REESE — The Reese Village Council will declare a vacancy at its regular meeting Monday now that former president Gerald Ellison faces felony charges.
Ellison, 54, of Reese was arraigned in Midland County 75th District Court Wednesday on five counts of embezzlement by agent or trustee over $1,000 but less than $20,000.
Detective Sgt. Denny Proulx, with the Michigan State Police Tri-City Post, started investigating financial activity recorded at Midland’s Ware-Smith Woolever funeral home, located in Midland and Reese, after owners Scott and Kirk Ware suspected criminal activity.
Ellison was employed at Ware-Smith Woolever funeral home where he was responsible for handling funds at both locations.
But Scott Ware said they have not pressed charges yet, and they have turned the matter over to the Michigan State Police.
“For us, it’s still an ongoing investigation,” Ware said Wednesday. “Right now, nothing official has been done … he left our employment.”Proulx was not available to comment, but First Lt. David Kaiser with the Michigan State Police Tri-City Post explained that after investigators were given enough reason to believe Ellison was responsible for misappropriating funds from the funeral home, Michigan State Police filed a complaint that was forwarded to the Midland County prosecutor’s office, which most likely summoned Ellison to appear for arraignment.
Ellison was released on a $10,000 personal recognized bond, which is a written promise to appear in court.
A probable cause hearing has been scheduled for April 19 and a preliminary exam has been scheduled for April 26.
Kaiser said so far, there hasn’t been a request to open an investigation at the funeral home in Reese, but “I think it’s coming,” he said.
Reese Village Manager David Tatrow told The Advertiser last week that Ellison resigned as village president March 28 after he was confronted about the allegations.
Ellison had served on the council for several years, and he also served as assistant fire chief and treasurer at Reese Fire Rescue.
But he also resigned from those positions.
Tatrow said now that Ellison has been accused of taking funds from the funeral home, the village has no choice but to audit the village funds Ellison handled when he was village president, assistant fire chief and treasurer of the fire department.
Tatrow said Friday that the village is still in the process of reviewing financial records.
The Advertiser left two messages for Ellison, but he did not respond by press time.
Ellison’s brother, Gene Ellison, who is fire chief at Reese Fire Rescue, would not say if he has spoken to Gerald Ellison.
He chose not to comment on the matter because Ellison is his brother.
But Gene Ellison did say the fire department is aware of Ellison’s actions and they are currently reviewing his financial activity.
Former village council president pro-tem, Paul Keast, now serves as president of the council and former village trustee Tim Elbers serves as president pro-tem.
Village trustee Courtney Ross said those interested in serving on the council will be allowed to present themselves as nominees at the council’s regular meeting scheduled for the second Monday in May.
— Story by Beth Waldon for The Advertiser