Oakland County officials — Republicans and Democrats — said Tuesday they support Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s request for a one-person grand jury to investigate allegations of election fraud in the filings of candidates for the group calling itself Tea Party, which is seeking political party status on the November ballot.
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Patterson, a Republican, was joined at an afternoon news conference by Sheriff Mike Bouchard and Clerk Ruth Johnson, both Republicans, and by Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, a Democrat.
They want a grand jury investigation to look at candidate filings in three Oakland County political races under the umbrella of the group Tea Party, and they intend to file a petition with the Oakland County Circuit Court.
They say the signatures of the candidates don’t match the signatures on their voter registrations, and that they were notarized by former Oakland County Democratic Party employee Jason Bauer.
“It’s Democrat-sponsored candidates attempting to gain access to the ballot,” Patterson said. “Here in Oakland County, the effort is clumsily being undertaken by Jason Bauer.”
Bauer is 26 and lives in Waterford, Patterson said, and is roommates with former Oakland County Democratic Party Chairman Mike McGuinness, a candidate for county commission in Waterford.
Bauer resigned his position with the county Democratic Party Sunday; McGuinness stepped down from his Tuesday night.
Patterson said a one-person grand jury is an “extremely powerful investigative tool” that would be used to look at possible charges of obstruction of justice, uttering and publishing, malfeasance and election fraud.
But he acknowledged he hadn’t asked for a grand jury since he was a prosecutor in the 1970s and that the courts grant such petitions “sparingly.”
“A grand jury is not an automatic in this county,” Patterson said.
Bouchard, Johnson and Cooper all gave brief statements of support for the request, and Patterson gave extra recognition to Cooper, who as a Democrat is on opposite sides of the political fence from Patterson and the other county officials.
“Nobody is more adamant about ferreting out fraud than this particular prosecutor,” Patterson said of Cooper.
For her part, Cooper said she was prohibited from discussing details because of the ongoing investigation by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office asked for by Johnson over the weekend.
“We are pursuing this case as we pursue all cases,” Cooper said.
Johnson has also asked for investigations by the Michigan attorney general and the FBI. Asked if that many investigative arms was overkill, Patterson said the state and federal agencies would likely defer to the local sheriff’s investigation.
“I want anybody to think they can pull this kind of crap in Oakland County that they won’t get away with it,” Patterson said. “This isn’t a college election prank, this is a deliberate subversion of the election process.”
The three races where candidate filings are suspect, according to the four county officials, are in county commission District 2, county commission District 19 and state Senate District 12.
In county commission District 2, Aaron Tyler filed under the Tea Party group to run against Republican Commissioner Bill Bullard of Highland and Democrat Mark Venie of Davisburg in a district representing Highland, Holly Rose and Springfield townships.
Tyler drew attention to the filings when he sent a letter to Johnson, the county clerk, saying he was living in Phoenix, Ariz., had not filed to run for office and had no intention of running for office.
In commission District 19, Grant Wolski of Troy filed for the Tea Party group against incumbent Democrat Tim Burns and Republican Mike Bosnic, both of Clawson. The district represents Clawson and the south half of Troy.
In state Senate District 12, Johnathon Young is listed as the Tea Party group candidate against Republican Jim Marleau of Lake Orion and Democrat Casandra of Rochester Hills. The district represents Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake, Pontiac, Lake Angelus, Auburn Hills, Rochester Hills, Rochester and townships of Independence, Orion, Oxford, Addison and Oakland.
The Tea Party group filed petitions for party status by the mid July deadline and a partial slate of candidates with the Michigan Secretary of State July 26.
The bid for party status failed before the Michigan Board of State Canvassers Monday on a 2-2 vote, but a legal challenge to the decision is expected.
Besides opposition to the Tea Party group from Republicans, tea party organizations have also denounced the group as fake.
For the Oakland County Democratic Party, the resignation of McGuinness and Bauer leaves a leadership void that will be filled temporarily by vice chairwoman Martha Blom of Orchard Lake.
Oakland County Commissioner Dave Coulter, D-Ferndale, says he’ll help with the leadership transition.
“At this point, I have volunteered to help in the transition of the party and move it forward beyond the alleged activities that have happened and getting us back to being focused on winning campaigns in November,” Coulter said.
“There’ll be a decision of the OCDP on Sept. 13 on who may or may not succeed Martha,” he said. “For the party, we’ll let the legal process play out and we’re going to look forward to restoring the credibility of the Oakland County party and getting our candidates elected in November.”
Contact staff writer Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @crummc.