Toliver previously worked for State Rep. Al Pscholka, who started out as a staffer for Benton Harbor Congressman Fred Upton, one of the heirs to the Whirlpool fortune. Pscholka introduced the first “Emergency Manager” law, Public Act 4, into the state legislature in 2011. It was repealed by a majority of state voters in 2012, but immediately replaced by Public Act 436, which legislators made referendum-proof by the inclusion of a financial allotment in the bill.

Benton Harbor was the first city taken over under Public Act 4, a move vigorously opposed by Pinkney, BANCO and numerous other groups across the state.

CIRCULATORS CALLED BY PROSECUTION 

Detroiter Wanda Hill and Benton Harbor resident George Moon at first rally against PA 4 in 2011, on Benton Harbor city hall steps. PA 4 was indeed repealed, only to be replaced by PA 436.

Detroiter Wanda Hill and Benton Harbor resident George Moon at first rally against PA 4 in 2011, on Benton Harbor city hall steps. PA 4 was indeed repealed, only to be replaced by PA 436.

Sepic called several of the other petition circulators to the stand, many of whom expressed solidarity with Pinkney outside the courtroom and have been active previously in campaigns against the emergency manager law.

“I don’t believe in [Mayor Hightower’s] philosophy,” George Moon told Sepic when asked why he joined the petition campaign. He said he gave his petitions as well as those of two other circulators to Pinkney.

Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower at reception in Whirlpool HQ.
Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower at reception in Whirlpool HQ.

 

Asked if he changed dates on any of the petitions, Moon said, “No, that’s illegal.” On cross exam by Parish, Moon identified dates on the petitions that had been changed by the signers themselves to correct their own errors.

Mary Lynn Donald said she circulated petitions because “I am familiar with BANCO. I have circulated petitions before. You have to explain to each signer what the petition is about and read it to them each and every time.”

She said she gave her petitions to Pinkney, and also identified dates changed by the signers, including one changed from 2/2/14 t0 1/2/14 due to a mistake.

$85 million Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor on prime riverfront property.
$85 million Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor on prime riverfront property.

 

Bridget Gilmore said she got her petitions from George Moon and returned them to him without changing any dates. She said Moon showed her errors on dates she placed at the bottom by her signature, and she corrected them, placing her initials by each correction. She said some signers changed their own dates after realizing they also had made mistakes.

“It was cold back then,” Gilmore said. “Sometimes your pen would freeze up on you and you had to change to another pen.”

Witness says pen froze up.
Witness says pen froze up.

 

Elza Williams said she heard from a friend about the recall campaign and went to Rev. Pinkney to get petitions, then returned them to him at his house. She said she made a mistake on one petition that she signed at the bottom with the date 1/13/14, over which she placed the date 1/3/14. She obviously could not have signed the petition on 1/13/14 since Cornelius turned all the petitions in 1/8/14.

On Parish’s objection that his attorney should be present, petition sponsor James Cornelius did not testify. For once, Schrock admitted Parish had a “valid issue.”

CLOSING ARGUMENTS: ‘THIS CALLS FOR DISMISSAL OF THE CHARGES’

During closing arguments, Sepic said the copies of petitions admitted into evidence were “altered, forged,” according to Goff’s testimony, prompting the recall election.

“The probable cause that Edward Pinkney did this is circumstantial,” Sepic said. “Technically James Cornelius submitted the petitions, but Pinkney aided and abetted this unwitting unindicted co-conspirator. . . Evidence of his possession of the petitions within the time frame is also circumstantial.”

No evidenceParish said, “The Judge has a weighty responsibility to weed out cases where there is no evidence. . . .There is no probable cause to believe that any alterations were done by Rev. Pinkney. There is no confession, no testimony by a handwriting expert, no witness who saw him do it or heard him say he did it, and no evidence at all that Rev. Pinkney had exclusive access to the petitions. . . .In order to bind over, there has to be some evidence, not speculation and guesswork that he did it.”

He continued, “This is perhaps the one case I’ve seen in several decades where it is very clear that the court ought to find no probable cause, no evidence that he committed the act. This calls for dismissal of the charges.”

SHROCK TO RULE JUNE 5 ON BIND-OVER, CITING ‘PROBABLE CAUSE’

Judge Schrock said he was reviewing the definition of probable cause as indicated by the Michigan Supreme Court in a 2003 case, People v. Yost, and would rule on Thurs. June 5 whether Pinkney should be bound over.

Donna Yost appeared before Bay County Circuit Judge William J. Caprathe in a bond hearing, asking that she be released from prison while she awaits her new trial now that her conviction for the murder of her daughter, Monique, has been overturned.  Yost begs to be released so she can attend the wedding of one of her daughters. Date taken: Monday 4-21-2008 Cathy Layman/Bay City Times
Donna Yost appeared before Bay County Circuit Judge William J. Caprathe in a bond hearing, asking that she be released from prison while she awaits her new trial now that her conviction for the murder of her daughter, Monique, has been overturned. Yost begs to be released so she can attend the wedding of one of her daughters.
Date taken: Monday 4-21-2008 Cathy Layman/Bay City Times

 

In People v. Yost, the MSC held that a magistrate had erred in refusing to bind over Donna Alice Yost for the murder of her seven-year-old daughter, who died from an overdose of Imapramine, a drug which was prescribed for her. Yost contended that her daughter had committed suicide.

“There were proofs in this case that would cause a cautious individual to have probable cause to believe that the prosecution had circumstantially established that defendant had committed murder,” the MSC said in part of its ruling.

“This is not to say that at trial a fact-finder could not be convinced that the child self-administered the pills, but that the prosecution has no duty at the preliminary examination to negate that theory to get defendant bound over for trial.   It is enough that a reasonable person could believe that a crime by poisoning was shown and that defendant had motive and opportunity, as well as arguably incriminating actions and explanations.” (See ruling at People V Yost.)

Yost’s subsequent conviction was later overturned by the Court of Appeals.

“The decision was unanimous, with appellate justices E. Thomas Fitzgerald, Jane E. Markey and Michael R. Smolenski ruling that Bay County Judge William J. Caprathe ‘abused his discretion’ and violated Yost’s rights by allowing certain evidence and barring other evidence from trial,” reported the Bay City Times. (Click on Donna Yosts murder conviction overturned for full article, and on Donna Yost Appeals Court decision for full decision.)

However, the Michigan Supreme Court later refused to hear the case and kept Yost in prison.

Whether the MSC decision constitutes an unchallenged definition of “probable cause” is certainly at issue. Schrock’s citation of this case does not bode well.

Whether “probable cause” should be found in Rev. Edward Pinkney’s case, not involving a murder charge but instead the legitimate use of Michigan’s election laws, is another question.

Muhammad boxWas there “probable cause” for the Sheriff’s Department to attack Rev. Pinkney’s home with a massive SWAT team April 25 in their efforts to arrest him? Was there “probable cause” for dozens of Benton Harbor citizens to be subjected to mass interrogation techniques for months through April, reminiscent of Hitler’s Gestapo?

Was there “probable cause” to place Rev. Pinkney under house arrest after he had already posted bond, then forbid him from using his computer to communicate with the outside world?

Is there “probable cause” instead to indict Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and proponents of PA 4 and 436 for violations of the state and U.S. Constitutions through the imposition of emergency “dictators” on Michigan’s predominantly African-American municipalities and school districts?

Is there “probable cause” to indict Whirlpool for stealing the livelihoods of Benton Harbor citizens, and then their land, while refusing to pay any taxes whatsoever to the city that made them the world’s largest appliance corporation?

That is up to the people of Michigan and the U.S. to decide, and they must decide soon, for Benton Harbor and Detroit in bankruptcy under EM’s are coming to THEIR cities next.

Previous articles:

http://www.wndu.com/news/headlines/Actor-Danny-Glover-stops-in-Benton-Harbor-for-Justice-Fund-Dinner–226625521.html

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/08/16/rev-pinkney-fights-latest-attempt-to-topple-him-from-bh-naacp-post/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2013/05/28/whirlpool-and-em-move-to-take-control-of-benton-harbor-parks/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/05/31/benton-harbor-body-of-timothy-bulldog-allen-found-in-lake-last-seen-in-police-custody/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/05/31/benton-harbor-a-poem/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/05/31/benton-harbor-a-poem/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/05/22/occupy-the-pga-in-benton-harbor-may-23-27-2012-ems-must-go/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/04/16/pastor-fights-state-naacp-takeover-of-benton-harbor-chapter-says-whirlpool-engineered-grab/

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http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/07/01/benton-harbor-emergency-manager-wants-you-off-the-lawn-and-the-beach/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/06/25/hundreds-rally-in-benton-harbor-on-8th-anniversary-of-uprising-against-police-murder-of-terrance-%e2%80%9ct-shirt%e2%80%9d-shurn/

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http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/04/22/benton-harbor-takeover-sparks-furious-reaction-em-is-joe-harris-former-detroit-auditor-general/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2010/09/12/benton-harbor-protests-whirlpool-golf-course-opening/


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