|By Andy Balaskovitz|
A City Council employee reveals what she claimed Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar asked her to do — and provides the results of a lie detector test to support her claim.The Lansing City Council’s office manager says Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar asked her to file a false police report in November saying Dunbar’s city-issued laptop had been stolen. Dunbar denies the accusation.
Filing a false police report is a crime.
The employee, Council office manager Diana Bitely, bolstered her position with the results of lie detector test she voluntarily took on the advice of her lawyer.
Bitely and her lawyer, Mary Chartier, were interviewed in Chartier’s office at Alane & Chartier, last week.
Bitely said she had asked Dunbar on Nov. 6 to bring in her computer for a software update. She said Dunbar told her that it had been damaged in an argument with her husband.
“When I asked if she’d still bring it in to have it replaced, she said she had been trying to have the hard drive cleaned up and didn’t want it looked at, I presume,” Bitely said. “At some point during the conversation, she said, ‘Well, you could report it stolen.’
“I said, ‘Kathie, I think you need a police report for that,’ but she continued to look at me for an answer. … Finally, she wasn’t saying anything and I said, ‘Do you really want me to report it stolen,’ and she said, ‘Yes.’”
Bitely said she asked Dunbar a second time if she wanted it reported stolen, to which she said Dunbar said “yes.”
In January, the City Attorney’s Office found that Dunbar had not committed a crime or an ethical violation, even if Bitely’s statement is taken as true.
Dunbar — as the city attorney’s investigation points out — gives a different story than Bitely’s.
“I have not and did not offer to file any police report, nor did I file a police report. I told her I did not want anyone to know what happened to the computer,” Dunbar said Monday. She also said Bitely brought up the need to file a police report if it was said to be “missing.”
“Nobody ever used the word stolen,” Dunbar said.
Two of Dunbar’s interns were present during the conversation, according to the city attorney’s report to the Council. One did not recall what was said, and the other corroborated Dunbar’s story, the report said. The intern, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of her internship, backed Dunbar’s statement Tuesday.
Dunbar said the broken laptop was “collateral damage” in an argument with her husband.
In response to Dunbar’s claim that Bitely brought up the need for a police report, Bitely said: “I would never suggest that anyone report anything stolen. It wouldn’t be good for me or anyone else.”
Under state law, it is a felony to falsely report a felony crime and a misdemeanor to falsely report a misdemeanor crime.
“It depends on what you would tell police,” said Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III. He added that, in a “he-said, she-said” situation, an independent party is important for knowing who is telling the truth.
Bitely said that at the encouragement of attorney Chartier she took a polygraph test roughly five weeks after the Nov. 6 conversation with Dunbar because “it seemed like it might come back to her as if she made it up,” Chartier said.
Bitely was asked three questions during the polygraph: “Did Kathie Dunbar ask you to report the computer stolen?” (“Yes.”) “Was Kathie the first person to mention reporting the computer stolen?” (“Yes.”) “Are you lying when you say Kathie asked you to report the computer stolen?” (“No.”)
The test was administered by Kenneth A. MacEachern of Capital Polygraph. Chartier said it cost about $400.
Mayor Virg Bernero suggested Monday that Jeffries referred Bitely to Chartier. Bernero and Jeffries are frequently at odds with each other. The mayor is helping organize opposition to Jeffries’ re-election this fall.
Chartier said her law firm gets referrals from Jeffries, who is also an attorney, but also from “100 to 200” other attorneys.
“Do I have a relationship with Brian in terms of a colleague? Sure, the same way I do with 100 other people,” Chartier said.
Bitely said she promptly reported the conversation with Dunbar to Jeffries, who as Council president was her supervisor at the time. Carol Wood assumed the presidency in January.
Bitely worked for Jeffries’ law firm until about eight years ago, when she went to work for the Council.
When asked if Jeffries suggested she hire a lawyer, Bitely said she did it on the advice of her partner.
Bitely, 39, has accepted another job, Wood said in an interoffice memo Monday. Dunbar said it is with the state. Her last day is next week.
Dunbar and Bitely said in separate interviews that the relationship between them is fine. Bitely said she is not interested in taking any further action on the matter.