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Paquin v. City of St. Ignace

Court of Appeals of Michigan

October 19, 2017

FRED PAQUIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF ST. IGNACE, Defendant-Appellee, and ATTORNEY GENERAL, Intervening Appellee.

         Mackinac Circuit Court LC No. 2015-007789-CZ

          Before: K. F. Kelly, P.J., and Beckering and Riordan, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         Plaintiff, Fred Paquin, appeals as of right an order of the Mackinac Circuit Court denying his motion for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10) (no genuine issue of material fact, and moving party entitled to judgment as a matter of law), declaring him ineligible to run for city council in defendant, City of St. Ignace, and dismissing his complaint for declaratory relief with prejudice. We affirm.

         I. PERTINENT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The pertinent facts are not in dispute. On January 19, 2010, the United States Attorney's Office filed an indictment against plaintiff and his daughter in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Northern Division. Among the 19 counts, plaintiff was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States by dishonest means in violation of 18 USC 371. The actions prompting the federal indictment occurred while plaintiff was serving as the chief of police for the Law Enforcement Department (the tribal police department) of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians (the Tribe), a federally recognized Indian tribe, and serving as an elected member of the Tribe's Board of Directors, the Tribe's governing body. On July 22, 2010, plaintiff signed a plea agreement, in which he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States by dishonest means. As the factual basis for his plea, plaintiff admitted to engaging in a conspiracy involving the misuse of federal funds granted to the tribal police department. On December 20, 2010, plaintiff was sentenced to imprisonment for one year and one day.

         After serving his prison sentence, plaintiff sought to run for a position on defendant's city council in the November 2013 general election. On August 15, 2013, the Attorney General issued OAG, 2013-2014, No. 7273, an opinion concluding that Const 1963, art 11, § 8 "applies to a person convicted of a crime based on that person's conduct as a governmental employee or elected official of a federally recognized Indian Tribe." Const 1963, art 11, § 8 provides:

A person is ineligible for election or appointment to any state or local elective office of this state and ineligible to hold a position in public employment in this state that is policy-making or that has discretionary authority over public assets if, within the immediately preceding 20 years, the person was convicted of a felony involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or a breach of the public trust and the conviction was related to the person's official capacity while the person was holding any elective office or position of employment in local, state, or federal government. This requirement is in addition to any other qualification required under this constitution or by law.
The legislature shall prescribe by law for the implementation of this section.

         The Attorney General concluded that Const 1963, art 11, § 8 applies to convictions related to a person's elective office or position of employment in the Tribe's government. Accordingly, plaintiff was "ineligible for election or appointment to any state or local elective office of this state and ineligible to hold a position in public office in this State that is policy-making or has discretionary authority over public assets." OAG, 2013-2014, No 7273, p 36.

         Relying on the Attorney General's opinion, defendant's city manager informed plaintiff in 2013 and again in 2015 that he could not run for city council. On June 26, 2015, plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory relief against defendant, seeking a determination regarding the applicability of Const 1963, art 11, § 8 to "a person convicted of a crime based on that person's conduct as an employee of a federally recognized Indian Tribe." Plaintiff asserted in relevant part that he was eligible to run for defendant's city council because he was not convicted while holding an elective office or a position of employment in a local, state, or federal government. Defendant filed an answer denying that plaintiff was entitled to declaratory relief.

         Plaintiff moved for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10), arguing that defendant admitted that the only authority it relied on in denying his eligibility was the Attorney General's opinion, and that the opinion was flawed "not only in the authority cited within it but within its reasoning for the application of Article 11, Section 8 of the Michigan Constitution." In particular, plaintiff asserted that the Attorney General had cited "no legal authority for its determination that the plain language of local, state or federal government somehow includes a federally recognized sovereign Indian Tribe."

         The Attorney General filed a motion to submit an amicus curiae brief and to participate in oral argument in support of defendant, which the trial court granted.[1] In the amicus curiae brief, the Attorney General argued that plaintiff's positions with the Tribe constituted elective or employment positions within local government.

         Following oral argument, the trial court took plaintiff's motion for summary disposition under advisement. In a three-page order entered July 29, 2016, the trial court denied plaintiff's motion for summary disposition, declared him ineligible to run for city council, and dismissed his complaint with prejudice. In short, the trial court found persuasive the arguments and rationale proffered by the Attorney General that plaintiff fell under the prohibition of ...


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