November 26, 2014

County among defendants dismissed in civil suit

County, State policeman, Alger resident included in defendants list

By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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ARENAC COUNTY — The county commissioners can breathe a little easier in regards to a civil suit filed in October of 2008 that the county was named in, as the case was dismissed by the United States District Court Eastern Division of Michigan Northern Division on June 17.

Suits were filed by former Arenac County Commissioners Kenneth Kernstock and Amy Lynch, and county employee Gail Seder against the county, Michigan State Police First Lieutenant Robert Lesneski, Attorney Gary Rapp, Alger resident John Curcio and “John Doe,” the author of the underground newsletter in Arenac County known as “The Town Crier.” The suits called for sums of at least $75,000 each plus attorney fees, but at least two of the suits – those filed against Rapp and Lesneski – were dismissed with prejudice.

The dismissal of the county file was without prejudice, which means, according to Arenac County Treasurer Dennis Stawowy, the county isn’t out of the water yet.

“They (plaintiffs) still have the right to appeal,” Stawowy said.

The October 2008 filings stemmed from incidents in 2004-2006 which had Kernstock, Lynch and Seder involved in a perjury case, after the three plaintiffs, along with former AuGres Township Clerk Charles Jerome, whose attorney fees for the perjury case were paid by the county and AuGres Township, were found not guilty of perjury. The perjury charges were brought against the four by Rapp, who was originally representing them in an attempt to prosecute Curcio of assault and battery (A and B) that allegedly occurred after a board of commissioners meeting. Curcio was found guilty of A and B, but then cleared of the charges when he appealed the decision, which is when Rapp alleged Kernstock, Lynch, Seder and Jerome committed perjury.

A copy of the complaints filed against the five parties listed several reasons the plaintiffs were seeking damages, including:

• An alleged violation of the Forensic Polygraph Examiners’ Act (MCL 338.1728) by Rapp, Lesneski, Curcio and the Town Crier author.

• Alleged violations of the fifth and 14th amendments.

• The charge that Arenac County was liable for Rapp’s actions in the courtroom, alleging he was acting on behalf of the county.

• That Plaintiffs allegedly suffered injuries to their reputations as a result of the defendants’ unlawful dissemination of polygraph results, since even though the plaintiffs – defendants when the results were released – were acquitted, they were guilty as evidenced by polygraph results.

• Plaintiffs allegedly suffered economic and non-economic damages, including significant attorney fees, mortification, humiliation and disruption of lifestyle.

• The defendants caused Lynch and Kernstock to lose elections for another term as commissioners.

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