Embezzlement charges reinstated against former Highland Park Emergency Financial Manager

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich., (WXYZ) -  Former Highland Park Emergency Financial Manager Art Blackwell again faces criminal charges which include embezzlement and misconduct in office due to an opinion issued by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The original criminal charges stem from Blackwell allegedly paying himself $264,000 which the city of Highland Park did not authorize.

Last year, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway dismissed the case, saying Blackwell had the authority to write himself checks.

But in its opinion, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the judge and sided with Wayne County Prosecutors, saying that the evidence presented was sufficient to establish probable cause that Blackwell committed the crimes.

Blackwell has maintained he had a verbal agreement with state officials to be paid $1 for the first year on the job, and then he would earn $11,000 each month thereafter.

Blackwell's attorney, Ben Gonek, says Blackwell was legitimately entitled to all the money he received.

"This case lacks any criminality," says Gonek. "I think the case should never have been brought in criminal court."

A spokesperson for Wayne County Prosecutors Kym Worthy issued a statement today which read "We believe that the lower court erred in dismissing the Blackwell case and we are pleased with the reversal by the Court of Appeals."

Gonek says he will appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

"The checks were approved and signed off by three different people," says Gonek. "And the monies that he received from the city were reported to the state so there is nothing nefarious about what he did."

 

 

 

 

 

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