Prosecutor issues cease and desist letter to FiveCAP.

April 7, 2020

Prosecutor issues cease and desist letter to FiveCAP.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — Five CAP, Inc. has been issued a cease and desist order by the Mason County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for allegedly violating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay at Home, Stay Safe executive order.

The allegations have been made by the Scottville Police Department which, according to Chief Matt Murphy, has received several complaints from employees and the public.

FiveCAP is a non-profit organization. It’s purpose, according to its website, “is to motivate the poor through public and private resources to achieve economical and social independence through the provision of a wide range of services, to carry on any business in connections therewith not forbidden by the laws of the State of Michigan, and to provide decent housing that is affordable to low and moderate income persons in the FiveCAP, Inc. service area.”

That service area includes Mason, Manistee, Lake, and Newaygo counties.

Murphy said he acknowledges Five CAP provides essential services however the complaint stems from allegations that the agency’s main office, located at 302 N. Main St., Scottville, is not following social distancing orders by remaining fully staffed.

“It has, unfortunately, been brought to my attention by Chief Murphy of the Scottville Police Department that FiveCAP has been continuing to operate with virtually a full staff, with more workers than is strictly necessary to perform FiveCAP’s critical infrastructure functions or necessary to conduct minimum basic operations, that social distancing measures are not being followed, which now include wearing face coverings,” Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola stated in the letter. “Such actions put your employees and volunteers at risk, as well as the consumers who rely upon the crucial services which FiveCAP provides.

“Therefore, FiveCAP, its officers, agents and employees are herby issued a cease and desist directive that it is required to honor the executive orders of the governor of the State of Michigan, that it comply specifically with Section 5(c) of Executive Order 2020-21 regarding social distancing and mitigation strategies. The failure to do so would constitute evidence of a willful violation of the governor’s executive order exposing to criminal liability FiveCAP, its officers, employees, agents and volunteers.”

Five CAP Executive Director Mary Trucks said she believes her agency is in compliance with the executive order. She told MCP that there are currently 10 people working in the 3,300-square-foot building. Under normal circumstances, she said there are 14 or 15 people.

She said protocols are in place restricting only three people in the office’s lobby at one time and those people must comply with 6-feet distancing.

Employees have had the option to be laid-off and draw unemployment, she said.

“As essential infrastructure workers under the governor’s executive order, FiveCAP is complying with all COVID-19 safety measures in all facilities,” Trucks said. “Most FiveCAP employees are furloughed. Those working from home are setting their own schedule.

“Employees are following the social distancing instructions in all person-to-person interactions. Staff have been issued masks, gloves, sanitizers, and personal thermometers. We are complying with new instructions as they are released.”

Trucks said the Scottville office is the coordinating office and center of operations of services for the four counties FiveCAP serves.

“Employees are not required to work,” she said. “They have been advised to take their personal needs and concerns into account and decide if they can work. All employees are paid during this emergency stay whether they work or not. They have been given information on unemployment in case they choose this option.”

Trucks said office personnel practice regular sanitizing of work areas and sanitize after each personal contact situation.

She added that if COVID-19 response demands change, the staff will be further reduced or increased as needed “to do the job we are given.”

Murphy said his main concern is the amount of employees working in the building within close proximity of each other.

“Our department received complaints and it is our job to pursue those complaints,” Murphy said. “After meeting with Ms. Trucks and recognizing that she does not believe her agency is out of compliance, I determined the next step was to take this to the prosecutor.”

Trucks said she plans to contact someone in state government with her concerns about the prosecutor’s cease and desist order.

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