Oct. 21 2015 11:15 AM

Court records show Councilwoman wrote bad checks from closed account

Newly released court records from 2011 show A’Lynne Boles, the Third Ward Councilwoman seeking a third term in office in November, was sued for writing four checks on a closed back account. The records contradict Boles’ claim that the lawsuit was for medical debt.

The documents show that despite Boles’ claims the lawsuit was over unpaid bills racked up by her ailing ex-husband, Earl Robinson, she was actually sued for writing four checks drawn off a closed account and written to Sparrow Health Systems.

Boles did not return emails or phone calls seeking comment on the records.

Writing a check drawn from a closed account is a felony in Michigan. A conviction under the law could land a person in jail for two years as well as draw a fine of $500. An online records search of the Ingham Circuit Court records did not turn up any criminal charges at the time.

The City Charter prohibits a person convicted of a felony from serving in elective city office for 20 years after the conviction.

Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said that he did not know whether the checks were referred to his office for prosecution. He declined to comment on the specifics of the 2011 case against Boles.

“Generally, if it is a non-violent crime and the restitution is — I believe — less than $5,000, we will refer first-time offenders to diversion,” Dunnings said. If Boles completed a diversion program, there would be no public record, he said. “It’s meant to be a second chance.”

The lawsuit alleged Boles wrote checks on the 25th of each month February through May 2009. The checks were for identical sums — $159.83 — and were each written on an account at Hillsdale County National Bank. That account was closed, according to records that were filed as part of the lawsuit.

Because of how the payments were made, Boles did not actually sign the checks. They were signed for her by a representative of Sparrow Health Systems as an authorized signatory for her.

Banking experts said when a person authorizes a check by phone or electronic payment, it is not uncommon for the business to create hard copy checks to present for payment to the bank, particularly if the bank is small and the business does not have an ongoing business relationship with it.

Boles did not respond to the lawsuit, which was served to her personally, and a default judgment was entered against her for a sum of $3,085. Under Michigan law, a party collecting on bad checks can collect the original amount, plus two times that amount and $250. Boles was charged $729.49 for each check, plus court costs.

To collect that money, however, Grand Rapids attorney Jeffrey VanHattum was required to file garnishment orders on Boles’ pay from her then employer, Jackson Public Schools, and later from the city of Lansing. The debt was satisfied in June 2013. VanHattum declined to comment on the case, as did Sparrow.

Her opponent, Adam Hussain, issued this statement:

“Anyone can relate to the financial challenges Councilwoman Boles has experienced over the past several years. I would never look to capitalize on something so unfortunate.

“The issue I have, again, is the misrepresentation of the facts, the blatant attempts to mislead and lie, and the shifting of blame to a man that is no longer here to defend himself. The last point I find reprehensible, in fact. It is this type of deceit and clumsy representation that led to my decision to run for the 3rd Ward City Council position.”

Mayor Virg Bernero, who has endorsed Boles, did not respond to questions about his candidate’s legal issues, which extends to five suits in the last nine years, including two that are still active.

Boles is facing a lawsuit from Grabel and Associates, a criminal defense law firm, for allegedly taking money for work she did not complete. She is also facing a lawsuit from a Detroit area credit union for unpaid overdraft fees.

Bernero sent voters a mailer last week attacking Hussain that is very similar to what the “dark money” group Capitol Region Progress has sent as well. Bernero has denied any direct connection to the group, which, like the super PACs influencing national politics, does not need to disclose donors. Others say he has influenced his supporters to fund the organization.

Bernero attacked Hussain by claiming he will be unduly influenced by his mother, Jody Washington, the First Ward Councilwoman who has criticized some of the mayor policies. Washington is running for reelection.

Capitol Region Progress sent voters in the Third Ward a mailer earlier this election showing Washington controlling Hussain like a puppeteer.

“For the first time in Lansing’s history, we face the possibility of a mother-son team occupying 2 of the 8 seats on the Lansing City Council, a highly unusual arrangement that gives undue influence over city affairs to just one family,” Benero writes.

“Imagine having to choose between loyalty to your mother or loyalty to your voters and the city. It is wrong to put Adam Hussein (sic) — or any young person — in such a position.”

Randy Hannan, the mayor’s spokesman, did not respond to questions about the endorsement mailer, including a request to explain why Boles’ challenger’s name was misspelled to be the same as the late Iraqi dictator.

Bernero then assails Washington’s record, alleging she’s “voters against affordable housing for senior citizen,” and “opposed college scholarships for underprivileged students.”

Washington voted no on a development plan for the Old School for the Blind property that would have brought low-income housing to the area. She said at the time she opposed the development because of concerns about impacting surrounding neighborhoods and consolidating too many low-income housing units in one area. Boles voted yes.

As for the college scholarships, the claim itself is misleading. Washington — like Boles — voted no on a resolution to pay for an advertisement in a souvenir program for an annual sorority fundraiser.

Boles has claimed the public record was inaccurate, that rather than voting against the proposal, she introduced it and then recused herself. City Pulse reported last week the public record does not support her version of events.

“That’s not the kind of leadership we need on City Council.”

The mayor then writes that Boles is “head-and-shoulders the best choice” in the Third Ward. In a nod to her many ongoing legal issues, the Bernero said he has seen her “persevere and grow through some rough times and challenges in her life.”