April 2, 2023

USA: First African American Woman To Hold Mayor Position For The City Of Eastpointe Charged In COVID Relief Fraud Case. She Is Also Being Sued For Abused Power, Shouting Down Constituents.

WXYZ-TV Detroit published February 4, 2021: Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens reflects on being first African American woman to hold position. This Black History Month, we're celebrating individuals who are making history and paving a way forward, like Monique Owens.
CBS Detroit published March 9, 2023: Eastpointe mayor facing felony fraud charges. Eastpointe mayor Monique Owens is facing charges after she allegedly fraudulently applied for a grant under the CARES Act in November 2020.

Fox2 News, Detroit local
written by Brandon Hudson and FOX 2 Staff
Thursday March 9, 2023

EASTPOINTE, Michigan - Less than two months ago, Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens told residents of her own city that they were responsible for the crime in the city. Now, she's been charged with a felony for alleged fraud related to COVID relief from the federal government.

Owens was charged in Clinton Township on Thursday with one felony count of fraud by false pretenses between $1,000 and $20,000.

In court on Thursday, it was revealed that Owens was charged in connection to receiving $10,000 for a CARES act disclosure. The exact nature of what she allegedly did was not released.

The CARES Act was a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law by then-President Donald Trump in March 2020 to assist communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her attorney, Scott Weinberg, said there's no proof that Owens did anything wrong and they'll see the process through in court.

Since Owens has been sworn in as the city's first Black female mayor in 2021, she's hit multiple problems.

From a heated back-and-forth involving an alleged assault with a council member last summer to a federal lawsuit claiming she's silencing members of the public in November. And in January of this year, she told residents of the city to 'blame themselves' for the high crime rate.

Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido says that Owens is innocent until proven guilty but the latest situation shows no one is above the law.

"It’s a sad day, I think, when anybody in authority is being charged with a crime. And in addition, somebody who has had some police background and training. It’s unfortunate though that being a leader and somebody who is governing to be even accused of a crime," Lucido said.

She was charged in Clinton Twp as all Eastpointe judges recused themselves due a conflict of interest.

We reached out to the city attorney for comment about how this could affect her future of mayor, but we have not heard back.

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression published November 10, 2022: FIRE sues Michigan mayor who abused power, shouted down constituents.

FIRE filed a federal lawsuit that will remind Monique Owens, mayor of Eastpointe, Michigan, that a mayor takes an oath to defend the Constitution, not herself. FIRE is representing four Eastpointe citizens — Mary Hall-Rayford, Karen Beltz, Cindy Federle, and Karen Mouradjian — who sued Owens and the city of Eastpointe, Michigan, to protect the rights of all Eastpointers to peacefully criticize government officials. Owens was elected mayor of Eastpointe, a suburb of Detroit, in 2019. At a Sept. 6, 2022, city council meeting, Owens abused her power as the presiding officer by shouting down and suppressing criticism of her while the floor was open for public comments.
FOX 2 Detroit published November 17, 2022 Eastpointe mayor being sued for silencing residents during public meetings. The situation in Eastpointe has gotten the attention of the free speech foundation based in Philadelphia that’s filed a federal lawsuit against the mayor, on behalf of Rayford – and three other women silenced at those meetings. 
CBS Detroit published December 16, 2022: Judge orders City of Eastpointe mayor to not block residents from public comment. Mary Hall-Rayford and three other Eastpointe residents filed a lawsuit against Mayor Monique Owens for allegedly violating their first amendment right.

Fox2 News, Detroit local
written by Jessica Dupnack and David Komer online producer
Thursday November 17, 2022

EASTPOINTE, Mich. (FOX 2) - The Eastpointe mayor is facing a lawsuit for her treatment - and her silencing of residents during public meetings.

"She tends to bully, it looks like senior citizens," said Mary Hall Rayford.

Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens cut her off during public comment – with just under three minutes of her allotted time remaining.

"You know what, I'm going to stop you right there, we're going to stop the council meeting," said Owens during a meeting, interrupting Rayford. "I'm going to have a point of order, and I'm going to talk over you. This is going to be one of those meetings y'all never seen before."

And it happened to two other people at the same September meeting.

In another instance, this happened after Owens interrupted another elderly resident who then responded that the mayor was out of line.

"You are out of line," she fired back. "Now do you want to stand there and talk about your cats and your dogs in the community, but you don't want to talk about me?"

Mayor Owens, who is serving the third year of her first term, did not want to hear any residents supporting councilman Harvey Curley - who Owens alleges assaulted her last summer at a community event.

Rayford says that she wanted to exercise her First Amendment right to support Curley.

"If you can’t stand the criticism, you shouldn’t get into politics," she said.

The situation in Eastpointe has gotten the attention of the free speech foundation based in Philadelphia that’s filed a federal lawsuit against the mayor, on behalf of Rayford – and three other women silenced at those meetings.

"The government doesn't get to decide what side of the debate citizens can speak on," said attorney Conor Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick, with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, is overseeing this case.

He says public officials can of course stop disorderly conduct during public comment – like swearing or throwing things.

"What the government can’t do is cut you off and shout you down because they don’t like what you have to say," he said.

Rayford, who admittedly is not a big lawsuit person says her end game is simple.

"I want people to come to a council meeting and speak their minds," she said.

FOX 2 emailed Mayor Monique Owens for comment – this clip, the end of that September council meeting that ended abruptly.

Mayor Owens did not respond in time for this story.

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