Michigan AG closes complaint against Charlevoix County Prosecutor

By Benjamin J. Gohs

News Editor

campaign finance affidavit languageThe Michigan Attorney General’s Office has chosen not to take action on the apparent late filing of Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof’s post-election Campaign Finance Compliance Affidavit.

Boyne City resident Roger Conaway had originally filed his complaint concerning the affidavit in February; Telgenhof’s affidavit was filed on Oct. 29, nearly 10 months late.

“This form must be filed by any candidate subject to Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act who is elected to a state, county, city, township, village or school office,” it states on the affidavit. “The form must be filed before the candidate assumes office.”

There is an exception for candidates whose committees to elect received or expended less than $1,000 during the election cycle.

“An elected candidate subject to the Campaign Finance Compliance Affidavit filing requirement who fails to submit this form prior to assuming office is guilty of a misdemeanor,” the affidavit language states.

Michigan Attorney General Office Criminal Division Chief Richard L. Cunningham responded to Conaway’s complaint in an Oct. 30 letter obtained by the Boyne City Gazette directly from the Attorney General’s office.

“This letter is written in response to your correspondence requesting the criminal prosecution of Charlevoix County Prosecutor Allen Telgenhof,” Cunningham stated. “I have reviewed the materials you submitted in support of your request. However, I am simply not persuaded that this is a matter warranting action by this office.”
He added, “Within the scope of prosecutorial discretion, I am closing our file without further action.”

Conaway declined to comment on the matter.

Telgenhof told the Boyne City Gazette that he had been notified of the complaint by the attorney general’s office.

“I am apparently the third prosecutor to be reported by political enemies,” Telgenhof stated in an e-mailed response to questions. “(Others) were also accused of various things which were rejected by the AG’s office.”

According to Telgenhof, an official from the attorney general’s office informed him that the onus for this matter was on the county clerk to ensure all elected officials had signed the affidavits prior to taking office.
“I was not aware of the form’s existence until I received the phone call, and I immediately filed it,” Telgenhof stated. “When I checked with the county clerk, she said that she was not aware of the form’s existence either, and that no other current elected official has filed one.”

Charlevoix County Clerk Cherie Browe told the Boyne City Gazette that no other candidate had needed to file the affidavit in the 2012 election cycle because they did not raise or spend the required minimum amount of money.

According to Michigan Campaign Finance Disclosure Requirements, an elected candidate who is required to file the affidavit and fails is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $500 and/or up to 90 days in jail.

“I’m sure you are already aware, but the purpose of this affidavit is to certify that my campaign finance reports were all filed and were accurate,” Telgenhof stated. “The rationale is that many candidates have a treasurer who signs their report and, in those cases, I suppose if there were a problem the candidate could claim they didn’t know about it. The affidavit makes it clear.”
He added, “In my case, I didn’t have a treasurer and, therefore, I already signed and certified every one of my filings.”

Bay Township resident Bob Taylor, who has been working with Conaway on the complaint, said he plans to bring the matter to the attention of the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners at its 9:30 a.m. regular Wednesday Nov. 13 meeting.

“I want to see the county board of commissioners get off their butt and go take a look at this,” Taylor said.