Kent County Commissioner Wawee resigns

A mug shot of Michael Wawee Jr. (Feb. 3, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – A Kent County commissioner, accused of embezzlement, announced Thursday that he is resigning.

Michael Wawee Jr. released a statement Thursday morning —

“In our Country, we’re blessed enough to have a judicial system where we are innocent until proven guilty. That being said, I need to focus my energy on my family and proving my innocence. That unfortunately means I will not be able to dedicate the time necessary to represent my constituents.”

He was officially arraigned Feb. 3 with embezzlement under $20,000 and false pretenses over $1,000 from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids.

Wawee was responsible for coordinating sales of grave plots at the five cemeteries operated by the diocese. He was overcharging grieving families for the engraving of grave markers, according to court documents. Police said the diocese was not aware of the overcharging or the kickbacks.

Wawee, who has worked for the diocese for more than 20 years, was elected to the Kent County Board of Commissioners in 2010 and recently named chair of the board’s legislative committee. He was running for re-election.

“We, as a board, have continued to operate without a glitch,” Kent County Board Chairman Dan Koorndyk said in a statement. “It has not impacted day-to-day operations at all. We have a professional, dedicated staff in Kent County that manages the operations.”

Wawee served District 6, which includes Walker and parts of Grand Rapids.

His resignation is effective Feb. 28, and the board of commissioners has begun searching for his replacement. Applicants should send a letter and resume by March 5 to the Board of Commissioners Office, 300 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

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