Bloomfield Township Republican trustee candidate Don Valente, who had a warrant issued by the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday, August 18, will appear in 48th District Court on Friday, September 11, for theft of campaign signs valued at less than $200.
Valente, a retired attorney, has been accused of stealing 50 to 60 campaign signs during the primary election. The crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by 93 days in jail and/or $500, or three times the value of the property stolen, whichever is greater. According to the warrant, to impose a fine of three times the value, the defendant must admit the amount, or it must be determined by the trier of fact at trial.
Valente is expected to be presented to the court by his attorney for arraignment.
A complaint was initially filed with the Bloomfield Township Police Department by a citizen who recognized Valente and saw him taking campaign signs for township supervisor Leo Savoie and treasurer Brian Kepes in the vicinity of Long Lake and Telegraph.
Valente has been a vocal opponent of Savoie and Kepes at township board meetings and in written campaign materials. Savoie lost in the primary, while Kepes won his primary challenge and does not face a general election challenge.
Bloomfield Township police initially investigated the complaint, with surveillance cameras confirming the thefts. They then expanded their surveillance review to other locations along Telegraph, where they saw numerous other signs for Savoie, Kepes, Tom Smyly, Eric Pernie, and other candidates that had been taken.
Pernie, who lost in the primary in his effort to run as a trustee, is a former Bloomfield Township police officer, and Smyly, who is the Republican candidate for clerk, is currently a Bloomfield Township police officer. Chief Phil Langmeyer said they turned the case over to the Oakland County sheriff's office in order to avoid any appearance of conflict. “It's not a case we are handling,” he stated.
The sheriff's office ran its own investigation and turned the results over to the county prosecutor's office.