Ex-Highland Park manager sentenced in money case

HIGHLAND PARK (AP) -- The former emergency manager for Highland Park on Wednesday received probation and was ordered to pay restitution in connection with unauthorized payments he received from the fiscally troubled Detroit enclave.

Arthur Blackwell II, 60, was sentenced in Detroit by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway.

Hathaway set Blackwell's restitution at $264,000 -- the amount prosecutors say he wrote in checks from city funding.

Defense attorney Ben Gonek said no deadline was given on when the restitution had to be paid in full.

Blackwell pleaded no contest last month to mishandling public money. A no contest plea isn't an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

On Wednesday, he said former Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave him the OK to pay his own salary while trying to fix the finances of the fiscally-challenged city.

"I basically made a mistake," he said after the sentencing. "We're going to have figure out a way (to repay the money)."

Granholm appointed Blackwell in 2005 to oversee Highland Park's finances. He was dismissed in 2009.

At the sentencing, Hathaway acknowledged Blackwell's years of public service, but added that his conviction "sends a message to other elected officials what can happen in an unpleasant way if things are not kept in order."

Blackwell said he originally agreed to accept only a $1 annual salary, but eventually sought more money to do the job.

Published: Fri, Apr 19, 2013