TAWAS CITY – A lawsuit filed by the Iosco County Prosecutor’s office against the county itself and the Iosco County Board of Commissioners has been dismissed, without prejudice, in favor of the prosecutor.

The suit was filed in Roscommon’s Michigan’s 34th Circuit Court, and with the dismissal without prejudice, on terms agreed between the prosecutor and the county, marks the end of the most recent fight by a county department against a county over vast budget cuts that occurred earlier in the year.

Iosco County Prosecutor Jim Bacarella filed the suit in December, and Judge Robert Bennett signed an order granting a preliminary injunction and issuing a write of mandamus during a hearing held Feb. 9 in West Branch.

The order comes after a show cause and evidentiary hearing held in West Branch on Jan. 29, where witness testimony, evidence and arguments were presented on either side of the issue.

Bacarella hired Grewal Law PLLC of Okemos, which sought an “ex parte motion” for a temporary restraining order and “ex parte motion” for order to show cause against the county.

Bacarella’s lawsuit alleged that the position of prosecutor, being a constitutionally and statutorily created position, has a constitutionally required minimum amount of funding that the county has to provide so he can run his office. The lawsuit asked that the county provide legal reasoning as to why the funding should not be provided. 

A judge sided with the plaintiff, being that the case is being dismissed, without prejudice (meaning the plaintiff cannot file a case against the county again under the same terms) the agreed upon stipulations include that the prosecutor’s office’s 2021 budget shall be restored to the previous year’s level, the second legal administration position in the prosecutor’s office shall be reinstated, and the prosecutor’s OUIL fund, shall be limited to the statuary uses and be reestablished.

Finally, the agreement stipulated that the county must pay the prosecutor’s legal fees in the amount of $10,000 in the case.

Bacarella, who has had no comment on the case until now, said the legal fees with Grewal Law were actually closer to $20,000, but said the firm agreed to a reduced fee because of the public service aspect of the case.

He said the county, if it were able to keep his reduced budget, would have shown a reduction of 21 percent this year, and more than 24 percent over the last two years. He said his department actually helps generate funding for the county, and with limited resources this year it would have meant that the prosecutor’s office could not have tried as many cases as in the past.

“I couldn’t even guess how much revenue would have been lost,” he said. “While it was my intention to continue to charge appropriate crimes, I would have had to prioritize what we gave the most attention to.”

Bacarella said the lower-end misdemeanors, which bring in significant fines, with little likelihood of jail and additional expense to the county, would not have been charged or processed as quickly as more severe and violent crimes. 

“The revenue from prosecutions are reflected in the district and circuit courts and if I didn’t charge them there is no vehicle to obtain that money,” Bacarella said. “I am happy we could resolve this matter. I believe that the settlement agreement at this point is critical for the safety of our residents and visitors.”

County officials did not have comment on the case or any litigation when asked during the recent March 3 Iosco County Board of Commissioners meeting, although Iosco County Clerk/Co-Administrator Nancy Huebel has said that recently the board has gone into closed session with its attorney to discuss litigation, including the prosecutor’s case.

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