By Benjamin J. Gohs, Editor
Charlevoix County Chief-Assistant Prosecutor Shaynee Fanara spoke to the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners during their Wednesday April 11, meeting about concerns she has with her boss Charlevoix County Prosecutor John Jarema.
Fanara levied a series of serious accusations including hostile work environment, retaliation and mental duress against Jarema.
“I’m coming to the board asking for help,” Fanara said.
She went on to explain that Jarema did not sign Fanara up for a federal student loan forgiveness program which could have decreased Fanara’s student loan debts by up to $10,000 per year.
“That would have been very important to me,” she said. “When I asked John why he did not sign me up he got mad and sent me home. I came back the next day to go to work and he told me to never question his authority again.”
Fanara added, “I merely wanted to know why, since every other elected prosecutor in the State of Michigan signed up their assistant prosecutors why he didn’t sign me up.”
Fanara said numerous employees have left the prosecutor’s office due to Jarema’s treatment of them.
“He did actually admit that he wasn’t a good manager and asked me to do it,” Fanara said.
The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners agreed to pay Fanara an extra $10,000 annually to take over the duties of office management.
“John took that away from me after only several months … and never told me that he was taking it away from me,” she said. “When I asked why I no longer got the management money since I was still managing he sent me home again.”
Fanara said she agreed to continue managing the office without the extra money, and that she was merely upset that she had not been told why the money was taken away.
“After that John retaliated against me by starting a false investigation on me saying I fraudulently filled out my time slips,” she said. “When I tried to talk to John about that, time slips, he yelled at me and sent me home stating that my work performance was slipping.”
Fanara said she spoke with court personnel who told her she was doing a fine job.
“I am currently carrying 80 percent of the criminal caseload as well as handling other obligations for the office,” she said.
Fanara said she believes Jarema lied to the court and the board of commissioners about who was to blame for the lost appeal in the Merriman murder case which could result in Charlevoix County paying tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees to Petoskey attorney Dan Hartman.
“John stated that the attorney general’s office dropped the ball and did not file an answer – that’s not true,” she said. “Our office kept receiving letters from the (Michigan) Court of Appeals stating that we still had not answered the attorney fee appeal. We received several notices from the attorney general that it was the prosecutor’s responsibility to answer that appeal.”
Fanara said she asked Jarema what to do and was allegedly told by Jarema, “We’re not going to answer the appeal. I want Hartman to get the money.”
Fanara said she called the attorney grievance hotline to determine how to handle Jarema’s supposed behavior.
“They said I was obligated to grieve him. I didn’t want to, but it’s not right to lie to a judge or the board,” Fanara said.
Fanara said due to her actions Jarema is allegedly retaliating against her.
“He’s telling people that I’m sleeping with the defense attorney in order for them to get better plea deals,” she said. “This is complete lie, it’s offensive and it’s way out of line. This is both offensive to my marriage, to my family as well as the integrity of my work.”
Fanara said Jarema is also claiming that she reduced bond when she shouldn’t have, but that she has witnesses who can corroborate her story.
Fanara said she is also receiving undue criticism for a mistake she made on a case which she later dismissed.
“I’m handling 80 percent of the criminal docket. There’s going to be some mistakes made,” she said. “That was an honest good faith mistake. I trusted the officer downstate – we’ve done that a lot. Once I found out that was not the case it was immediately dismissed.”
Fanara added, “John has stated that he’s a vindictive person. I know that he will never stop bullying or harassing me. He’s affected my health and family. I’ve been to a doctor for over a year for tension headaches that are because of his treatment towards me and the hostile work environment.”
Fanara said the county’s anti-bullying policy was drafted by Jarema’s office.
“I don’t understand why he’s the only person that can violate that policy,” she said. “Some of you have known about John’s harassment and bullying for years.”
According to Fanara, the Charlevoix County Human Resources Director said Fanara is Jarema’s “kicking dog.”
“I just can’t take it any longer,” she said. “I realize you feel there is nothing you can do because he is an elected official, but I’m still asking for help.”
Fanara added, “I’ve done everything you asked.”
Fanara said Jarema told her he will continue telling lies about her and may even charge her with a crime as retaliation.
“I absolutely love this job. I don’t want to leave,” she said.
During the meeting Jarema briefly responded to Fanara’s allegations.
“She said that she talked with the judges about her work but I think you need to talk with the officers about the daily work,” he said. “She said I sent her home – I did, because she accused me of harming her family.”
Jarema said human resources has been involved since September 2011 and Charlevoix County Board Chairman Joel Evans has been involved with trying to diffuse the matter since November 2011.
“It was a well-orchestrated thing today because the only time that the paper got up to record (with a video camera) was when Shaynee came up … so I think that’s pretty interesting,” Jarema said. “It was last Monday or the Monday before she made a demand to this board, a settlement demand.”
According to Jarema, he believes Fanara was using the meeting to put the board on notice so she could file a lawsuit against the county.
“These are serious allegations that warrant investigation,” said Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen
Charlevoix County Commissioner Richard Gillespie said he had approached Jarema in February after he claims to have been informed about “disharmony in the prosecutor’s office.”
“It seems to me it is his obligation as a department head to do everything he can to maintain harmony in his department,” Gillespie said. “Given these recent allegations it concerns me that every effort is being made.”
Charlevoix County Commissioner Shirlene Tripp said, “It hurts everybody. That’s the sad part. I’m sorry it’s gone on this long and I’d like to think nobody would have to live through that.”
Commissioners Joel Evans, Bob Drebenstedt and Ron Reinhardt did not return phone calls by press time.
Gillespie said the issue will likely be addressed in further detail by the Charlevoix County Personnel/Internal Government Committee meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday April 18, in the commissioners’ meeting room at the Charlevoix County building.
“This is just more proof to me that we need an administrator to oversee the departments,” Gillespie said.
Charlevoix County Personnel/Internal Government Committee meetings are open to the public.