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Posted on Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

County won't return surveillance video to Ypsilanti Township following sheriff's department internal investigation of theft

By Lee Higgins

Washtenaw County officials won't return a surveillance video to Ypsilanti Township that the township provided the sheriff's department as the department investigated whether a sheriff's employee stole $20 from a court employee's car.

Township Attorney Doug Winters asked Undersheriff Mark Ptaszek to return the video after sheriff’s investigators completed an internal investigation and said they found conclusive evidence clearing a sheriff’s employee in the March 8 theft.


In an Oct. 19 letter to Ptaszek, Winters wrote that he needed the video in order to comply with a Sept. 26 Freedom of Information Act request from The video also was subpoenaed by Attorney Nanette Cortese, who represents former Deputy Eric Kuhn in a federal whistleblower lawsuit against the county.

Court filings in that case say the video shows what is believed to be a high-ranking sheriff's employee near the victim's car, which was parked at the township's civic center. The county acknowledged in court filings that there was an officer near the victim's car, but said the officer never entered the car.

Winters wrote that the only known copy of the video was turned over March 11 to sheriff's special investigator Brian Miller. The township's video was automatically recorded over after 30 days, he wrote.

The county's risk management coordinator, Judy Kramer, responded to Winters Oct. 27, saying the the video is exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act. One exemption cited was that it was part of a sheriff's official's personnel file.

Winters told that he never filed a FOIA request and simply wants the township's property back. If the sheriff's department wants to make a copy of the video and keep it for its records, he said he doesn't object.

"All that we're trying to do is get back a copy of the surveillance video that was downloaded from our surveillance security system," he said. "I don't see any detriment as to how it would hurt them to turn it over."

In a Nov. 3 letter to Kramer, Winters wrote that the county had no basis for withholding the video and its disclosure would in no way interfere with law enforcement proceedings.

"This refusal is both unfortunate and unnecessary and certainly does nothing to enhance the much needed cooperation between all levels of government in Washtenaw County," he wrote.

Winters wrote that he was informing the township's board of trustees of the county's decision and will await further direction from the board.

County Attorney Curtis Hedger did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday. Undersheriff Ptaszek also did not return a phone call. has been seeking the video since Aug. 24, when it filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the county, seeking all records of the larceny investigation, including the video. The county denied the request, saying the records, including the video, are exempt from public release under state law because they are all part of an internal investigation.

The case centers around a Deputy 14B District Court clerk who reported to the court administrator that she believed money was taken from her car. After township officials reviewed surveillance video, they contacted Sheriff Jerry Clayton.

The sheriff's department never created a police report, but instead launched an internal investigation. At one point, the department asked for assistance from the Michigan Sheriff's Association MISSION board, which provided two lieutenants from other law enforcement agencies to help.

Regardless of whether the county returns the video to the township, it could come out in federal court during proceedings in former Deputy Eric Kuhn's whistleblower lawsuit against the county. A federal magistrate judge recently held a hearing on a motion to reopen discovery filed by Cortese, and has not yet ruled on it. Cortese is seeking the video and wants to take depositions from top sheriff's officials about the handling of the larceny investigation.

Kuhn's suit, filed in March 2010, alleges he was retaliated against, and ultimately fired, for complaining about an improper internal investigation against him. It claims a white lieutenant disregarded orders and persisted with an internal investigation into a false rape claim against Kuhn, in whole, or in part, because Kuhn is black.

Cortese argues that the records in the theft case are relevant to Kuhn's case because the county's position has been that the department investigated Kuhn because it was required to follow policy.

The motion says it isn't possible to determine whether the county followed procedures in investigating a white officer in the theft case because the county "refuses to provide the records."





Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and email at



Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 3:33 a.m.

Lesson to be learned... Never give up your only tape!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:57 a.m.

Does this mean that there is no back up copy?


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:40 p.m.

Releasing the tape will prove there is not cover up nor that a "high ranking official" took the money that is "allegedly" missing from the "alleged" victim. I heard from informed sources that the security camera was mounted on the grassy knoll overlooking the parking lot.

Mr. Ed

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.

One thing for sure is this is going to get ugly. The right thing to do is to release the video.

roll tide

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

The cover up is always worse than the crime!

roll tide

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

"No police report completed!" "Refusal to return Ypsilanti twp. property!" "No official statement  to address potential misconduct of high-ranking officer!" It is important to remember this kind of transparency during the next election!


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 6:42 p.m.

I am glad that this story didn't just "die". This situation is truly a cover up by the Sheriff's Department. Why the Washtenaw County Prosecutor does not take action is a big question. Brian Mackie is Washtenaw County's top cop, and has the responsibility to (1.) conduct his own investigation to determine if a crime was committed here, and (2.) to prosecute it if he finds there was a crime. Come on Mr. Mackie do your job, and let the chips fall where they may. Another part of this story is the victim of this larceny. Normally a victim has a right to press charges in a criminal matter. That does not seem to be an option in this case. Has the victim been reimbursed the $20.00? This whole incident is a question of right and wrong, legal and illegal. Does the law only apply to some and not others? This is an issue that will undermine our trust in the Sheriff's Department from this point forward. Someone needs to take some action to clear the air here, one way or the other.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

Who is suppose to reimburse the victim?

Chris 8 - YPSI PRIDE

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 5:40 p.m.

If at some time in the future this tape is ordered to be released ( I believe in all probability it will ) then it is actually found to be missing, the Sheriff himself should resign right on the spot. Internal my behind, this department is funded by taxpayers who are demanding the truth. One dirty deputy on the force is one to many, high ranking or not.

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

**if** our township officials were smart, wcsd wouldn't have gotten the **only*** copy of the surveillance video. i would've provided a COPY myself...


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

Thanks for the follow up. It reminded me of something I was wondering if there was ever a follow up (or I just missed it) of the off duty officer who crashed his county owned vehicle on Dexter-Pinkey and then while being given a ride home by another deputy, said something to the effect of "you know what happened" and then asked if the camera was on? (some of these facts maybe wrong, I am trying to recall from memory.)

Ron Granger

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

And where was that sheriff going in a county owned vehicle at 3:56 AM? "According to a report on the crash completed by Sumner, Scafasci was traveling south on Dexter Townhall Road in a 2006 Ford Explorer at 3:56 a.m. while it was snowing, windy and the road was icy. Scafasci was driving in a sharp curve, the report says, when he lost control of the Explorer near Colby Road because of slick conditions. It went off the right side of the road, hit a guardrail, slid down a steep embankment and overturned. The vehicle came to rest on four wheels. It had a cracked windshield and at least one of its airbags deployed, records show."

Ron Granger

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

This is the one. What did happen? A Washtenaw County sheriff's detective appears to have violated department policy when he did not notify a supervisor shortly after he crashed an unmarked sheriff's vehicle while off duty in December in Dexter Township, newly released records show. <a href=""></a>


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

Who, and how can we &quot;police&quot; the police when laws of confidentiality protect them and they enforce the law? Why should an &quot;internal&quot; investigation be confidential to begin with? An investigation for a civilian isn't confidential. I would think it more important to have these authorities subject to public scrutiny than civilians. We need to change the laws. Drug testing might be a good idea too for all law enforcement and court officials.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

Blatant examples here of incompetent government. First the WCSD cannot with hold a recording belonging to Ypsilanti Township that was turned over for an investigation as part of a personnel file. Just because you stick something that belongs to someone else in a file does not mean it belongs there. Second, why on earth did Ypsi Township not properly preserve the original? &quot;The township's video was automatically recorded over after 30 days, he wrote.&quot; Finding out about that must have made Mr. Winters cringe. The original was the &quot;best evidence&quot; under the rules of evidence and all efforts to preserve it should have been taken. It is time for a new sheriff. Also I think it is far time that Michigan reverse the practice of electing sheriffs. A head of a department should be hired by the municipal government s/he works for, not by popular vote. Sheriffs are the only police chiefs elected and that is due to a practice that comes from old English law. Then this matter would be under the control of the county board of commissioners.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

That's what I was thinking, though the language in the story, &quot;The township's video was automatically recorded over after 30 days, he wrote,&quot; sounds more like the old style tape system where the tape is used again after 30 days. On computer you have to delete a file before that space is recorded over and sometimes that data is still recoverable - up until the time a computer records on that place in its storage area.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

The video had to be downloaded from the surveillance system in order to put it on the flash drive, so it must have been on somebody's computer, probably Jeff Allen's computer. Why did he erase it in the first place?


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

I thought this was all ( Hog Wash) in the beginning and still do!


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

If the worst thing about Washtenaw County law enforcement was petty parking lot theft the citizenry would be dancing in the street, or ululating to the sky (depending on their diversity). It ain't. They aren't.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 3:44 p.m.

However, if the worst thing in Washtenaw County law enforcement is a dirty cop being protected by the department's administration, no one is partying. Because that affects every citizen of this county and we should be afraid. Very afraid.

David Cahill

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

I'm surprised at the Sheriff Department's refusal to return the video. The county may, but need not, claim exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act. That is, the Sheriff Department can return the video if it wants to. Sheriff Clayton should take personal charge of this matter. He has been open in the past. Hopefully he will see that the township gets the video back.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 5:48 p.m.

Of course Sheriff Clayton knows about the controversy. He was at the Washtenaw Board of Commissioners meeting last week when an appeal of the denied FOIA was presented.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

So you don't think he knows about this? If not, that raises a big question does it not? I do not see how the county can claim someone else's property can be held under FOIA. FOIA generally protects an agency's own property. Maybe it is theirs. Maybe they made the copy with their own tape and thus Ypsi Township has egg on its face because they recorded over the original. That could support the WCSD position, but why not give Ypsi Twp a copy of the copy?

roll tide

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves who this &quot;high-ranking&quot; sheriff's officer that was investigated and why sheriff jerry clayton is so concerned about releasing the video. In lee higgins first article back in October he attached a court motion from eric kuhn's attorney. In this motion the attorney requested depositions from mark ptaszek, brian miller and dieter heren. According to these articles we can see the involvement of mark ptaszek and brian miller. But what is DIETER HEREN&quot;S involvement? According to the Sheriff's website deter heren is the commander of police services. One would think a commander is a "high-ranking" officer. Once again, maybe we should be asking "WHO" is in the video and maybe we will have a better understanding of why jerry clayton is being so protective!


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.



Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Who can I send a $20 money order to in order to end this political debacle and absolute waste of taxpayer's money in unequivocal acts of non-productivity? Enough already...GET BACK TO WORK!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:23 p.m.

Now that is the best, most statesman-like suggestion I've heard in a while. Very good. I'm for a few bucks.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

I suppose I see everyone's point of beating this dead dog...I mean after all if we as citizens don't have to protect our own property...we sure as hell don't need a crime synciate running the department...right? $20 will get you 2 burgers on Main drinks tho.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 5:58 p.m. And I was referring to the poor victim that lost her lunch money...not any cops!


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

yeah pretty much...most government workers and officials are like children and puppies...motivated by reward. Everyone is so sure that a high official in the sheriff's department stole some woman's $20 from her unlocked car...and that's probably what did happen because there are no honest law enforcement personnel and no criminal residents in the area...gimme a break...who is gonna cover up this whole fiasco? This is nothing more than a military term and we all know what that is.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

Your comment is nothing short of bribery. I saw this needs to play out and the offical fired. Cant have theives running the sheriff department.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

ok, Mr Crime Boss.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

*News Flash* Washtenaw County solves its budgetary shortfalls with open lottery to name its crime from office.

Mr. Ed

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

Wow, the sheriff's office always released videos of prior incidents involving deputies. I recall seeing a video of a alleged drunk detective on Ann I recall see a video from west willow involving several deputies in a murder. I recall seeing a video of two deputies refusing to help people in west willow during a shooting. I wonder why the video involving a high ranking sheriff's official is different. Release the video and let the public know the truth.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

If there is nothing to hide then release the video...

Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

Maybe they could get the state police to investigate this. The sheriff's dept seems to have a conflict of interest. I don't see how the Sheriff's department would have initiated a formal internal investigation if there wasn't something on the tape that was a problem. Merely standing near the car would not have been sufficient. The appearance of impropriety here should also be investigated. The decisions in this case by the Sheriff's department have brought them into disrepute. There seems to be no accountability. The Supreme Court of Washington State recently ruled that internal police investigations were not secret. The public right to know outweighs the police desire for secrecy. That was in response to countless cases where evidence and wrong-doing were hidden.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

Does the Supreme Court of Washington State have jurisdication over Michigan?


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.

Interesting point Ron. It should not take a court ruling however. There is nothing in Michigan's FOIA law that would restrict release of an internal investigation. See: <a href=",4534,7-164-17337_18160-51242--,00.html" rel='nofollow'>,4534,7-164-17337_18160-51242--,00.html</a>


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

Sounds like a &quot;Watergate&quot; here! I wonder which political rules in Washtenaw County? Might be something to think about when you Vote tomorrow if you want &quot;Hope &amp; Change&quot; and end problems like this!

Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

Thank you for following up on this!

Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Remember, this is what happens when you cooperate with law enforcement that does not value justice, transparency, or truth. NEVER give them the only copy.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

Let me get this straight. &quot;Ypsilanti officials&quot; reviewed the tape, they then called the sheriff, who then obtained assistance from two &quot;lieutenants from other law enforcement agencies&quot; to help with an &quot;internal investigation&quot; that reviewed video surveillance of NOTHING AT ALL HAPPENING? Really? This story just doesn't add up.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

Actually, asking for outside help in these instance is common practice...the idea being to eliminate the possibility of a cover up. It is actually more for verification and validation than assistance.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

If the sheriffs office to to maintain public trust they better release this tape. Every minute that goes by that they dont release this video, the less I trust them. So who is the high ranking theif, er I mean offical?


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

For crying out loud. Caught in the act! Redundancy police has found you. &quot;high ranking thief&quot; .....&quot;official&quot; You are busted!


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 12:04 p.m.

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners received an appeal of a denial of a request for this video. They have denied the appeal through the county administrator. Please contact your county commissioner and tell them to release the video.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

The affidavit from Undersheriff Mark Ptaszek in resonse to another FOIA request for the video says in part; &quot;I recognize that under the Freedom of Information Act, a public entity has a duty to separate exempt material from non-exempt material and provide the non-exempt material. In compliance with that duty in this matter, non-exempt documents include those documents in possession of the Sheriff's Office that were public records prior to the internal investigation. In particular to this matter the only material in possession of the Sheriff's Office is material that was created as part of the internal investigation. This is a certification that this particular investigation contains no material that was a public record prior to the internal investigation and for this reason, there are no public records that are subject to disclosure in this instance.&quot; This is patently untrue. Undersheriff Ptaszek seems to think that a video was created when an excerpt was made rather than when the video was recorded. That would be like saying that a photocopy of a document was a new creation of the original document. The court clerk never made a complaint against a sheriff's officer. If an internal investigation was initiated against the officer it was done based on whatever was seen on this video. The public has a right to see what started this investigation.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 11:19 a.m.

Two words: Cover up.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:37 p.m.

COme on Cash. Cover up municipal mischief is big bu$$ineSS. Notice the halo anytime now.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

I'll add 3 more.....theft of property. as in the Sheriff Department stealing the townships video. If ask to borrow Cashes lawnmower then refuse to give it back I stole it.