By Brandon Hall
(Email Him At WestMIPolitics@Gmail.com)
Attorney General Bill Schuette is guilty of misconduct in office and should be investigated by a grand jury for using state employees to help with secret luxury real estate deals, a prominent Lansing lawyer claims.
Mike Nichols represented Cindy Gamrat in court against Schuette and successfully had the AG's charges tossed.
Now he's requesting a formal investigation into Schuette for illegally using state resources.to help with his secret luxury real estate deals. Nichols says, "Schuette's admissions call for him to face misconduct in office charges just as Gamrat did."
Schuette kept the real estate empire hidden from the public for nearly 20 years, despite claiming all of his assets were placed in a blind trust.
When asked about the holdings by Lt. Governor Brian Calley and Detroit News reporter Jonathan Oosting earlier this year, Schuette completely denied knowing about them, but later admitted that was a lie.
Nichols has formally asked the Ingham County Prosecutor's office convene a grand jury to decide if Schuette should face charges, and he has also requested that the Ingham County Sheriff's Department, Lansing Police Department, and Michigan State Police investigate Schuette.
Nichols says he's now watching his back, scared of retaliation from Schuette and his political machine.
|Nichols, right, with Gamrat|
"A Lansing attorney alleges Attorney General Bill SCHUETTE "has violated many state laws" and he's sent a letter to the Ingham County prosecutor seeking an investigation or grand jury.
Scott HUGHES, a spokesman for Ingham County Prosecutor Carol A. SIEMON, confirmed receipt of attorney Michael NICHOLS' request, but he said she has not reviewed it as of today.
"This is nothing but another baseless political attack against Attorney General Schuette's strong ethical record," Schuette spokeswoman Andrea BITELY said when contacted for comment.
Nichols believes if the prosecutor's office "really takes a look" at his letter and considers the standards Schuette set when deciding to charge other public officials -- such as former House Reps. Cindy GAMRAT and Todd COURSER as well as Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Environmental Quality employees -- that "one can certainly make an argument" to pursue at least an investigation against Schuette.
"I'm tired of the hypocrisy and the pot calling the kettle black," he said.
Nichols, who represented Gamrat in 2015 when the House voted to expel her after her affair with Courser became public, said that experience showed him first-hand the "selective standard" Schuette sets for public officials. (See "Judge Originally Unconvinced On Courser, Gamrat Charges," 3/8/16; "Courser, Gamrat Hit With Felony Charges By AG," 2/26/16; and "Courser, Gamrat Bite Back On Criminal Charges," 2/29/16.)
Nichols argues "the truth" of Schuette's behavior will "never be known" without the appropriate investigation.
Citing articles in the Detroit Free Press, Crain's and Detroit News, Nichols says Schuette used his office for personal gain, including using staffers to notarize documents for land sales on his family-owned property on the island of St. John while he publicly denied existence of the transactions. He said the A.G., however, admitted the allegations when it became public.
Nichols' letter also mentions a Court of Claims lawsuit that alleges Schuette used his office and its resources for "his self-serving political agenda," and that the A.G. admits "hiring political operatives despite" rules prohibiting hiring or firing employees based on partisan consideration.
At minimum, Nichols says, Schuette's admissions call for him to face misconduct in office charges just as Gamrat did.
He sent a copy of his letter to the Michigan State Police as well as the Lansing Police and Ingham County Sheriff's departments because they have jurisdiction to investigate.
"Now that I've spoken out publicly, I'll be looking over my shoulder, but hopefully that won't be an issue," Nichols said. "I think a lot of lawyers are very, very scared and a lot of public officials are scared. Look at what he's doing in Gamrat and in Flint prosecutions."
Gamrat was charged with felonies after giving a statement in the House, and Nichols said the last thing he expected was criminal charges as a result. Those charges have been since dismissed. (See "What Did Gamrat Say After The Press Conference," 8/14/15; "In Wake Of Sex Scandal, Gamrat Apologizes, Isn't Resigning For Now," 8/14/15; "Gamrat Expelled After Courser Chooses Resignation," 9/10/15 and "Courser To Stand Trial On Two Counts," 6/14/16.)
In Flint, the Attorney General's office charged 15 state and local officials with crimes in connection with the city's water crisis.
In April 2014 a state-appointed emergency manager authorized switching the city's drinking water source to Flint River, which wasn't properly treated, allowing lead to leach and arguably contributing to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak.
Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.