Former deputy declines buy-out, slated to return to job.

August 11, 2017


Former deputy declines buy-out, slated to return to job.


By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

HART — Former Oceana County Sheriff’s Office deputy Wesley John Hanks, who is convicted of a misdemeanor of “turfing,” is slated to return to duty, Sept. 5, at 8 a.m. after declining a buy-out of his retirement time.

The Oceana County Board of Commissioners offered Hanks the option of either two years and five months of credit to his Michigan Municipal Employees Retirement System (MMERS) or to go back to work, said Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast. The offer was based on a recommendation by the board of commissioner’s personnel committee.

Hanks was given a deadline of Aug. 9 at 5 p.m. to respond, and Mast said he “heard nothing.” So, the sheriff reached out to the union representative for the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan (POAM), and the rep indicated that Hanks was declining the offer.

By declining the offer, Hanks is required to report back to work Sept. 5 at 8 a.m. to serve a position determined by Mast.

“He will not return to road patrol,” Mast said. “He will have another union job – probably within the corrections department.”

Should Hanks change his mind prior to his return-to-work date, it is likely the buy-out offer will remain on the table. “If he changes his mind, the county and myself will most likely extend the offer,” Mast said.

If he returns to work, Hanks will receive full salary and seniority. “He has 14 years worth of seniority,” Mast said.

Hanks pleaded guilty last January in 78th District Court to a misdemeanor charge of malicious destruction of trees, shrubs, crops, grass, turf, soil less than $200 and was sentenced to $400 in fines and costs.

Hanks was fired from his job with the sheriff’s office last September.

In exchange for his plea, one count of using a police radio while committing a misdemeanor was dismissed, said his attorney Douglas Gutscher, who specializes in representing Michigan police officers charged with criminal offenses through the POAM in Redford. Hanks’ sentence also includes a provision that he may not have any contact with the victims in the case or be near their residence for one year.

Hanks avoided a mandatory 93-day jail term with the dismissal of the police radio charge, Gutscher said.

Hanks was fired by now-retired Sheriff Robert Farber “because he was under criminal investigation and violated several department policies and procedures,” Mast said previously. The county board of commissioners agreed that Hanks’ termination was appropriate, Mast said.

Hanks, who was arrested by the Hart post of the Michigan State Police, was still employed as a sheriff’s deputy when he committed the crime.

The charges stem from an Aug. 3, 2016 incident on 34th Avenue in Golden Township in which Hanks was riding in a pickup truck with a then 18-year-old man. The driver was a person who rode along with Hanks while he was on duty as a deputy, because he was interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, according to a police report contained in Hanks’ court file.

Both Hanks and the driver said they were coyote hunting that night and wanted to play a prank on the victim. There are two versions of the story as far as who lit the firework, said Hanks’ attorney. Hanks threw the firework out of the truck because he didn’t want it to go off in the cab of the truck, he said.

The 18-year-old was granted immunity in exchange for a truthful statement about the incident, the attorney said.

Hanks had his police radio on him, because he is a Hart firefighter, the attorney said. “He always carries it with him. He wasn’t using it to evade anyone.”

No one was injured in the incident.

According to a police report, Hanks stated, “This was nothing more than a friend pranking a friend, and he was caught in the middle.”

“It’s been a very unfortunate situation that has caused a lot of stress for our department and the community,” Mast said.

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