Bloomfield Hills city commissioner Stuart Sherr, who was arrested and charged with stealing the campaign signs of a Bloomfield Hills School board candidate, Anjali Prasad, in November, has plead not guilty, even though he was caught in the act on police surveillance camera, and admitted he did steal signs.
After his court appearance, Sherr asserted it was within his rights as a commissioner and “fellow property owner” to look out for the multi-million dollar interests of Bloomfield Hills property owners.
According to Bloomfield Hills police reports, Prasad made a larceny report on October 28, 2018, reporting to police that she had had several campaign signs stolen. “Since this report was made we have been conducting random surveillance details,” the report stated, noting that on the evening of November 1, 2018, “at approximately 9:30 p.m….I observed a vehicle enter the eastern entrance of 74 W. Long Lake Road and stop in the parking lot. I observed an individual exit the vehicle and immediate approach Prasad's campaign sign, ignoring the two campaign signs nearby. The individual returned to the vehicle, placing the campaign sign in the trunk.” Police photographs identified the other two signs as campaign signs for Lena Epstein for Congress and Shelley Taub for county commission. Sherr supported both on his Facebook page.
The police report detailed how the individual repeated the action, and the officer followed the individual home, and made the police stop, with back up, where the individual was identified as Sherr. According to the police report, Sherr informed the officer he was an elected official in Bloomfield Hills, “and was conducting his duty to remove signs in violation to, local ordinances. Sherr explained Prasad's campaign signs were in violation of being within 10 feet of the roadway of the curb,” and because of the rain, he couldn't remove the other two signs – although according to another officer's write up, “Sherr had to pass these signs to remove the two Prasad signs which were posted east and west of of the Epstein and Taub signs. Sherr's black Jaguar SUV has an Epstein sticker on the rear bumper.”
Officers wrote that Sherr repeatedly stated that he was friends with the property owners “who asked him to take the signs down. He stated he didn't want to break any laws and stated several times that he would put them back...When asked how many times he has taken the signs in the past he admitted a couple times...He was advised that the property owner should have made contact with Prasad or the police...and it was not his (Sherr's) responsibility.”
When contacted, Sherr said he had every right to do it “as a private citizen. I had full complete authority. They were in violation of our sign ordinance and a threat to public safety,” asserting that illegal signs can lead to death.
Initially, Sherr asserted that then-Mayor Sarah McClure (now commissioner) had told him “she did not want any political signs posted and he was just doing what Sarah and his friends told him to do.” Police said that statement was recorded.
McClure, however, said, “I never directed or suggested to him to ever remove anyone's sign. I never talk to him outside of city commission meetings or city functions, and haven't in months and months.”
Sherr, vice president of Sherr Development Company, a family real estate and management business, as well as an attorney and CPA, said that he had the implicit authority to remove the signs as a friend and fellow property manager of property owners Arkan Jonna and Arie Leibovitz. He said they wrote him letters asserting that he had their authority – but they were written months later, after the fact, in January 2019.
On the other hand, Prasad, a single mother of two boys (5th and 8th grades) and a criminal defense attorney, said she got into the race at the urging of her two sons, did have approval from Leibovitz to have signs on his property at 74 W. Long Lake Road, with several letters attesting to that in the police packet.
Neither Sherr nor Prasad said they know one another.
“I have never met him,” she said of Sherr. “I honestly think I may have voted for him, but I didn't recognize the name when they told me.”
She said her signs were put up in early or mid-September and were up for about a week or two before they started disappearing. They began going missing around September 24.
“I started to get upset about it when they were disappearing as quickly as I could put them up,” she said. “I might put them up on a Tuesday, and on Wednesday they would be gone. Then I would put up new ones on Wednesday, and on Thursday they would be gone.
“When a couple disappeared, I didn't think too much of it. I was just annoyed. But I didn't think anyone was targeting me until my replacement signs were disappearing,” Prasad said
She said she then contacted the city of Bloomfield Hills to see if she could find out what was happening.
“They said, 'absolutely not,' there were no complaints about the signs, and no violations were reported,” she said. “They said they didn't remove them. I was referred to their code department, and they said they weren't removing them.”
She said whoever was stealing the signs was going to the same locations almost every night.
“I couldn't imagine who would care this much about this election. I'm nobody. It was my first time running, and I'm not really political,” she said. “It was my son's idea to run, and we had dealt with some issues in the district, and I saw some similarities n the district and he said I should try running. I couldn't imagine who was noticing me.”
Despite the missing signs, an estimated 90 that went missing, Prasad said she doesn't believe it changed the outcome of the election.
“I don't believe it made a difference in the race,” she said. “What it did was effect me as a citizen in Bloomfield Hills.”
Bloomfield Hills City Manager David Hendrickson said Sherr was charged and arraigned at a pretrial hearing. He declined further comment until the case has progressed through the court system. It currently is undergoing a change of venue, as the three judges at the 48th District Court, which is partially-funded by the city of Bloomfield Hills, recused themselves.
Sherr said he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on January 9 for misdemeanor larceny, which is punishable with up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. He said he is not guilty “because she (Prasad) should have known better. She's a criminal defense attorney. She was continuously jeopardizing our citizens. There were lots of violations. There's no larceny. I had absolute legal authority. I've done nothing wrong. She's an attorney and should have been aware of the laws, and shouldn't have placed the signs on private property when I had authority to remove them.”
The topic of did not come up amongst city commissioners at the latest commission meeting, Tuesday, February 12, which was attended by all members, including Sherr.