News Story

Lenawee County commissioner listed himself as beneficiary in Phoenix Project

Publicly, David Stimpson said he wouldn’t benefit. But in documents to the feds, he listed his companies as beneficiaries

David Stimpson, chair of the Lenawee County Commission and a vocal advocate for the stalled Phoenix Project, listed himself and two of his companies as beneficiaries of the project, according to official records.

Phoenix Project, a proposed $90 million sports complex in Tecumseh, was shelved by the county commission in July.

Several Lenawee County residents have pushed local, state and federal authorities to investigate Stimpson. Kevon Martis, one of the residents leading the push for an investigation, and a candidate for Lenawee County Commission, says that Stimpson was not being truthful when he said he would not benefit from the project.

Stimpson owns several investment properties adjacent to the project site.

In documents filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Stimspon lists two firms he directs, Northern Chelsea Associates LLC and BCKS Investments LLC, as beneficiaries of the project.

Stimpson purchased the investment properties in November, one month after he voted for the county to purchase land for Project Phoenix. He purchased the properties through Northern Chelsea Associates and BCKS Investments, both of which he owns.

In the Tecumseh Herald, Stimpson said of his purchase: “It will all play a part and parcel to the development the community is going to see in the next five to ten years. I’m pretty excited about it.”

The story notes that Stimpson said his new Evans Street parcels will help connect the downtown area to the Project Phoenix area to make a walkable business and commercial district.

Martis says that Stimpson should have disclosed his property purchases to his fellow commissioners and also recused himself.

According to an Adrian Daily Telegram story of May 6, “Stimpson said he stands to lose as a result of Project Phoenix because his property values will rise and his taxes on those properties will go up.”

Documents Martis obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request suggest otherwise. In the forms Stimpson filed with an office of the Commerce Department, he declares he will gain from Project Phoenix. In one of the documents, known as a beneficiary information form, Stimson affirmed, “Project Phoenix will generate significant visitor traffic that the City of Tecumseh, the Downtown Tecumseh business corridor, and surrounding communities has not experienced before. This project is the primary reason our firm is committing to this investment as enough economic activity will be generated to support a positive return on investment.” He signed it on Jan. 20.

Martis filed a complaint with the Michigan attorney general, Michigan State Police, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He also has emailed local officials.

The Michigan State Police department conducted a preliminary investigation and determined it will not investigate further. Det. Scott Singleton wrote in an email to Martis and two other men that although the four forms Stimson filed show his intent to benefit directly from the project, Project Phoenix is not moving forward. The properties are of “no more value today than they would be if the project never existed,” he continued.

Stimpson’s filing identifies four properties that would benefit from the Phoenix Project.

  • 109 E. Logan, a $15 million investment to build built an apartment building with 70 residential units and 10 commercial tenants. Three tenants would be restaurants.
  • 210 S. Evans, a $3 million investment to produce 25 residential units and 5 commercial tenants, two of them restaurants.
  • 125 S. Evans, a $500,000 investment in a space for a private dance company
  • 102 W. Chicago, a $500,00 investment to create at least one restaurant. The property is next door to Stimpson’s downtown law firm.

Singleton, the MSP detective, told Martis and others that if the project resumes, his status as a beneficiary should be taken into consideration. But, he said, that is more of an ethics issue.

Martis also sent an email was sent to the Lenawee Board of Commissioners and Burke Castleberry, the county prosecutor, asking for an investigation. Martis says he has received no response.

Martis ran as a Republican for the county commission, and won his Aug. 2 primary race by 3 votes. No Democrat ran in the 7th district, so Martis will be elected to the new Lenawee County Commission.

Martis also submitted information to U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Forensic Audits and Investigative Service in July. He told the GAO that the county had sought out federal grants and he thought officials were fraudulent in failing to disclose that Stimpson would benefit. The GAO has not replied, Martis says.

When local officials shelved the project, some blamed “propaganda” and “misinformation” reported by Michigan Capitol Confidential and other news sources.

Martis says, “Everyone loves a good public-private partnership but generally they should be two different people” in the partnership. He is currently running for a seat on the county commission.

Lenawee County Administrator Kim Murphy did not respond to an email from CapCon, asking for comment. Neither have Stimpson or other county commissioners.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.