LAPEER COUNTY — In Tuesday’s (Aug. 4) primary election, Lapeer County residents will decide who they want to serve as Lapeer County Prosecutor for the next four years.

The election pits incumbent Prosecutor Michael J. Sharkey versus former Chief Assistant Prosecutor, John D. Miller.

The winner of the Republican primary will face no opposition in the November general election.

Michael J. Sharkey

An attorney, including private practice, for more than 30 years and Lapeer District Court Magistrate for four years, Sharkey was elected Lapeer County’s prosecutor in 2016.

He believes his knowledge of the law and devoted service to Lapeer County warrant his re-election.

“I believe my experience and particular skill set is an asset to our community,” Sharkey said. “I listen well and communicate clearly, and I know what it takes to transform complex issues into practical solutions.

“If re-elected, I will continue to treat people with respect, fairness and dignity,” said Sharkey. “I will always be faithful to the law and unbiased and unswayed by partisan or political interests or personal preferences.”

Sharkey said he takes seriously his role as a “champion of justice,” who is sworn to uphold the law, protect the innocent and punish wrongdoers.

As prosecutor, he oversees a $1.5 million budget with five assistant prosecutors and nine full-time support employees.

Sharkey said more than 12,000 cases, including about 350 felony convictions annually, have been prosecuted during his four-year tenure.

He views finding placement (jails) for individuals convicted of crimes to be one of the biggest challenges facing prosecutors and the legal community.

“So many of the criminal cases in Lapeer County involve nonviolent, first-time substance abuse offenders,” Sharkey said. “We now have more intensive substance abuse treatment, supervision and rehabilitative resources available to us.

“I firmly believe that these defendants will be less likely to commit additional crimes and revictimize residents,” said Sharkey. “They have a better chance of kicking their substance abuse through mandatory drug testing and rehabilitation programs, rather than going to jail for an extensive period at significant cost to the public.”

Relative to future costs, there is now concern that COVID-related budget shortfalls may be on the horizon for governmental entities.

“I will argue against any budget cuts or layoffs of employees of the Lapeer County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office,” Sharkey said. “Although we are not a revenue-raising department, having a fully funded office remains a priority to keep this community safe.

“We have four grant-funded support staff at no cost to the county,” he said. “We also receive grant funding for child neglect and abuse cases. “We continue to make our office more efficient with the use of technology and by speeding up scheduling of criminal trials, reducing waiting times and by saving money on incarceration costs.

“I welcome the county commission to review with me all operations for efficiency, effectiveness and eliminating any wasteful spending,” Sharkey said. Having spent much of his adult life in service to Lapeer County residents, Sharkey is again seeking their support and votes on Aug. 4.

“I grew up here, went to school here, met my wife (Corinne) and raised our family here, and said my final goodbyes to my beloved parents and oldest brother here,” Sharkey said. “Public service and community involvement are in my blood, and now I’m seeking another term to serve as Lapeer County’s Prosecutor.”

John D. Miller

Having served as chief assistant prosecutor to former Prosecutor Tim Turkelson from 2013-2016, Miller said he personally handled 450-500 cases per year as general counsel; saving the county tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

“The prosecutor’s office should be processing around 4,000 warrants per year,” Miller said. “In 2019, they processed only 2,227.

“The current prosecutor has not personally conducted one jury trial or preliminary exam in four years,” he continued. “During my time as chief assistant, I personally handled several jury trials, hundreds of preliminary exams and met with countless victims to ensure their voices were heard in court.

“I have the experience to lead the fast-paced decision-making necessary in open court to ensure justice is served,” said Miller. “With my experience and understanding of criminal law, I am the superior candidate for the office of prosecuting attorney.”

Miller has publicly alleged that Sharkey’s relationships with local police and law enforcement officers and agencies are lacking.

“During my time as chief assistant prosecutor, I developed many relationships with leaders in the law enforcement community across Lapeer County,” Miller said. “For the last two years, the law enforcement leadership has communicated with me their frustration and discontent with the current prosecuting attorney.

“Law enforcement also advises me that far too many cases are being denied,” he said. “Victims of crime tell me that the current prosecutor lets criminals off with little or no consequence after a year of attending court hearings.”

If elected prosecutor, Miller said he would work to restore relationships with law enforcement, including communicating on legal updates and ensuring that on-call prosecutors are available on a 24-7 basis.

“In time, I will achieve a 14-day turnaround time for warrant requests, and I will personally attend police chief’s meetings to restore communications and trust with leaders in Lapeer County law enforcement,” Miller said.

Regarding upcoming budget matters and the impact COVID-19 will have on Lapeer County departments and services, Miller realizes difficult decisions may soon be at hand.

“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on all aspects of daily life,” Miller said. “Local government and courts will feel the financial impact in the next year because of state revenue sharing cuts.

“A reduction in force would severely handicap justice,” Miller continued. “Should that occur, I will employ low or no-cost means of sustaining the work load by utilizing ‘prosecuting interns’ who could assist in a variety of ways that will enable the prosecutor to work more efficiently.”

Referring to the prosecutor’s role as being the “gatekeeper” of the criminal justice system, Miller said truth and justice are the foundations on which a prosecutor must act.

“Instances where challenges and complexities in executing justice are always present,” said Miller. “When faced with those challenges, I will communicate with law enforcement and victims to achieve the best possible outcome for the citizens of Lapeer County.”

Miller believes that cuts in law enforcement budgets will inevitably lead to an increase in crime.

“The notion that cutting law enforcement budgets without a detrimental impact on communities is a bankrupt theory,” said Miller. “Nevertheless, should that be the case and warrant requests rise significantly, I will handle it.”

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.