Sheriff’s Office Investigated Whether Chelsea Fire Chief Lied To Officer

By Angelo Parlove,

According to a sheriff’s report, the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department recently investigated the Chelsea Area Fire Authority (CAFA) Chief James Payeur to determine if he lied to a police officer during a 2014 investigation of an Open Meetings Act violation.

However, the Washtenaw County Presecuting Attorney’s Office denied prosecution of the charge of lying to a police officer for lack of crime elements, according to a denial form sent from the prosecutor’s office to the sheriff’s department on Feb. 4.

The recent investigation stems from a 2014 investigation by the sheriff’s department into a possible violation of the Open Meetings Act. According to police reports, the CAFA board held closed sessions in September and October 2013 in which the employment status of firefighter Derek Klink was discussed. At the closed meetings, Payeur had a packet that he created which contained information pertaining to Klink’s behavior and discipline issues.

On Nov. 19, 2013, the Chelsea Standard published an article in which it appears, based on the information in the news story, that the reporter may have been provided a copy of the Klink discipline packet.

The sheriff’s office then interviewed all CAFA board members at the time, Payeur, his administrative assistant and two CAFA firefighters, including Klink, to determine if the Open Meetings Act was violated if the reporter was given information from the closed sessions.

During an interview on April 17, 2014, Payeur told the investigator he did not provide any information or documents regarding Klink to the reporter, the sheriff’s report said.

Further, on a sheriff’s report dated Jan. 20, 2016, the investigator states: “The interview I conducted with Chief Payeur in 2014 is on CD…Chief Payeur told me in his statement that he did not meet with anyone from the media regarding Klink. He told me that he did not make any statements or provide any documentation to the media regarding Klink. He also told me that he did not know anyone who did any of these things.”

However, according to the sheriff’s report also dated Jan. 20, 2016, firefighter Ian Ballard told the investigator in an interview on Jan. 20, 2016, Payeur and himself met with a reporter and editor of the Chelsea Standard on or about Nov. 15, 2013. Ballard further said he recorded the meeting in open view and that at this meeting the reporter was given a copy of Klink’s discipline packet.

Ballard then turned over the recording to the sheriff’s department. The Jan. 20 sheriff’s report states the recording is 2 hours and 12 minutes long and makes reference to “this packet right here” and “this is Derek Klink’s disciplinary investigation.”

However, the prosecutor’s office denied prosecution of Payeur for lying to a police officer because in order to commit the crime the person must have lied during an investigation of a serious misdemeanor.

An Open Meetings Act violation is considered only a misdemeanor, but not defined as a serious one.

According to a sheriff’s report dated Feb. 5, 2016, the case is closed.

Payeur did not respond to an interview request.

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