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Clare PD under fire again

Former Assistant Prosecutor accuses officer of harassment

Once again the Clare Police Department is facing controversy with the accusations of harassment brought to light at the last Clare City Commission meeting August 1.

Clare Police Chief Dwayne Miedzianowski has been on Administrative Leave, first for what State Police Investigators and the Roscommon County Prosecutor ruled was an “unfounded” accusation that he “kidnapped” his daughter, a charge he was cleared of; and currently in on another paid leave while an investigation is conducted into allegations against him made relating to a current drug investigation by the CPD.

Near the end of the meeting Monday, Commissioner Tom Koch provided other commissioners with copies of a letter from former Assistant Prosecutor Sarah Belzer charging that Clare Police Officer Greg Rynearson repeatedly drove by her home and ran illegal “LEIN” [Law Enforcement Information Network] searches of her vehicle and the personal vehicle of State Police Trooper Del Putnam in incidents over a year ago.

“Clare City is not being up front with people,” she said in a Tuesday phone interview. She said recent news about the Administrative Leave given to Clare Police Chief Dwayne Miedzianowski prompted her to bring up the matter to the City now.

The complaint about the alleged misuse of LEIN was made April 2, 2010.

Following an extensive investigation by the CPD last year, the results were sent to Captain Charles E. Bush, Commander of the Criminal Records Division of the Michigan State Police whose finding was “no violation.”

In an email to Miedzianowski, he said, “I am satisfied there was no violation of LEIN policy.”

In her recent letter, Belzer wrote to Koch, “I was wondering if I might be able to meet with you at some point to discuss some very serious concerns I have about the Clare Police Department?”

She said she had informed Miedzianowski about the alleged harassment incidents last spring but no report was made.

In early March 2010 she said she met with Miedzianowski, Mt. Pleasant State Police Post Commander Chris Stolicker and Chief Assistant Clare County Prosecutor Brendan Curran about the matter, which she said was never really resolved.

Belzer said while she was still Assistant Prosecutor she was involved in an initial investigation of allegations that Rynearson had used the LEIN system to “run license plates of Putnam’s personal vehicle.

Later after her position at the Clare County Prosecutor’s office was terminated, she said Rynearson repeatedly “drove by her home.”

Belzer was an Assistant Prosecutor with Clare County at the time. She was fired from the position and has since filed a lawsuit against the County and Prosecutor for wrongful discharge. The suit is still ongoing.

In her correspondence with Commissioner Koch she wrote, “On May 8th, 2010, my neighbor observed Greg Rynearson drive by my house as a passenger in Tim Rynearson’s vehicle and point my house out to Tim. I immediately reported this to [Miedzianowski] who then took a statement from [the neighbor] … and I went to speak with him at his office where I was told he would talk with Greg. … From that time until I left the prosecutor’s office, CPD (including Midge) drove by my home extensively as even my neighbors commented.”

Tuesday evening, Clare City Manager Ken Hibl said Belzer had originally emailed Miedzianowski and requested additional surveillance of her home. According to information released on the matter by the City, Miedzianowski had received a request for additional surveillance of her home in Clare shortly after she moved to the Clare City residence in August of 2009. Clare officers were advised to watch for “suspicious vehicles” after Belzer reported that a vehicle was parked by her home several times.

In the document to Koch, Belzer wrote that at one point, after the Chief and CPD vehicles repeatedly went by her home last May 2, 2010, “I left and went to my family’s house in Roscommon County as I was so upset.” She continued, “After I left the [Prosecutor’s] office, Rynearson would drive by my house as much as 4 times a day that I personally observed.”

She questioned Miedzianowski about the incidents in emails on June 15 and 23, 2010.

In an email responding to Belzer June 23, Chief Miedzianowski told her he had personally driven by “to check on his rental [property].” He also wrote, “As we talked back when you first contacted me on this issue you were asked to file a police report with the State Police if you felt he [Rynearson] was committing a crime by harassing, stalking, or intimidating you for the criminal end. We referred you to the State Police for any type of criminal complaint to keep it neutral. My Sgt. did review the allegation for an internal review regarding his employment. Greg Rynearson said he had driven down your street with his brother Tim Rynearson while they were both off duty and he pointed out your house to his brother, Tim, because Tim had asked where you lived because he heard you lived on State Street or something.”

Belzer said she had not filed a complaint with the State Police about alleged harassment incidents. In her letter to Koch, she wrote, “I should have gone and filed a report, but honestly, I really didn’t feel any safer going to any of the police agencies as nothing happened with the other reports.”

In the letter to Koch she continued, “Anyhow, my point is not to rehash what happened-basically I just want to make you [Koch and the Commission] aware of the situation in the hopes that it can be prevented from happening to anyone else.”

The documents released by Clare City officials outlined the LEIN investigation including one where Rynearson ran Putnam’s plate twice during the same shift. Rynearson said it was run because it was parked in an isolated place in a downtown parking lot and it was run twice because of a communication problem with the network.

In her April complaint, Belzer said Putnam’s personal vehicle license was run through LEIN on February 28 by Mount Pleasant State Police Trooper Harmon and by Rynearson on February 17, 18 and 26, 2010. She said it was put through LEIN when the vehicle was parked both in downtown Clare areas and at her home.

Along with the CPD investigation regarding possible LEIN misuse, and the determination of no violation  by MSP Commander Bush, Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis requested Osceola County Assistant Prosecutor Jim Sims review the report. In an email to Ambrozaitis Sims denied prosecution saying “I believe justice to this individual will come from his supervisors and city council. I believe the repercussions will far outweigh what a criminal charge would bring.”

City Manager Ken Hibl said Wednesday, “It was determined by the State Police LEIN Administrator that there was no criminal action. The Osceola County Prosecutor made the same determination.”

Hibl said Belzer requested all of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act relating to the matter and they were released last week. He said she had also just requested a meeting with Clare City Mayor Pat Humphrey to discuss the matter.

Humphrey responded to her email, “…it is my understanding that the issue you previously raised in 2010 regarding the Clare Police Department was investigated and reviewed by the Michigan State Police LEIN Administrator at the time of the complaint. It was determined there were no LEIN violations by any member of the Clare Police Department. The Clare County Prosecutor requested independent legal review of the LEIN Administrator’s determination; a legal review affirmed these findings.”

He told her she could contact the Commission, City Manager, or any commissioner with questions or concerns.

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Surrey Tables Sheriff’s mileage request

A request which will cost the township up to $17,000 more a year was tabled at the Surrey Township meeting Tuesday evening.

Clare Undersheriff Rick Miller was at the meeting to explain the request for either $.555 per mile for road patrol in the township or a reimbursement of actual gas use and maintenance to the Clare County Sheriff’s Department vehicle used in the township and Farwell Village.

A similar request to the Farwell Village Council was also tabled, while a request Tuesday evening to Grant Township was approved.

According to Miller the CCSD budget is being hard hit by increasing costs of gas and maintenance and while some contracted service includes mileage and maintenance, Surrey Township’s contract does not.

He said the CCSD budget could be $30,000 to $40,000 in the red by the fiscal year end next month.

Miller suggested the township consider using a Fuelman card to pay for actual mileage and reimburse the county for maintenance of the Crown Victoria, which is used solely for the Village and Township. “That would cut down on the costs,” he said.

He estimated the cost for fuel at $10,000 a year or less and maintenance at $7,000 a year or less.

Another option, he told the board would be to consider buying a vehicle for sole use in the Township and Village. “A fully equipped vehicle would cost an estimated $36, 000,” he said.

“The County is facing up to a $900,000 deficit,” he told the board. “That could mean cutbacks on road patrol.”

Township Clerk Glenna Bradbury said the average bill for contracted patrol each month is $1,700.

The board tabled the matter pending a written estimate which will be submitted by Miller.

The board took a small break during the meeting to see a new proposed training program for the use of fire extinguishers.

With the recent acquisition of $10,000 in Fire Extinguisher Training Equipment from Bulex, the department will be able to provide township groups with free training to put out fires. Township officials and audience members participated in the demonstration.

In another matter, County Commissioner Lynn Grim reported on that board’s activities.

She urged the board to consider a free Waste Management dumpster for recycling which could be available for three days each month. “It’s part of the County’s contract with WMI,” she reported and the free recycling would be available to not only the township but anyone who wanted to use it. The only cost would be for supervision of the site during the recycling weekend.

She also reported that the County is looking at possible staff reductions for Michigan State University’s Extension Office in Clare County and reported that a group named “Take Back,” was developing activities for County youth to discourage drug and alcohol use and planning a talent contest.

In other business Tuesday evening, the board:

*Heard a zoning report from Administrator Rod Williams.

*Heard a Planning Commission report from Planning Chair Mahlon Parsons. The next meeting will be held October 19 at 7 p.m. he reported.

*Noted a change in the September meeting to the 20th because of the Village Election.

*Voted against becoming a Charter Township.

*Appointed Larry Schofield to the Cemetery Board.

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