Republican Mt. Pleasant City Clerk Cops a Plea -- Gets Off Easy After Stealing From Taxpayers
Long time Mt. Pleasant City Clerk Robert J. Flynn will only have to spend ten days in jail for embezzling money in a clever scheme involving city cemetery plots.
By most accounts the 60-year-old Flynn had been a likable friendly man, but the Friday sentencing before Judge Mark Duthie revealed another side of the man who had plead guilty more than a month ago. When asked what he did with the money he said he just spent it. The judge didn't press him for a further explanation.
For violating the public trust, Flynn was sentenced to 8 months, but will only serve 10 days in jail. His sentence began on Friday as he was taken away from the courtroom and he is expected to get out of jail next weekend. He will be required to do 2500 hours of public service and will be on a tether for five months. He will also be required to pay $31,000 in restitution to the city that includes a $6,500 reimbursement for a city ordered audit after irregularities were uncovered in the cemetery account. Flynn was at first suspended from his job and then allowed to officially retire.
The scene of Friday's sentencing at the Isabella County Courthouse was an emotional one as family, friends and former co-workers watched the proceedings. Flynn and some of his former colleagues were in tears as the judge pronounced his sentence. Rumors had it that the former city clerk was hoping for a lenient sentence since it was a first time offense.
Prominent local Democratic attorney Gordon Bloehm, who defended the former city clerk had negotiated the plea bargain for Flynn but judges can accept or reject a plea bargain after reading a pre-sentencing investigation report and hearing testimony from those affected by the crime.
Bloehm asked Judge Duthie if Flynn could wait to begin his sentence on Monday because he had friends in town, but the judge ordered him taken away after an assistant prosecutor said a delay would be inappropriate.
The long time city clerk was a familiar face on election day in Mount Pleasant as he dashed between the city polling places for the seven Mt. Pleasant precincts. He oversaw the introduction of the city's new voting machines that counts punch card ballots that are read by an electronic counter. Flynn knew most election workers by first name and dashed between polls with lunch money and last minute absentee ballots that needed counting. Flynn had paid city election workers in cash for the $6 per meal lunch money. But city officials have informed election workers they will no longer get cash lunch money. It will be added to the wages that are paid by check several weeks after an election.
Flynn's sentencing raises questions about what is an appropriate punishment for public officials who violate the public trust. Did his lenient sentencing send a message that public officials can expect a handslap if they steal from the taxpayers? Will Mt. Pleasant citizens lose faith in local government or will they see the Flynn case as just an aberration?