News, Culture and NPR for Central & Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
91.7FM Alpena and WCML-TV Channel 6 Alpena are off the air. Click here to learn more.

Chatfield facing over a dozen felony charges

Lee Chatfield testifies on legislation at the Michigan capitol on May26, 2015.
U.S. Politico
Wikimedia Commons
Lee Chatfield testifies on legislation at the Michigan capitol on May 26, 2015.

Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield is now facing over a dozen felony charges for allegedly misusing state, non-profit, and political action committee funds.

Prosecutors accuse Chatfield, a Republican who was speaker of the House in 2019 and 2020, of using the money to fund a lavish personal lifestyle, including vacations to the Bahamas and the Universal Studios in Florida, paying off over $100,000 in credit card debt, and purchases of luxury goods.

Attorney General Dana Nessel said the investigation is still ongoing. But she was concerned about delaying charges any further.

“I thought it was really important for us to sort of get the ball rolling for a number of reasons. One, so we could potentially reach some sort of conclusion on this matter. But also because I think it’s important for the public to know, and this is a great example of where we’ve gone wrong, where we lost our way,” Nessel said during a press conference Tuesday.

The charges include conducting a criminal enterprise, embezzlement, and violating the state Charitable Trust Act. They range in maximum punishments from five to 20 years in prison.

Chatfield’s wife, Stephanie, also faces two felony charges related to embezzlement in this case.

Mary Chartier, an attorney for Lee Chatfield, called the investigation into question in a statement Tuesday. “It took almost 2 and a half years for the Attorney General’s Office to come up with charges against Mr. Chatfield. We are prepared to fight them each and every step of the way,” she said.

Investigators began looking into Chatfield in January 2022 when Chatfield’s sister-in-law accused him of sexual assault and financial misconduct.

Nessel said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Chatfield in connection with the sexual assault allegations, but acknowledged the initial accusations helped make it possible to investigate Chatfield’s finances.

“You don’t know unless you have a legal reason to look. And, in this case, we did have a legal reason to look," Nessel said.

The organizations Chatfield allegedly pulled funds from for personal use include a 501(c)(4) social welfare non-profit called the Peninsula Fund, and the political action committees The Chatfield Majority Fund and The Chatfield Majority Fund 2.

Nessel said weak state laws surrounding campaign finance allowed the alleged corruption to happen.

Both Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are pushing lawmakers to pass a government accountability bill package currently before a House committee, known as the BRITE Act.

Colin Jackson is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
Related Content