Eric Smith, who displays a gold badge with his name at the Macomb County Prosecutor's website, now can expect visitors with badges from another agency to flip through and remove records at his fifth-floor office in Mount Clemens.
"Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has asked the Michigan State Police to investigate the handling of asset forfeiture funds" by Smith, reports Oralandar Brand-Williams of The Detroit News.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in question were seized from narcotics violators, fraudulent check writers and others convicted of crimes. State law lets police and prosecutors seize cash and property from those arrested on drug offenses, and vehicles from repeat drunken driving offenders or prostitution customers.
Critics say the suburban prosecutor misuses the funds to boost his reputation by giving large checks to community groups -- moves aimed at keeping Smith in the elective office every four years. The Democrat first won his seat in 2004.
Williams tells what's behind the inquiry, which Smith says he is "ready to assist:"
County Executive Mark Hackel last month asked Nessel's office to investigate the funds and "provided backup information and records," said attorney general spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney. "We have forwarded that information to the Michigan State Police, have asked them to conduct the actual investigation."
Questions over spending from the funds, which total hundreds of thousands of dollars, were raised earlier this year after Jared Maynard, the former chairman of the Macomb County Republican Party, sued to obtain bank records for accounts set up by . . . Smith. . . .
Hackel held a news conference in February questioning a $600 expenditure from the fund that paid for an August 2017 golf outing for a charity that helps child victims of sexual and physical abuse and their families. Bob Smith, the prosecutor's brother and chairman of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners, attended the event with funds from the forfeiture fund, according to Hackel.
Deadline Detroit columnist Chad Selweski in February quited an unnamed Macomb County commissioner as saying: "I will be shocked if [the prosecutor] survives this. I'm appalled at what I'm seeing."
Another commissioner, Leon Drolet, who has delved deep into the financial details, said he believes Smith has "made a mockery" of spending procedures that require disclosure to the public.
"There certainly appears to be violations of the law," said Drolet, a Macomb Township Republican. "A good portion of it . . . has the appearance of a slush fund. I question the public value of a lot of these expenditures."
Our earlier coverage: