The Clare Police Department has finished their investigation into a fight between two members of the state Republican party and handed it to the prosecutor for review.
The state GOP held a committee meeting at the Doherty Hotel last Saturday. Reports show a fight broke out between two members, resulting in one man being hospitalized with a rib injury. The victim was trying to keep the other man from entering the closed meeting.
Now, the police have turned the case over to the prosecutor, who expects to have a decision on whether to press charges by the end of next week.
That case is among a major backlog of cases in review by Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis right now that she says she has had for three years, when an employee left and the county refused to replace them.
Now Ambrozaitis is suing the county.
“I had asked the Board of Commissioners to fill the position, and they declined it,” said Ambrozaitis. “Saying we had budgetary issues at the time.”
Ambrozaitis is used to having herself and four other assistant prosecutors working through their stack of cases. In 2020, she lost an assistant prosecutor to the Attorney General’s office. The county chose not to replace them then.
“I’ve been denied ever since filling that position, so we’ve been working with four attorneys, myself included,” said Ambrozaitis.
She says that has led to a backlog in cases, slowing down the process and leading to fewer convictions. So late last month she filed a lawsuit against her own county.
“What we’re asking the court to do is to order the Board of Commissioners to carry out their constitutional duties and fund my office to a minimum serviceable level,” said Ambrozaitis.
There is no set number of workers needed for a set amount of work.
The county board declined to speak on camera but the County Administrator Lori Phelps released a statement, “The Clare County Prosecuting Attorney filed a lawsuit against Clare County and the Clare County Board of Commissioners (hereinafter collectively referred to as “the County”) on June 28, 2023 in Clare County Circuit Court alleging that the County has failed to provide her office with the minimum level of funding necessary to enable her to perform the duties of her office in a manner sufficient to meet the standard of serviceability. The county denies these allegations. The funding provided to the Prosecutor’s Office through the County’s budgeting process is sufficient to meet all legal requirements. The County’s position will be more thoroughly set forth in its Answer to the Complaint which will be filed with the Court soon.”
Ambrozaitis says the proof is in the backlog.
“Already this year we’ve had 679 criminal referrals to our office, we charged 478 of those,” said Ambrozaitis. “One hundred and three are in review right now. I’ve been in office since 2009 and I don’t think we’ve ever had 100 cases pending review.”
When asked if other departments have also been asked to tighten their budgets, she says recently the county clerk received an extra employee to help with new voting rules.
“They understood that knew she was going to get more work and gave her the staffing that she required,” said Ambrozaitis.
There is no timeline yet for a judge’s decision but Ambrozaitis hopes it comes soon and hopes there is a real reason for this shortage and not a personal problem.
“I would hope that there weren’t politics being played, and this is a personal issue between some of the board members and myself,” said Ambrozaitis. “If it is personal, that’s truly upsetting.”