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Posted on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Lawsuit seeks to force sheriff's office to turn over surveillance video from alleged March 2011 theft

By Kyle Feldscher

A retired Ann Arbor pathologist has filed a lawsuit against the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, claiming he was not given the full video of an alleged theft from a court employee’s car in 2011.

Filed in Washtenaw County Circuit Court on March 23, Doug Smith believes the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office denial of a Freedom of Information Act request for surveillance footage from March 8, 2011 at Ypsilanti Township hall was unlawful. According to the lawsuit, a court employee asked township officials to review the footage to see if they could see who stole $20 from the woman’s car.

According to court records, a 14-D District Court clerk had $20 put in the cup holder of her car by her husband on March 8, 2011 for lunch money. The next day, Mike Radzik, the Ypsilanti Township police services coordinator, received an email from a court employee stating the woman believed her car had been broken into and the money stolen. Radzik was asked if the security cameras could be used to see who got into the car.

On March 9, 2011, Radzik emailed Sheriff Jerry Clayton about a “potentially sensitive personnel situation.” Two days later, a copy of the video was turned over to the sheriff’s office special investigator.

The contents of the video caused the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office to start an internal investigation into the incident. A report from that investigation found that a sheriff’s employee, who was accused of the theft, was not responsible for the larceny.

Smith filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the video of the incident on Oct. 11, which was denied one week later. The lawsuit states the reason for the denial was the video was exempt, but Smith contends the sheriff’s office did not specifically mention a statute under which they were claiming exemption.

An appeal was filed on Oct. 19, and on Oct. 31 Smith received a letter claiming two statutes and an affidavit from Undersheriff Mark Ptaszek describing the value of releasing the tape versus withholding it, the lawsuit states.

Smith argues the video should not be exempt from FOIA requests because it existed before it was put into the accused employee’s personnel file or an internal investigation was ever opened.

“The defendant’s explanations are insufficient as a matter of law to justify nondisclosure of the video sought in the FOIA Request,” the lawsuit states.

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derrick Jackson did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. It’s been sheriff’s office policy in the past not to comment on internal investigations.

Smith is asking the court to declare the denial of the FOIA request, and the explanation for the denial, unlawful, according to the lawsuit. He’s also asking the court to force the release of the video, in addition to payment of legal fees and award $500 in punitive damages, the lawsuit states.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

does anyone remember jerry 's campaign slogan how he would bring TRANCPARANCY to the department.


Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 2:22 a.m.

I admit this all seems ridiculous to me. I say release the video if for no other reason to end this conversation. Clayton has shown me through actions that he's doing good work over there and I doubt he'd risk all that progress for a $20 cover up. Come on folks, get real.

Clay Bigsby

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Doug Smith says, in the video addressing the board of commissioners that he watched the video with two Sheriff Employees. How can the county deny Smith's freedom of information request for a video that the sheriff already showed him? If the video is so "TOP SECRET" why did the "SHERIFF" show Smith the video? If Smith saw the video, why can I see it? The county commissioners are actually going to waste money defending this lawsuit? Everyone taking part in this cover up at the taxpayer's expense should be FIRED!!!

roll tide

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 9:33 p.m. Here is a webcast of Mr. Smith speaking to the County Commissioners on April 4th 2012 at the BOC meeting. Mr. Smith asked the Commissioners to settle the case a provided details to support his lawsuit. (fast forward to 5:35/ citizen participation)


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

I hope that one day my life is so boring that I can champion such causes.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

This case is very important, because if a law enforcement person really did lift a $20 from a car, what else is he capable of in his position? I admittedly know nothing of the facts, but I do know logic and logic dictates that if the employee is innocent, there is no reason to block release of the tape.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Seems like a great waste of time over $20.

Ulysses Wong

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

Principles especially in those that we entrust to have them, are always priceless, sir.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

The second that video is released, it will go viral. Bring it on!!!!

Chase Ingersoll

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

If you look at the Voter Scores on these comments, almost all are significantly higher than you will see with most comments to an article. The conclusion if you look at the scores, is that there is a substantial consensus among the readers, that the video should be released and that something does not smell right. Nice to see such consensus on such a community forum. Chase Ingersoll


Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

Or it's the same 10 people voting on each. Yeah, that's probably more like it.

Clay Bigsby

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Ann Staff, In the past you have attached legal documents to your articles.  Is there a copy of the lawsuit?


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

More importantly, why isn't this's lawsuit? Too busy writing articles about lost puppies?

Ron Granger

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

Who watches the watchers? I am glad to hear this important lawsuit is going forward. Surveillance video can be difficult to interpret, and it can be very missleading. It may only show a frame every couple seconds. But the video still must be released.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

Release the video!

Jimmy McNulty

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

What is the relationship between Doug Smith and the victim whose car was robbed? Maybe I missed something.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Mr. Smith seems to be a concerned citizen, fulfilling the responsibilities of journalists since we only have hacks left in this town....


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

The investigation was not "internal" since it was conducted by Shiawassee Sheriff's Department officials and was described in a federal court as "an external criminal investigation" No police report was filed Undersheriff Mark Ptazsek said that the unequivical proof that the Sheriff's Commander did not take the money was that their forensic computer examiner told them that the camera was a motion capture camera and that it would have taken a picture if he had opened the victim's car door, however according to Ypsilanti township's Mike Radzic the camera is not a motion capture camera. Thus, the evidence they used to clear the Commander was untrue. That is reason enough to question whether they did a proper investigation. They admitted that they modified the version of the video that they showed me to "speed it up" and make it more "presentable". It was obvious from what they showed that it had been exentively edited. Why are they going to such lengths to hide this video?


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

Thank you for what you have done.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:19 p.m.

This makes it appear the sheriff is hiding a criminal act by one of his staff. Do the right thing and release the video.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

Think of the options one year ago: 1. Release the video and prove the employee paid by us, the taxpayers, is innocent. 2. Release the video and prove the employee paid by us, the taxpayers, in guilty. Prove the WCSD is open and honest in all cases. Think of the options now: 1. Win the case and keep the video secret, costing taxpayers money and making taxpayers suspicious of the entire sheriff's department. 2. Lose the case and show the video, and whether that one employee is guilty or innocent, make the taxpayers spend money and still have suspicions regarding the entire department. Prove the department would rather spend taxpayer money to hide facts then to be open and honest. No matter what happens with this case now Mr Clayton, you have lost credibility with this voter/taxpayer. Please prove me wrong, sir. Just release it.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

It would appear Sheriff Clayton's "transparent" dept. is not quite so transparent after all. Why refuse to release the tape and waste OUR tax dollars fighting it if there is nothing to hide? Do I smell a cover up?

Homeland Conspiracy

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

As "they" tell us over & over "If You Have Nothing To Hide, Than You Have Nothing To Fear" Release the video


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Not always the case.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

"Internal investigation". Why do those two words make me cringe? We are paying the wages of the County law enforcement agency. This video made in the parking lot should not be SECRET. If an employee, paid by us, is innocent, then we'd like to see that! If the video shows that he/she is NOT innocent, we'd like to see that as well. Law enforcement is NOT above the law. Mr Clayton , we voted for you on the premise you said the dept would become OPEN and TRANSPARENT. Now, you do the opposite. Please explain. Thanks to Mr Smith, who uses his time and energy to try to keep (or make) our public employees honest and above-board.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

why is a pathologist suing? what have i missed in this (as usual) poorly written story?


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

@trespass: i love that. we need more citizen interest. but why arent you named? and why isnt your position of interest explained?


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

I got interested in the question of civilian oversight of police, in part, after reviewing the autopsy of a man who died after being tasered mulitple times by Sheriff's deputies in 2010. I am retired and have taken an interest in studying some issues that I think may be of public interest.

roll tide

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 10:56 a.m.

Why is the County Commissioners waisting taxpayers money on this "Ridiculousness"? Just release the video!

Ray Flower

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

They are covering up something embarassing. Somebody was caught doing something bad and it would be worse if everyone found out. It's probably a friend of the police chief. To bad these little bits of corruption continue. I'm not mad at them, per se, just mad at there mothers for not loving them enough to raise them right.