(from today’s Petoskey News-Review – by Steve Zucker)
CHARLEVOIX — Embattled Walloon Lake Water System owner Dennis Hass has agreed to pay $30,000 in fines to settle a long standing legal battle with the Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney’s office related to allegations that Hass violated an earlier agreement with the prosecutor’s office.
In a news release issued today, Wednesday, Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof announced that that Hass agreed to pay $30,000 to resolve a lawsuit Telgenhof filed on behalf of the State of Michigan in October.
The amount is $20,000 less what Charlevoix County Circuit Court Judge Roy C. Hayes III ordered Hass to pay in December for violating the earlier agreement. In exchange for paying a reduced amount, Hass has agreed to drop his appeal of Hayes’ ruling.
In the lawsuit, Telgenhof contended that Hass and Wallon Lake Water System, Inc. violated a September, 2013 agreement he signed with Telgenhof to resolve an earlier complaint that in which Hass was accused of unfair practices related to the water system’s operation.
In December, Hayes ordered Hass and Walloon Lake Water System, Inc. each to pay $25,000 in civil fines for violating an agreement entered into with Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Telgenhof in 2013.
The 2013 agreement, called an “assurance of discontinuance,” prohibited Hass and the water system from taking “any retaliatory actions” against its customers who had been victims or alleged victims with respect to criminal charges that were previously filed against Hass.
Hass and the water system filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the summer of 2015 against Melrose Township and a number of individuals, including five of the customers involved in the criminal investigation and prosecution: Bunny Marquardt, Todd Reeves, Gale Charbonneau, Lena Carlile and Maud Bray.
In that suit, Hass and the water system accused the customers of engaging in a conspiracy with deputy sheriffs, an assistant prosecutor and the township to use the criminal charges in an attempt to force Hass to sell his private water system that services the Walloon Lake area.
Telgenhof sued Hass and the water system alleging the lawsuit was retaliatory and a violation of the assurance of discontinuance.
Hayes granted Telgenhof’s motion for summary disposition and fined Hass and the water system both the maximum amount allowed by law for the violations, saying that their actions were a “blatant violation of the parties’ agreement.”
In June, Hayes denied a motion to reconsider the assessment of the fines.
In the release Telgenhof noted that Hass’ last post-judgement motion was denied on June 29, 2016 and that Hass had filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals.
“I am glad we finally have payment from Mr. Hass and (the water system),” Telgenhof said in the release. “He paid an amount larger than that we originally sought, without the risk of appeal or collection. I am confident we would have prevailed on appeal but this gives us certainty which is worth a good deal of money. More importantly, I hope that a $30,000 penalty is enough to convince the defendants not to violate our agreement in the future.”
Telgenhof noted that the $30,000 fine may not go to the victims or alleged victims in the original criminal case, but will instead go to Charlevoix County. He said research will still need to be done on exactly what for what purposes the money may be used. He said it will be up to the county’s civil council to make the determination, but the money may be required to go to the county’s law library.
Telgenhof said Hass delivered the check for the $30,000 to his office today, Wednesday.
THE PA OFFICE STATEMENT
Today Dennis Hass and Walloon Lake Water System, Inc. paid $30,000 in fines today to resolve the lawsuit brought on behalf of the State of Michigan by Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof last October.
The suit initially asked the Circuit Court to order Hass and WLWS to pay a total of $25,000 in penalties for their actions in filing a federal lawsuit against five of their customers in violation of an agreement they had signed with me on September 10, 2013.
On December 29, 2015, Judge Roy C. Hayes III granted Telgenhof’s motion for summary disposition and his motion to amend the complaint, increasing the amount requested. The judge ordered Hass and WLWS to each pay $25,000 for a total of $50,000. The defendants filed post-judgment motions in Circuit Court, the last of which was denied on June 29, 2016.
The defendants filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, however, the agreement will result in the dismissal of their appeal in exchange for the reduced payment amount.
“I am glad we finally have payment from Mr. Hass and WLWS. They paid an amount larger than that we originally sought, without the risk of appeal or collection,” Telgenhof said. “I am confident we would have prevailed on appeal but this gives us certainty which is worth a good deal of money. More importantly, I hope that a $30,000 penalty is enough to convince the defendants not to violate our agreement in the future.”