Inkster Judge Sylvia James accuses city officials of using a court fund for unrelated court business

DEARBORN HEIGHTS (WXYZ) - Suspended Inkster Judge Sylvia James presented evidence at her special hearing Tuesday this morning that shows she was not the only one who possibly misused a court fund.

She says Inkster city officials also wrote checks from the fund for non-court related matters.  

Judge James was back on the witness stand for the fifth day in a proceeding that could remove her from the bench after a 23-year reign as the 22nd District Court's chief judge.  

A Judicial Tenure Commission complaint accuses James of misusing the Community Service Program account, which is supposed to be used only for the non-violent offender program. James testified that city officials also spent money from the fund in ways state court officials say is against the rules. 

James testified that the Community Service Program account had been overseen by the city for years and that city accountants wrote checks from that fund to local organizations. James is accused of also writing checks to similar groups.

In page after page, from the mid 90's to 2002, the documents James presented show city accountants wrote checks to schools and charities and also wrote checks for annual community functions.

"NO!", James said firmly. " I never wrote a check at that court, for the court, period!" With that statement she suggested that her court administrator Pam Anderson, should have known if state court rules were being violated by using CSP funds to support local charities.

James said seeing Anderson's signature on checks she was asked to co-sign would mean "that she has preapproved it, that she has taken care of the necessary leg work, that she has acquired the necessary documentation, and when I see her signature on it, that means you've done what was necessary to approve this check before its presented to me."

The Judicial Tenure Commission alleges that James violated court rules when she wrote checks to dozens of community organizations, charities,  and churches.

In earlier testimony, James insisted that the money she spent from the fund was never an issue for city officials, who were aware of how she was spending it. She said that the city was aware that some court employees associated with the Community Service Program received stipends from the account as compensation - and that the city provided federal tax forms to those people, as if they were city contractors.

James says those same people would also receive W-2 forms because they were also staff employees.

"No one ever questioned the way things were done for years," James testified.

James also defended spending court funds on training for a drug court program, even when the 22nd District Court where she was Chief Judge didn't have a drug court program.

"I was of the view that Inkster desperately needed a drug court," James said. "I thought if we could go to this conference - and I never gave up on my desire to try to bring that type of program to the city, my staff and I could learn as much as possible, and maybe we would be able to bring such a program to the city."

James also testified that only in late 2011, in a letter from a State Court Administrative Office auditor did she receive a notice of concern about the account.

James said before that written notice, no one in the city's finance department or the state court system questioned how the account was used.

She will return to the stand for more testimony Wednesday.

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