Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Berrien County Judge Butzbaugh Steals from Benton Harbor Residents, Part II
by Dorothy Pinkney

The Harbor Shores project which has been primarily pressed by Cornerstone Alliance on behalf of Whirlpool Corporation began in 1988 when the community economic development corporation was formed by John Dewane of the law firm Butzbaugh and Ryan. (yes, that's Judge Butzbaugh)

In 1992 Jeff Edmonds, Judge Butzbaugh's campaign manager in 2004, co-signed the filing with the Mich. Dept. of Labor and Economic Growth. In 1991, the community Economic Development Corp. became Cornerstone Alliance. Cornerstone's legal documents were all prepared by Butzbaugh's associate Dewane.

Dewane has been continuously on the board of directors of Cornerstone Alliance through 2007, the last year for which there is a record. Dewane has now been appointed to
judge in Berrien County by Gov. Jennifer Granholm because judge Butzbaugh was a member of the bar with Granholm, and Dewane worked in the same office with Butzbaugh. He was recommended by Butzbaugh. Butzbaugh and Dewane were both appointed by Granholm.

In 2000 Benton Harbor sought a section 108 loan guarantee coupled with a BEDI grant to complete what is known as the Edge Water plan, a 422 acres Brownfield redevelopment project. The parcel physically connects the all-white city, St. Joseph, to all-Black Benton Harbor, and became St. Joseph township. We call this stealing land. Benton Harbor city commissioners agreed without residents' approval to subcontract to Cornerstone Alliance to carry out the Edgewater plan. Dewane is legal counsel to the Finance and Administration committee responsible for all contracts and financial oversight of Cornerstone Alliance.

There was another portion of the land sold for redevelopment known as the Grand
Boulevard Renaissance LLC. Their attorneys were Dewane, Peterson and Cullitan PC,
the successor firm when Butzbaugh assumed the bench. Ship Street Real Estate was formed with Dewane, now Judge Dewane, as resident agent and incorporator. Ship street had merged with Butzbaugh and Ryan with the surviving corporation being Ship Street Real Estate. Ship Street Real Estate superseded Counselor Ship Street Real Estate which in turn superseded Law and Title Realty - formed in the year 2000.

There is an unbroken history of direct relationship and interest between the above entities and Judge Alfred Butzbaugh, since at least the formation of Butzbaugh and Ryan in 1984.

Finally, property record indicates that Judge Butzbaugh is the 50% beneficiary of the Elden Butzbaugh trust. On two occasions in 1998, the Elden Butzbaugh Jr. Real Estate Trust acquired property along the Benton Harbor ship canal.

Judge Alfred Butzbaugh is conflicted by his economic interests in Harbor Shores and other related projects which my husband Rev. Pinkney and his various groups have been strongly fighting.

My husband and every other African-American citizen deserved a trial before an unbiased judge and a jury of their peers (not all-white). It is essential to due process. The best part about this situation is that my husband is still standing.