What do court records tell us about the candidates in Lansing?

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(Correction: Due to a reporting error, a criminal conviction against mayoral candidate Larry Hutchinson Jr. was improperly identified. Hutchinson is still paying fines on a recent OWI conviction in Clinton County.)

Over the last decade, the candidates who are facing voters in the August primary election have had an array of minor traffic tickets, parking fees and, in at least one case, a significant debt that has resulted in years of garnishments of the candidate’s income tax refunds and paychecks.

Melissa Quon Huber, who is running for mayor, has had her income, bank accounts and tax refunds garnished by Unifund CCR since 2014, court records showed. And in 2011, Capital One Bank pursued repayment through garnishments until Huber’s file was closed out last month.

Reached via Facebook messenger, Huber accepted “full responsibilities” for the choices she made that led to the debt, but said she believes families like hers would not face debts if elected officials cared more about the needs of disabled youth and “less about the wealth of insurance companies and other special interests.” She also said she welcomed more in-depth conversations about the debt, noting that her experiences have only made her “a better leader.”

Mayoral candidate Larry Hutchinson Jr. is still paying fines on a recent OWI conviction in Clinton County. Records related to his property also reveal that he and his partner, Sharman Noka, have a combined total of over $110 in unpaid utility fees associated with their property in Lansing. In addition, city records show Hutchinson and Noka have outstanding payments of $307.16 for winter 2020 taxes, $915.90 for summer 2020 taxes and $275.57 for winter 2019 taxes. County tax records show the winter 2019 debt — with a balance of $248.87 — was transferred to the Ingham County Treasurer. The city charter prohibits anyone from taking office who is indebted to the city at the time they take office. Hutchinson’s debt is only with the county.

Hutchinson also served time in prison in the 1990s for convictions of possession of a controlled substance, malicious destruction of police property and assault with intent to do great bodily harm. All were felony convictions in Genesee County and occurred more than 10 years ago.

Incumbent Mayor Andy Schor had a ticket in 2011 for speeding 1-10 mph over the posted speed limit. That was amended to unsafe start and he paid $115 in fines. In 2015, he also paid a $125 fine for speeding between 1-5 mph over the posted speed limit in Lansing.

Mayoral candidate and City Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar was cited by Meridian Township for failing to stop at a stop sign in 2012 and paid a $145 fine. In 2011, she also was cited for speeding in Meridian Township and paid $120. In 2013, she was cited for disobeying a traffic signal, resulting in a $140 fine. And last month, she failed to stop at a red light, plowing into a 75-year-old driver and totaling both her and the woman’s vehicle. She was not issued a ticket.

Mayoral challengers Farhan Sheikh-Omar and Patricia Spitzley had no recent court records.

At-Large Council candidate Claretta Duckett-Freeman has also been facing garnishments on her income and tax refunds from a 2017 debt case brought by LVNV Funding. Records show she lost the case by default. She was also charged in 2016 with domestic violence in 54-A District Court, but that case was dismissed. In 2016, she paid a $120 fine for an expired vehicle registration. In 2018, she failed to pay an overdue ticket for an expired meter and paid $75. Later that year, she was fined $150 for an impeding traffic charge after being cited for speeding.

D. Taft, who is also running for an at-large seat, was charged with felonious assault in 2020. The charges were dropped by the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office after he argued self-defense. In 2017, he was cited twice for unlicensed dogs, with both cases later dismissed.

At-large Council candidate Linda Appling had two eviction cases that were ultimately dropped.

Candidate Linda Keefe was booted in the ‘90s from the Ingham County Board of Commissioners after a judge found that she was not a resident of the district which she ran to represent. And in 2013, she was sued by residents of Windsor Township for failing to fulfill her duties as clerk. 

The township ultimately booted her from office by declaring her seat vacant when she failed to meet the bond requirements established by the board. Keefe did not return calls to City Pulse last month and subsequently lied about the incident on a recent episode of the Facebook broadcast “Merica 20 to Life.”

No records were found for Rachel Willis, Peter Spadafore, Grant Blood and Jeffrey Brown.

Fourth Ward challenger Elvin Caldwell has had a series of unpaid expired meter tickets in Lansing, as well as a license suspension and $219 fine in 2019 for having no proof of insurance. In order to have his license restored, he had to pay $2,250, according to court records.

Incumbent Councilman Brian Jackson was issued a speeding ticket in 2016 for going 1-5 mph over the posted speed limit and paid a $125 fine. 

Second Ward challenger Oprah Revish has had two parking tickets in East Lansing. No court records were found for Incumbent Councilman Jeremy Garza and challenger Nicklas Zande.

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