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Wednesday, May 23,2012

Mulch ado about nothing?

by Kyle Melinn

Heavy windstorms three or four years ago knocked over trees into the county’s drains, and Ingham County Drain Commissioner Patrick Lindemann had the fallen timber chopped up into a very rough mulch. 

Most of it ended up back in Mason at the drain commissioner’s office, where it was bagged and made available free through word of mouth to anyone who wanted it, Lindemann said. That’s how such waste has been handled for 40 years, he added.

But one truckload ended up at Lindemann’s house in Lansing Township on the west side. The county truck was driven by a county employee and manned by state prisoners on a work detail, Lindemann said. The prisoners unloaded the waste, he said.

Now, Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth and the state Attorney General’s Office are looking into the matter, Lindemann confirmed.

Lindemann said Wriggelsworth told him he didn’t make a good decision in having the inmates stop by his house. 

And Lindemann said he apologized to Wriggelsworth.

“This was an innocent thing,” Lindemann said, “but this could be construed as a benefit to me.”

Lindemann said he used the coarsely chopped wood to fill shallow spots on his property. They’ve since been covered with mulch that he purchased.

He said his intention was to save the county money by not having to drive the truck across the county, since his house was nearby. He said county drivers will literally stop at places with “fill-wanted” signs on the way back to Mason to see if they will take such waste, since it saves money.

“I’ll do whatever the rules are,” Lindemann said. “A lot of people took the mulch. Honestly, I thought I was doing a good thing, but if I abused a privilege here, I apologize.”

Wriggelsworth declined to comment.

Lindemann said his understanding was that nothing was going to come of it, but in the meantime, he’s fingering his Democratic primary opponent, Mark Grebner, for stirring the pot.

“This sounds like a complaint driven by politics,” he said. “Who else would care, three years later, if some inmates spent 15 minutes dropping off some mulch at my house? It’s political baloney.”

Asked for comment, Grebner said by email:

“I don’t get any credit. I actually don’t know the people who filed the complaint. I don’t know whoever investigated it. I don’t know who at the AG considered it. I’ve just listened to rumors as they float around, and I don’t think I’m the first to hear them.”

“The rumors I’ve heard are that there were a number of complaints, of varying importance, and which may have varying dispositions. And which may become public at different times. (For example, the charges that were not pursued ought to be available now.)

“I hope this allows you to check the little box next to ‘...doesn´t always distinguish between what belongs to him and what belongs to the public,’” he wrote, referring to an accusation he has made against Lindemann in a campaign piece.

In the same campaign flier, Grebner brought to light that Lindemann pleaded guilty in the 1980s to a federal misdemeanor stemming from his operation of a postal substation in his business. Lindemann said he unintentionally was charged with comingling personal funds with post office funds in a frame shop he owned on Michigan Avenue. He added it was cheaper to plead guilty than to fight the charge.

Meanwhile, in other news from this race, former state Rep. Lynne Martinez has reported Grebner to the secretary of state for failing to put a disclaimer on a mailer. While the flier does have Grebner’s address, it doesn’t include the critical words “paid for.”

In the May 4 letter, Melissa Malerman of the Secretary of State’s Office said the matter is closed and there will be no action taken against him, but she warned him that not including “paid for” language on any future mailers could be a $1,000, 93-day misdemeanor.

Grebner disputes he had done anything wrong. In an email, he said:

“In regard to my flyer, there isn’t any genuine issue. As I replied to the SoS, the law doesn’t apply to a single photocopy circulated for proofreading. Those costs WEREN’T paid by my candidate committee — I just used paper already in the laser printer, and I have no intention of reimbursing anybody for the penny per sheet. I think the copy Lynne supplied wasn’t one I copied, and probably wasn’t even a second-generation copy; I think it was actually produced at Pat’s expense, so maybe it should have HIS committee’s name on it. I’ve still only made about 30 copies — all with different text — but their content seems to be in wide circulation.

“My box of finished printing is finally waiting, paid for, at the printer. It has the necessary disclaimer, of course.  Nobody, including myself, has yet seen the offset printed version.”

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