Latest Michigan news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. EDT
Michigan cop returning to job after veteran arrest uproar
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Western Michigan police say an officer accused by activists of racial profiling by notifying immigration officials about the arrest of a mentally ill Latino war veteran did not violate department policy through his action.
The Grand Rapids Police Department said in a release Friday Capt. Curtis VanderKooi will return to work Monday. He was placed on leave Feb. 28.
Activists called for VanderKooi’s firing after Immigration and Customs Enforcement held Jilmar Ramos-Gomez for three days in December before releasing the Michigan-born man and U.S. citizen. VanderKooi told ICE about Ramos-Gomez’ November arrest at a hospital, referring to him as “loco,” or crazy.
Officials say it was “appropriate to coach” VanderKooi after an investigation found “unprofessional conduct.”
An appeal will be heard by the Civilian Appeals Board on May 15.
Catholic group sues over Michigan policy on adoption
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A Roman Catholic social services agency that declines to place children with same-sex couples has filed a lawsuit to stop Michigan from penalizing the group if it sticks to its policy on foster care and adoption.
Catholic Charities West Michigan in Grand Rapids filed the lawsuit Thursday. The group says Michigan law allows it to practice its religion by turning down same-sex couples. But the group says services will be threatened by a recent change at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The department can terminate contracts with faith-based groups if they discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. Catholic Charities says the department has “blindly followed” the instructions of Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The department declined to comment on Friday. St. Vincent Catholic Charities has filed a similar lawsuit.
Youth robotics global championship returns to Detroit
DETROIT (AP) — Thousands of students from dozens of countries are in Detroit this week competing in the biggest youth robotics event in the world.
Still, organizers of the FIRST Championship hope it gets a lot bigger.
President Don Bossi (BOH’-see) says FIRST has a presence in only 12% of U.S. schools.
He and others with the Manchester, New Hampshire-based nonprofit are trying to attract more students, including from under-represented communities.
Mary Pangowish (PONG’-wish) is the captain of the First Nations STEM team that qualified for its first FIRST Championship. The 17-year-old says her Ontario-based squad is the only one here made up entirely of indigenous students.
Pangowish says she remembers her reaction when introduced to robotics as a middle schooler as, “That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Court: No cash for man who spent nearly 9 years in prison
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A court says a Kent County man who spent nearly nine years in prison before winning an acquittal in a sexual assault case doesn’t qualify for compensation for the wrongly convicted.
The Michigan appeals court says Dennis Tomasik got a second trial only because the state Supreme Court said a police recording was improperly admitted at the first trial. The court says it’s not the same as having a conviction reversed based on new evidence.
Tomasik was acquitted at a second trial after jurors listened to new witnesses and saw many new exhibits. He says that should qualify him for Michigan’s compensation program, which grants $50,000 for every year spent in prison.
The 3-0 opinion Thursday was written by Judge Brock Swartzle. It sets a key precedent for how the Court of Claims will review claims for compensation by people who say they were wrongly convicted.
Former Michigan sheriff wins pension case for on-duty injury
(Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com)
CHARLOTTE, Mich. (AP) — A former county sheriff in southern Michigan could soon receive a pension for the epilepsy he developed 20 years after he was beaten in the head with a metal flashlight during an arrest.
The Lansing State Journal reports that the Municipal Employees Retirement System board voted Thursday to award a duty-related disability pension to former Eaton County Sheriff Sgt. Jim West. The approval also opens the door for the 49-year-old to receive health care coverage for the seizures he developed two decades after the 1997 beating.
Eaton County had argued that West’s epilepsy wasn’t connected to the beating, despite doctors saying the two were linked.
The retirement system’s spokeswoman says the county has 60 days to file an appeal.
Eaton County Controller John Fuentes says he doesn’t expect an appeal.
Judges: Michigan must redraw congressional, legislative maps
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A three-judge panel has ruled that Michigan’s congressional and legislative maps are unconstitutionally gerrymandered, ordering the state Legislature to redraw at least 34 districts for the 2020 election.
The decision issued Thursday also requires special state Senate elections to be held in 2020, instead of 2022 as scheduled.
The judges say the maps drawn by Republicans in 2011 violate Democratic voters’ constitutional rights, including by diluting the weight of their votes. They are giving the GOP-led Legislature until Aug. 1 to submit new maps. The new maps would need the signature of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Colder weather, spring snow expected in parts of Michigan
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Colder weather and spring snow are expected this weekend in parts of Michigan.
The National Weather Service says accumulating snow could cover the northern half of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula on Saturday evening and early Sunday. The southwest portion of the state also is expected to get snow, and parts of southeastern Michigan could get a little bit.
The weather service says parts of mid-Michigan could get 2 to 5 inches (5.1 to 12.7 centimeters) of snow. Temperatures will warm up again next week.
Wintry weather also is expected to continue in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where snow already was on the ground this week. Scattered flood warnings also are in effect in the U.P.
GREAT LAKES RESEARCH
Universities, nonprofit group join Great Lakes partnership
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Three universities and a nonprofit group have joined a regional consortium that studies problems facing the Great Lakes and nearby communities.
The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research is based at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Its 12 members work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on research and development activities.
The four new partners are the Cleveland Water Alliance, Lake Superior State University, Michigan Technological University and Wayne State University. Officials say each brings a critical new element to the consortium, such as expertise in fisheries, environmental health and other areas.
The Cleveland Water Alliance coordinates a network of businesses and researchers to promote growth of the water-focused “blue economy” by bringing ideas for new technologies from the drawing board to the market.
Ford: Justice Dept. opens probe into emissions certification
Ford says the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into its U.S. emissions certification process.
The automaker said in a regulatory filing the “matter currently focuses on issues relating to road load estimations, including analytical modeling and coastdown testing.”
Last September, a group of employees reported possible problems with a mathematical model used to calculate pollution and mileage, prompting Ford to hire an outside firm to run tests. And in February, Ford launched an investigation into whether it overstated gas mileage and understated emissions from a wide range of vehicles.
Ford Motor Co. voluntarily disclosed the matter to the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board in February. It has also notified a number of other state and federal agencies.
Ford said Friday it’s fully cooperating with all government agencies.
BIG WATER BILL
Undetected Michigan water leak leads to nearly $19,000 bill
ISHPEMING, Mich. (AP) — An undetected water leak in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula led to a family getting a nearly $19,000 bill.
Ashley Cody of Ishpeming tells WLUC-TV the leak apparently occurred during a roughly two-month period between water meter readings. Cody posted a picture of the bill on Facebook and explained that water from a broken pipe had flowed into a drain. She’s been talking with city officials and hopes to resolve the $18,709 bill.
Ishpeming City Manager Mark Slown says in a statement that a draft policy that will be on City Council’s May 8 agenda “should resolve the issue.” Slown explained that Ishpeming typically reads water meters monthly, but sometimes estimates water use when meters are blocked by snow.
He says “both the property owner and city were unaware of a leak.”