Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy has been fined in connection with a 2018 campaign ad featuring then-gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette.

Last August, Sheriff Murphy appeared in a television commercial with Schuette. After it began airing, Livingston County Democratic Party Chairwoman Judy Daubenmier filed a complaint alleging he was in violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act for appearing in uniform and using a patrol vehicle in the ad. It turned out Murphy was in violation of the Act and a conciliation agreement was reached with the state. He had to pay $100 to the state and $100 to the county to reimburse one hour of his wage and the use of a county vehicle. Although he could have used campaign dollars, Murphy says he chose to pay the fine out of his personal account. Further, Murphy reimbursed the county $585 for attorney fees associated with answering the complaint, which was again personal money not campaign dollars. When the complaint was filed, Murphy stated if he was found in violation he would make it right and he says that’s exactly what he did. He says the county was made whole so no tax dollars were expended, adding he takes full responsibility for his actions and such a situation will not happen again. At the time, Murphy said he did not believe it was a violation. In a Facebook video, Murphy stressed that as he said in the beginning; he never wanted taxpayers to be out any money and wanted to do the right thing. Murphy said as a side note, he found it a little bit ironic that he could have used campaign money to pay the fines for the violations of the Campaign Finance Act.

Daubenmier said while it might sound like a small matter, the principle is a big one in that public resources may not be used for political purposes. She told WHMI she was pleased the state agreed with how she understood the law and pleased Murphy accepted the reasoning of the conciliation agreement so that everyone is clear on what can and can’t be done. When one political party is in control, she says it can be easy to step over the line because nobody is there to notice, call them on it or raise any questions so it kind of falls to those on the outside to do it and that’s what she tried to do. Daubenmier said she was glad to see the sheriff stepped up and understands where that line is now, and that he also reimbursed the county for attorney fees. Daubenmier says it’s easy for public officials to be sort of swayed by someone like Schuette, who was the Attorney General, and assume he knew what he was talking about when really he was pushing things over the line. She says the agreement will make it easier for people in county government to understand where the law is and not be pressured or misled into something they really shouldn’t be doing.

Daubenmier said she also filed a complaint against Schuette but that was dismissed because the division said he was not in control of the public resources the way Sheriff Murphy was. She says it’s kind of ironic in that Schuette could make all the arrangements but not suffer the consequences – adding Schuette got off scot free more or less after his campaign basically told Murphy where to stand and park the patrol car for the campaign ad. Regardless, Daubenmier noted that hopefully everyone will keep things on straight and narrow from here on out and know the law if approached by a campaign candidate.

The full press release issued by Daubenmier and Murphy’s response are attached. A link to Murphy's Facebook video is also provided. (JM)