The Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office has charged Kent County Commissioner Michael Jay Wawee, 43, with two felonies—embezzlement of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000 from a non-profit, and false pretenses of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000.
The charges stem from his work for the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids selling cemetery plots, funeral services and memorial services.
The investigation was undertaken by the Grand Rapids Police Department, at the request of the Diocese. The case is being prosecuted by the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office to avoid any impropriety, since Wawee is a Kent County Commissioner representing Walker and part of Grand Rapids.
Wawee was arraigned on the charges on Monday, February 3, in 61st District Court in Grand Rapids. His bond was set at $10,000 (10 percent) and he bonded out Wednesday, February 5. He has a preliminary exam scheduled for February 11, at 11 a.m. The first charge is punishable by 10 years and/or $15,000, and the second is punishable by 5 years and/or $10,000.
Meanwhile, Kent County Board of Commissioners Chairman Dan Koorndyk removed Wawee as Chair of the Legislative and Human Resources Committee, and named Commissioner Shana Shroll (District 19) to the lead role. “Duties on the Legislative and Human Resources Committee are crucial to the people of Kent County,” Koorndyk noted. “Members develop legislative priorities, study proposed legislation that could affect the county, and review county personnel policy and procedure manuals. It requires a great deal of time and commitment, and I felt the change in leadership was necessary to assure continuity and success.”
Wawee remains a member of the Board of Commissioners.
“Commissioner Wawee has been charged with a crime, and, as due process allows, is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” Koorndyk stated.
Wawee is the second commissioner charged with a crime in the last few months. Former Commissioner Gary Rolls resigned January 1 after being charged with four counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct in November.