DEARBORN HEIGHTS (WXYZ) - A former Inkster official testified in the case of suspended Judge Sylvia James that he told the judge she was breaking the law when she misused court funds.
7 Action News Investigative Reporter Bill Proctor was in court today and broke the story that led to the hearing.
Former Inkster treasurer David Sabuda testified that he had not been on the job long before he discovered what he says was an unlawful practice: For years the City of Inkster had been writing checks to charities at the direction of James. Sabuda testified that when he tried to stop it, he became a target of the James's wrath.
Sabuda testified that in late 2005, James asked the city to cut checks for the Inkster High School Alumni Association and a local charity, but said he refused to write the checks because it violated the law.
“Michigan Public Act 2 of 1968, and Michigan Department of Treasury guidelines, these types of expenses from a governmental unit are not allowable,” Sabuda testified. “Also, I had a conversation with our independent auditors… they supported my position that they, the expenses, regardless of funding source, is not an allowable expense.”
James is accused of misusing the Community Service Program fund. The fund is supposed to be used for a non-violent offender program. Her court was audited last year and resulted in a Judicial Tenure Commission hearing, which is in its tenth day at the Dearborn Heights District Court.
Sabuda testified that James ignored him and demanded that all the Community Service Program funds be sent to her court so that she could cut checks to whatever organization she saw fit. Sabuda read the letter James sent to the city.
“By order of Chief Judge Sylvia A. James, a check is to be issued, is to be issued from the Community Service account, payable to the 22 nd District Court, the check should be the balance in the account,” he read.
When the checks were not cut, Sabuda said James spoke to Inkster’s city manager, who seemed to agree to James’s demand. But it seems James was angry that her orders were not followed, according to James's letter Sabuda read when on the witness stand.
“…this appears to be a change in policy or insubordination,” Sabuda read.
James testified when on the witness stand for most of last week that no one in the state or local government had told her that checks to charities were against the rules. The hearing will continue on Monday, Feb. 6.
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