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Embattled Eastpointe mayor pleads to reduced charge after lying about COVID-19 grant

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Embattled Eastpointe mayor pleads to reduced charge after lying about COVID-19 grant

Oct 01, 2023 | 4:31 am ET
By Steve Neavling
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Embattled Eastpointe mayor pleads to reduced charge after lying about COVID-19 grant
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Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens | Ken Coleman

Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens pleaded no contest Thursday to a reduced misdemeanor charge after authorities say she fraudulently applied for a $10,000 COVID-19 CARES Act grant in 2020.

Before entering the plea, Owens paid $10,000 in restitution.

No contest pleas are not an admission of guilt but are treated as such for sentencing purposes. The plea is meant to protect a defendant from civil liabilities.

Owens’s plea came nearly two months after she lost her reelection bid in a primary election. In 2022, she unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for a state Senate seat.

In March, Owens was charged with a felony count of making false pretenses in 41-B District Court in Clinton Township. She had faced up to five years in prison.

Owens, the city’s youngest and first Black mayor, now faces up to one year in prison on a misdemeanor count of making false pretenses. Sentencing is set for Oct. 10.

Owens was accused of falsifying information on her applications for a CARES Act grant in November 2020 by stating that her business had between 100 and 249 employees and was at least 51% veteran-owned.

“When a public figure acknowledges their guilt, takes responsibility for their actions and pays full restitution, it sends a powerful message that no one is above the law,” Macomb County Prosecutor Peter J. Lucido said in a statement.

In her city primary election on Aug. 8, Owens didn’t garner enough votes to advance to the November general election. The top two vote getters — former City Councilman Michael Klinefelt and Mary Hall-Rayford, a member of the Eastpointe School Board — are headed to the Nov. 7 general election. Klinefelt collected 57.2% of the vote, while Hall-Rayford received 16.8%.

Owens also made history in 2017 by becoming Eastpointe’s first Black councilwoman.

Owens’s time in office has been marked with controversy. She often clashed with other council members, and in November 2022, four Eastpointe residents filed a federal lawsuit against her for refusing to let them speak during a public comment period at a city council meeting. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit alleges Owens violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of four residents who tried to criticize Owens at a public meeting in September.

Metro Times couldn’t reach Owens for comment.

This story first ran in the Detroit Metro Times. Follow them: Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook Twitter