Our Voice: Taxpayers should not foot bill for Green Power CEO's defense

March 25, 2014 

Charging taxpayers for Michael Spitzauer's defense is outrageous.

Spitzauer is accused of defrauding the public and his investors of $7 million through his business, Green Power, over the past several years.

In the meantime, he has been living a showy and extravagant lifestyle.

Since he was indicted in December and charged with 18 counts of fraud, he says he has had no income. So despite appearing to be wealthy, he is now claiming to be poor.

His company filed for bankruptcy protection, but that case is on the verge of being dismissed because the papers were not filled out and filed properly. Last week, Judith Calhoun, Green Power's acting CEO, filed for an extension for the Chapter 11 proceedings so she can have time to hire an attorney.

Huh?

Spitzauer says he doesn't have money to hire a defense attorney, but he does -- or will -- have money to hire an attorney to file for the company's bankruptcy protection?

Something is not right here.

The pauper story may well be true.

But people who own mansions and a fleet of cars should not be given public defenders before their assets are depleted. Although, in fairness, the judge has ordered that the family reduce its pool of vehicles from five to two.

And technically, Spitzauer isn't getting a public defender.

Public defenders, by definition, are appointed to represent people who cannot afford an attorney.

No, he is going to be able to keep the same attorney that he's been working with for more than a year, Christopher Black of Seattle, but now the public is going to pay his fees from the time of his arrest in December.

We're reluctant to comment on ongoing court cases. We let the judge and jury sort out all the facts. Even now, we won't comment on the actual fraud case.

But we are willing to lobby a complaint about this misuse of tax money to pay for Spitzauer's lawyer.

Judge Fred Van Sickle in Yakima's U.S. District Court determined that although there may be some credibility issues, he would give Spitzauer the benefit of the doubt.

We know Spitzauer only is accused of swindling a string of people and agencies who gave him the benefit of the doubt, but even with the presumption of innocence, the allegations ought to give the judge pause.

The idea of taxpayers paying Spitzauer's lawyer while other creditors stand at the front of the line is offensive and outrageous. Let Black submit his bills to the bankruptcy court, not to taxpayers.

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