A majority of the neutral law enforcement officials who spoke with the City Paper about Ms. Lee’s language concluded that using the term ‘law enforcement officer’ to describe her position and experience is inappropriate.
Ms. Lee is a former corrections officer. Her current job title within the Sheriff’s Office is Records Clerk/Typist, a title her campaign strenuously avoids, instead using the title Administrative Professional Deputy. In campaign materials and in the League of Women Voters guide, Ms. Lee uses the term ‘Corrections Officer’ without clarifying that she no longer works as a corrections officer.
The Lee campaign has marketed Ms. Lee as a ‘Modern Sheriff,’ emphasizing the elected position’s increasing administrative functions. Like most of the employees in the Sheriff’s Office, she is deputized.
“This targeted attempt to taint my accurate law enforcement experience and education is despicable and is also disrespectful to any law enforcement officer that serves or has served as a Corrections Officer,” Ms. Lee told the City Paper in a statement. “The term law enforcement career, law enforcement officer and trained, certified, deputized corrections officer are not misleading. It is a general and accepted term as most individuals working in a law enforcement agency are considered a law enforcement officer. As a sworn and deputized member of the Sheriff’s Office, I am a law enforcement officer.”
Read G.O.P. sheriff candidate Laura Lee’s full statement on the allegations that her campaign is using misleading language about her current position and experience.
“When the general public hears these terms, they believe them to mean someone who is, or has been, a police officer on the front-lines protecting and serving. That is not the case,” Mr. Greene told the City Paper. “Ms. Lee has never been trained or certified as a law enforcement officer (police officer). She has never qualified with a firearm, made an arrest, or been on patrol.”
The City Paper spoke with numerous individuals within the local law enforcement community regarding the Lee campaign’s language. All of them, Lee and Greene supporters alike, insisted upon anonymity due to a fear of retaliation or of violating professional standards.
A retired law enforcement officer with over two decades of experience, and who insisted upon anonymity, flatly said “no” when asked if an average police officer would agree that Ms. Lee is a law enforcement officer.
One voter — “Sarah Diangelo” — has been extremely vocal about Ms. Lee’s credentials and experience, frequently commenting on the Lee campaign’s social media posts as well as making numerous posts on the popular local Facebook group Issues and Events in Midland Michigan.
Editor’s Note: The City Paper reached out to Sarah Diangelo, who publicly admits using a pseudonym, and agreed to include her comments in this report upon confirmation of her true identity. Ms. Diangelo requested anonymity, which the City Paper granted. The person is not a current candidate for Sheriff.
Along with Ms. Diangelo’s concerns about Ms. Lee’s alleged misuse of law enforcement language, she has also criticized Ms. Lee for her use of seemingly cookie-cutter campaign endorsements and inflating her private sector experience.
“Prior to my current law enforcement career, I enjoyed private sector positions in various industries including: strategic intelligence, healthcare, marketing, and sales. My sales experience will be handy as the ‘art of the deal’ skill set is required in various negotiations as your Sheriff,” the Lee campaign’s website reads. “Other additional skills cultivated in these positions include: project management, contracts, vendor procurement, client facilitation, utilizing various software applications and technology, human resources, media relations, accounts receivables and customer service.”
The City Paper asked Ms. Lee to be more specific about her extravagant private sector experience claims. She provided a statement.
“As stated on my website, my private sector background is derived from various positions in industries including strategic intelligence, healthcare, marketing and sales. These positions provided experience in project management, contracts, vendor procurement, client facilitation, utilizing various software applications and technology, human resources, media relations, accounts receivables and customer service. I am very grateful for the diverse skill set acquired when working for AIM, Central Michigan Neurosurgery and other companies in the above industries. In addition, I have a Bachelors in Business Administration in Management from Northwood University,” Ms. Lee told the City Paper.
Setting aside the allegations of Ms. Lee’s misuse of certain terms, she is still heavily involved in Midland’s law enforcement community (she is being supported by current Midland County Sheriff Scott Stephenson); and the City Paper was able to verify that she has indeed completed and obtained law enforcement-related certifications and degrees.
Ms. Lee currently performs her duties at the Law Enforcement Center. As a former corrections officer, Ms. Lee attended and graduated from the Delta College Corrections Academy, receiving the certification necessary to hold the position. In addition, she also holds a degree in Criminal Justice from Delta College.
“As part of the curriculum for my completed Criminal Justice degree, areas of study and coursework included; management and supervision in law enforcement, criminal investigation law and practice, criminal law and procedure, the essentials of criminal justice and juvenile delinquency,” Ms. Lee told the City Paper, adding that a copy of her degree is on file with the Midland County Sheriff’s Office.
Ms. Diangelo also alleged multiple times on Facebook that the Lee campaign has been deleting comments from potential voters.
“I’ve been following the candidates for Midland County Sheriff and had some questions for Candidate Laura Lee. I posted them on her Facebook page, she answered none of them and just told me to follow her page,” Ms. Diangelo posted to Facebook on June 7. “About ten minutes later the whole post was deleted. I’m glad I took screenshots so the voters can see what’s going on. She needs to answer these questions as she’s been running a very vague platform about her experience.”
The Lee campaign denies deleting any comments from its Facebook page.
“Social media can be a great communication tool for respectful dialogue, however it can also be abused by encouraging and inviting hate filled speech and opinions, cyber-bullying and fake profiles,” the Lee campaign told the City Paper.
When pressed, Ms. Diangelo was unable to substantiate her claims of deletion.
“I do not have screenshot proof that the Laura Lee campaign deleted my questions. I wish I had taken screenshots but I was more concerned with taking screenshots of my questions asked because she has not answered the questions from anyone that has asked them,” Ms. Diangelo told the City Paper.
The Lee campaign told the City Paper that, while the campaign has not deleted comments, it reserves the right to do so. Days later, the campaign did just that, deleting a comment from Ms. Diangelo criticizing some of Ms. Lee’s endorsements.
While conducting the investigation into the allegations of Ms. Lee’s misuse of ‘law enforcement officer,’ the City Paper received a telephone call from a Lee supporter who alleged that Mr. Greene’s campaign language was misleading.
The caller, whose identity is known to the City Paper but who requested anonymity, alleged that Mr. Greene did not work in “every division of the Sheriff’s office,” as stated on his campaign flyer. The person also questioned whether or not Mr. Greene had actually completed courses necessary through the American Jail Association to be eligible to earn certification as a certified jail manager.
The City Paper has verified and confirmed that Mr. Greene did indeed enroll and complete “the courses necessary through the American Jail Association to be eligible to earn certification as a certified jail manager.” The City Paper also concluded that Mr. Greene has worked in the various divisions listed in his campaign flyer, in some capacity, either in a part-time or full-time capacity during his 28-year career.
The aspect of Mr. Greene’s service that came under most scrutiny, was his service as a detective. The detective language on Mr. Greene’s flyer refers to service with the Michigan State Police, not with the Midland County Sheriff’s Office.
Ms. Lee told the City Paper that Mr. Greene is attempting to “manipulate voters” and “slander my character.”
“My opponent has attempted to slander my character from the moment I announced my campaign. The opinion he has provided is the latest attempt to manipulate and distract voters from my education, experience and the fact that I am fully qualified to be the next modern Sheriff of Midland County,” she said. “My opponents attempt to delegitimize and disrespect my work as a Corrections Officer and any other law enforcement officer that serves or has served as a Corrections Officer, is not the type of leadership that belongs in the role of the Sheriff.”
Mr. Greene responded.
“[Laura Lee] does a great job as Records Clerk, but in this day and age when law enforcement integrity, transparency and trust are under extreme scrutiny, now is not the time to mislead the public,” Mr. Greene told the City Paper. “This position is too important and unfortunately, her campaign is trying to make her appear more qualified just to get her elected. I believe voters deserve accurate information to make an informed decision. I do not believe that [Laura Lee] possesses the necessary experience or qualifications required to be Sheriff.”
firstname.lastname@example.org | @Westendorf