Bloomfield Township Republican trustee candidate Don Valente appeared before Magistrate Julie Nelson-Klein at 48th District Court on Friday, September 11, for theft of campaign signs of other township candidates and was ordered to appear back at 48th District Court for a pretrial hearing before Judge Diane D'Agostini.
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. The value of the campaign signs has been estimated at $200. 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.
Nelson-Klein ordered Valente to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office for fingerprinting, as well as to pay a $10,000 personal bond. As part of his bond, he cannot leave the state or have any contact with Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie, treasurer Brian Kepes, trustees Neal Barnett and Michael Schostak or clerk candidate Thomas Smyly, including by personal contact, email, fax or phone calls.
A complaint was initially filed with the Bloomfield Township Police Department by a citizen who recognized Valente and saw him taking campaign signs for Savoie and 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, Smyly, Eric Pernie, and other candidates that had been taken. To avoid any potential conflict, township police turned the case over to the sheriff's office which performed its own investigation and requested a warrant which was issued by the county prosecutor.
The pre-trial hearing has yet to be scheduled.