Thursday, October 20, 2022

Candidate’s explicit phone call is posted online

An obscenity-laden recording of a phone call made to Sumpter Township Supervisor Tim Bowman by a current candidate for treasurer has been posted on public websites.

The call, made to Bowman by Sheena Barnes, the democratic candidate for treasurer, contains highly explicit, vulgar language including multiple racial epithets. In the recording, Barnes also physically threatens Bowman and his family members. In light of the incendiary language and emotionally charged content of the recording, Bowman referred the call to the Sumpter Police Department for investigation and possible criminal action, citing harassment and intimidation along with the overt physical threat.

At last report, the findings in the police investigation and interview with Barnes regarding the content of the recording had been referred to another agency for review. 

Barnes, 62, is opposed by 26-year township resident Bart Patterson, a republican. Patterson denied any involvement in the posting of the contentious recording. He said that while he had heard about the phone call to Bowman, he had never heard the entire recording. 

A disclaimer on the site notes that no candidate or group authorized or approved the posting of the recording. 

Barnes published criticism of   current treasurer Vincent Warren falsely claiming that he has not provided reports during township board of trustee meetings has also been challenged by township officials. Warren and his staff have significantly reduced the delinquencies in water department payments during his time in office and that  achievement has been reported and discussed during public  meetings, they noted. Warren was appointed in June of 2021 to fill the incomplete term following the death of Treasurer James Clark.

Other township officials disputed Barnes' published claims of misspending, citing a recent independent financial audit of township finances performed by Rana Emmons, a CPA with Post, Smythe Lutz and Zeal. During her report to the board members in August, Emmons told the trustees that the audit was "unmodified" meaning the report was an accurate audit of revenue and expenditures for the fiscal year ending March 31. The auditor gave the township "top marks" for financial management.

Barnes is facing other questions regarding permits and licenses for her food business which she operates from her Sumpter Road property. According to documents provided through a Freedom of Information Act request, both Wayne and Washtenaw Health Department inspectors have found health violations at her business. Requests for further information regarding the violations and Barnes' current food handling licensing were not available at press time. The business was also in violation of Sumpter Township ordinances requiring a business permit at the time of Barnes' phone call to Bowman.

Bowman said he suspected Barnes' call may have been in response to a notice requiring compliance sent to all township businesses without proper permits. He denied that Barnes had been in any way singled out for the compliance notice.

Barnes has operated the business for 35 years and is a graduate of Airport High School and has attended Wayne County Community College. She is a member of the Belleville Area Council for the Arts, Southwestern Democratic Club, and Belleville Lake Fest. Previously, she has unsuccessfully sought election to terms as a trustee and as township clerk although she was appointed and served a partial term on the board of trustees.  She said she is seeking office to "to make a difference to the stagnated board of trustees and be the eyes and ears and voice of the people."

Patterson has owned his own construction and remodeling business for 30 years and previously sought election to the board as clerk and as a trustee in the early 2000s. He said he is active with his church where he is involved with the children's ministry and is a CPR/First Aid/AED instructor for the Red Cross. He said his goal as treasurer would be to ensure the continued fiscal responsibility in the township while providing "excellent services, recreational opportunities, and improved standard of living."  He added that another priority is “funding for the current and future needs of the public safety department.”

The two are competing for a partial term which will end in November of 2023.