Former Caro Planning Commission member Al Michel listens April 17 as the Caro City Council members vote to dismiss him from the commission. A police report has been filed following an incident when Michel allegedly trespassed at a local business while attempting to inspect it. Planning commission members do not have the authority to inspect businesses, Caro City Manager Matthew Lane said.

CARO – A Caro Planning Commission member was dismissed after an incident at a business resulted in a police report being sent to the Tuscola County Prosecutor’s Office.

Prosecutors haven’t decided whether or not to charge 76-year-old Al Michel with any crimes – such as trespassing, or bribery – but the Caro City Council, on April 17, voted unanimously to remove Michel from the planning commission.

According to a Caro Police Department report, police responded March 18 to Premier Provisioning, a medical marijuana store at 1023 E. Caro Road in Caro, for a suspicious person complaint. When they arrived, the store’s manager told an officer Michel had been there.

The manager told police Michel claimed to be from the Caro Planning Commission, and that he was there to inspect the facility. The manager said she then called the business’ owner – Ray Murad – who advised the manager she should tell Michel to leave. Michel refused to leave immediately, but left the business before police arrived.

Matthew Lane, city manager of Caro, population 4,328, said at the April 17 council meeting that planning commission members have no right to perform business inspections, and that Michel’s behavior violated the city’s new ethics ordinance. 

“That is the backdrop of why we are here today,” Lane said. “The council has determined there was cause to go through this process because Mr. Michel is a public official. This process is required to remove him from office.”

Michel attended the meeting, and told council members he didn’t know inspections were not allowed.

“I did not know I needed authorization,” Michel said. “I introduced myself as a member of the planning commission and I’m just here to look at your facility. Period. That’s all I said. They should be happy I got off my butt, got in my car and went and looked at it.”

Michel has owned The Pub, at 133 S. State St. in Caro, for the past decade. He asked the council to look at his history of charitable work before making its decision.

“I’ve given away 1,200 turkey dinners on (past) Thanksgiving(s), and I’m not complaining,” Michel said. “I do this so a kid can have a hot meal. It costs me about $3,100 a year and I reap no benefits from it. I do it because I’m part of the community and I like the community. No other reason.

“It’s up to you to decide if you want to vote me off the commission. I hope you vote no because I don’t think I deserve it.”

In addition to trespassing charges, Michel could face a count of bribery. 

Murad told police that years ago, Michel committed to assisting him receive a liquor license for a different area business. Murad said he agreed to pay Michel $5,000 upon receiving the license, but the license was not received at that time and the deal ended. Murad was able to secure a license about a year later, and explained to Michel that since Michel was not involved in obtaining it, Michel was not entitled any money.

Murad told police that Michel had harassed him since that time about the $5,000, according to the police report. 

“I had a former business situation with (Murad),” Michel said on April 17.

Soon after the March 18 incident, the planning commission voted to recommend Premier Provisioning – and Caro business Spark Cannibis – be allowed to sell recreational marijuana along with medical marijuana. The recommendation went before the city council, which voted to allow it.

Investigators say Murad told them that he spoke to Michel on the telephone while Michel was at Premier Provisioning on March 18, and that Michel told him to pay him $5,000 or it could affect his planning commission vote.

When interviewed by police, Michel insisted the $5,000 payment had nothing to do with the recreational marijuana vote, and is money owed to him from the previous business deal.

Ultimately, Michel was banned from voting on the recreational marijuana license due to a conflict of interest.

The council voted 4-3 in October to appoint Michel to the planning commission.

Also at it its April 17 meeting, the Caro City Council:

 

  • Was introduced to Paul Whitney, a Vassar Democrat who is running for Michigan District 97 representative. “I’m new to running for public office, new to campaigning, but not new to advocating for other people,” Whitney said. “For 30 years, I’ve worked with children in the child welfare industry. Tonight is an opportunity to say hello, I’m very committed to this, and plan on being your next state representative.” Whitney is the vice president of Wolverine Human Services in Vassar.
  • Introduced the new director of Caro’s public works and water plant, Dave Johnson. Johnson, of Grand Rapids, started with the city on April 11. “It’s a privilege to be employed by the city of Caro,” Johnson said. “The employees and staff I’ve met so far have treated me wonderfully and hopefully we can get some of these projects taken care of and keep the residents as happy as we can.”