By Benjamin Gohs, Editor
When Walloon Lake resident Lena T. Carlile learned of a settlement between her water provider and the Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, she had hopes of getting back some of the $10,370.40 she claims she is owed.
However, in the wake of the case—which at one point threatened the Walloon Lake Water System owner with charges of extortion and racketeering—Carlile was given a check for $362.80.
“Dropping charges, not negotiating enough for the restitution…. We just feel like we were let down, and then to get a check for $362,” said Carlile. “I mean, I’m (owed) $10,000. We’ve got someone else down the way that was (owed) $4,000 … but we got checks the night that Telgenhof passed out this agreement; he also passed out this form (restitution claim form) for everybody to submit to get reimbursed but yet he’d already negotiated $7,500. He had no idea what was going to come in.”
She added, “So, our question is … what formula did he use to come up with this?”
According to Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof, the $7,500 figure was arrived at during negotiations between himself and the attorney representing Walloon Lake Water System owner Dennis Hass.
“If we had gone to trial and Mr. Hass had been convicted on all charges, we had five named victims who would’ve been entitled to restitution,” Telgenhof stated in e-mailed responses to questions asked by the Boyne City Gazette. “Based upon the victim impact statements those victims had provided to our office, I believe the maximum restitution Mr. Hass would’ve been ordered to pay would have been less than $5,000.”
He added, “Through negotiation, he agreed to pay a higher amount which allowed us to compensate people who were not technically considered victims.”
Walloon Junction Inn owners Al and Judy Reeves received $318 in restitution resulting from the settlement but say they were due thousands.
“He didn’t do his job,” Judy said. “At that meeting he said if he’d gone to court and a jury trial, if one juror said ‘Not-Guilty’ he said we wouldn’t have gotten anything, so he said it was better to go ahead and settle.”
Judy said she would have preferred the issue went to a jury trial to decide any punishments and restitution.
Al agreed that the case should have gone to trial.
“Win or lose—if we lost, we ain’t got no more now than we had before,” Al said. “At the meeting over there he (Telgenhof) says if he (Hass) does anything wrong he can put a charge on him up to $5,000, so the first time he screws around it’ll be $50.”
One of the numerous claims of damages against Hass—who has since had all charges against him dropped—was that he forced all water system customers to pay to have new water meters installed at their cost.
“I always thought that, in the end, every person that’s on the water system should have been reimbursed for their meters. I never thought that was fair,” said Judy. “If you want to upgrade your system, that’s up to you.”
She added, “And, we had to buy it from him.”
But, according to Telgenhof, the monetary damages aspect of the case are a civil, and not a criminal matter.
“In reviewing the claim forms that were submitted, the largest claims relate to disputes between customers and Mr. Hass related to water leaks and who is responsible for fixing them. For example, one homeowner submitted a claim asking for reimbursement of over $8,500 related to leaks,” Telgenhof stated. “While Mr. Hass may have been 100 percent incorrect on his position, it is not a criminal matter and would not have been decided at trial nor would restitution been ordered related to water leaks.”
Carlile said she felt that Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof was only interested in dropping the charges against the Walloon Lake Water System owner so he would not have to prosecute the case.
“We had heard he (Telgenhof) didn’t have any trial experience,” Carlile said…. “He did not represent us. He was not working on our behalf.”
However, according to Telgenhof, he has heard from a number of victims who are grateful for how this case was resolved and satisfied with its outcome.
“Everyone who submitted a claim form received payment,” Telgenhof stated. “Eight people received at least 50 percent of the amount they requested.”
He added, “The settlement amounts ranged from $180 to $750.80.”
Those people unhappy with the result of this case can still take action, Telgenhof said.
“As part of the resolution, if Mr. Hass engages in future activity that violates our agreement … the court can order a fine of $5,000 per violation,” he stated. “For past practices, property owners have not waived any civil claims and are free to bring those claims.”
Telgenhof added, “They should consult a civil attorney if they wish to do so.”