UPDATED: King accused of wrongly billing state

Courtesy Photo Terry King

ALPENA –Reporting false information to the state about hours worked at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and interference in an investigation into an alleged gunman at Ella White Elementary School are two accusations that led to an internal investigation against and ultimate resignation of former Alpena County undersheriff Terry King, according to the sheriff.

According to a letter written to King from Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski, King had submitted invoices for administrative work performed at the base while he was at the sheriff’s office and not at the base, often for eight hours a day for a week at a time. Kieliszewski said King also submitted invoices for pay while taking personal time off.

Last month, the state announced Alpena County was not selected for a new contract to provide security at the base. It’s unclear if there is any relationship between King’s alleged actions and the county losing the contract. The winning bid was about $3 million less than the bid submitted by the sheriff’s office.

The state still is investigating King for the billings at the base, according to the sheriff’s letter, released to media outlets this evening following requests by The News and True North Radio through Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. Several names and other details are redacted in the version of the letter shared with the press.

A spokesman for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office could not confirm or deny on Monday if there was an ongoing investigation into King.

The letter also accuses King of suggesting that a witness not to take a lie-detector test in the Alpena Police Department’s investigation into an alleged gunman trespassing at Ella White last year.

“As the undersheriff you represent me to the public and I need to have absolute faith in your judgment at all times,” the sheriff wrote to his former right-hand man. “The incidents described in this letter may not rise to the level of misconduct, but do not reflect the public image of the Alpena County Sheriff’s Office that is necessary for the office to carry out its functions and raise serious issues with your judgment. As a result, I have reached the conclusion that I no longer believe you can be trusted to carry out the duties of undersheriff in the matter I consider appropriate.”

King’s attorney, Matt Wodja, said he is aware of the allegations against King and an official comment will be released at a later date.

“We are preparing a point-by-point response to the allegations or issues raised in the letter,” Wojda said. “We will have a lot more to say at that time.”

King said in a written statement on Monday that he was being forced out of the office because he reported regulatory violations to Kieliszewski in good faith.

Kieliszewski’s letter was presented to King during a closed-door meeting Monday, during which the sheriff gave King the option of resigning or being terminated. King resigned. He had been on paid administrative leave since April.

King also announced he would run for sheriff in 2020.

In March 2018, an Ella White teacher reported seeing a man with a gun near the door. The Alpena Police Department’s investigation is ongoing. An arrest was never made.

According to Kieliszewski’s letter, the sheriff received a complaint that King had interfered in the APD investigation. Kieliszewski had a meeting with King about the allegations and told him that, if he had interfered, he would be terminated. He said King denied the allegation.

On March 11, 2019, Kieliszewski had a meeting with Alpena Police Chief Joel Jett, who told the sheriff police had learned King had suggested a witness in the Ella White investigation should not take a polygraph test.

Kieliszewski “found this information concerning and knew an internal investigation needed to be completed regarding your actions,” according to the letter the sheriff sent to the King.

Kieliszewski said he decided to release the letter to the public because of the public’s interest in the matter, as well the public’s right to know why the investigation was done and what was found. FOIA allows, but does not require, police agencies to withhold law enforcement officers’ personnel records.

“It has always been the practice of my office to be transparent to the public, as well as protect the privacy of personnel records of law enforcement agencies,” he said. “But Terry King’s press release regarding his view on the reason he is no longer undersheriff made the public’s interest in knowing the contents of the letter stronger than the interest of withholding that document.”

No other documents related to the Sheriff’s Office’s internal investigation into King have been released.

Redacted letter from Alpena County Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski to Undersheriff Terry King by Justin Hinkley on Scribd