A Hillsdale res­ident ini­tiated a civil action suit, requesting a citizen grand jury and a special pros­e­cutor to inves­tigate Hillsdale County Under­sh­eriff Carl Albright. Julia Mullins | Col­legian

Hillsdale citizen Joseph Hendee ini­tiated a civil action suit on Feb. 14, requesting a citizen grand jury and a special pros­e­cutor to inves­tigate Hillsdale County Under­sh­eriff Carl Albright. 

Albright admitted to forging the city treasurer’s sig­nature on two sep­arate tax doc­u­ments in July 2019. 

“I felt that our public offi­cials failed us,” Hendee said. “They never held a hearing on it. I went to the commissioner’s meeting before I filed the suit. I asked them, ‘Why haven’t you had a hearing on this?’ It was upsetting.” 

Hendee said there is a con­flict of interest between the county pros­e­cuting attorney and the sheriff department, as the attorney works with the department. For this reason, Hendee said that if a public official breaks the law, the pros­e­cuting attorney should contact the state attorney general, declare a con­flict of interest, and then a special pros­e­cutor from the state would be assigned to the case. The pros­e­cuting attorney from the city, however, did not do this. 

The sheriff’s department did not ask for an outside inves­ti­gation of the matter, and the department brought no charges after legal counsel decided that Albright’s actions lacked criminal intent. Albright received a two-week sus­pension without pay, despite turning in his res­ig­nation. Albright declined to comment. 

“I stand by Under­sh­eriff Albright,” Sheriff Timothy Parker told the Hillsdale Daily News last Sep­tember. “He has been an asset to Hillsdale County for many years. I have the utmost con­fi­dence in his ability to fulfill his duties.”

Hendee is not as con­fident. 

“The public needs to know what hap­pened,” he said. 

Hendee sub­mitted his suit to a county judge, who will decide whether to take any further action regarding Albright. The citizen jury, if formed, will have the power to sub­poena emails, interview those involved, and make a con­clusion regarding the alleged crim­i­nality of the case. 

“The grand jury will get to the bottom of it,” Hendee said. “They have the power to sub­poena emails. We’re going to find out what hap­pened.”  

Hendee said that several people within the county, whom he decided to keep anonymous, have con­tributed to this effort. 

“I think it’s great that we have cit­izens in our county who are willing to take ini­tiative in this nature and not be com­placent,” said Jon Smith, a Hillsdale res­ident and cam­paign manager for sheriff can­didate Jon Rutan. 

Hendee said he hopes the suit will ensure account­ability and trans­parency in the future.