NEWAYGO COUNTY, Mich. - A Newaygo County Court judge is on leave following complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct. The complaints were made against Hon. Graydon W. Dimkoff, and they are being investigated.
The administrative order describing Dimkoff's leave did not define what the allegations against the judge are but it said that the "safety and well-being of the court needs to be protected." The Chief Judge in Newaygo County, Hon. Robert D. Springstead, issued the order on Thursday, Nov. 1, saying that Dimkoff was "relieved of his docket until further order of the Chief Judge."
Springstead said that he issued the administrative order after consulting with and getting approval from the Newaygo County Administration and Michigan State Court Administrator's office.
Dimkoff was schedule to retire at the end of 2018. He denies the allegations.
Additionally, Dimkoff's appointment as the presiding judge of the family division of the 27th Circuit Court has been revoked.
All of the judge's cases will be reassigned, and he is prohibited from entering any Newaygo County court chambers, officers or administrative areas. Dimkoff's work hours have been suspended. Dimkoff was also ordered to surrender all county and court property, including cell phones or keys.
Spingstead said in the administrative order that Dimkoff can finalize any opinions or orders in cases where all the testimony has been received and the final task is to enter an opinion.
Dimkoff has been on the bench in Newaygo County since 1998. He spoke with 13 ON YOUR SIDE on Friday afternoon and denied the allegations made against him.
The judge said the complaints made against him are political retaliation from angry court employees who are disappointed he's endorsed Melissa Dykman and not Michael Paige for the Newaygo County Probate Judge seat that's open because of his scheduled Dec. 31 retirement.
Dimkoff issued this statement:
As I was interviewed by your reporter on Friday, I was and continue to be completely ignorant of the specific allegations against me. I do not believe I have ever sexually harassed an employee in my 20 plus years on the bench. I am in fact, requesting that the Judicial Tenure Commission conduct a thorough investigation of this matter, especially as it is coming to light only a few days before the election of my successor.
I have strongly supported one candidate over the other. The candidate I support is an experienced trial lawyer, and her opponent is the current Juvenile and Friend of Court Referee. I find it very unusual that the allegations are being made at this time, just prior to the election.
To this very moment no one has informed me of the specific allegations against me or who made them. I have not been questioned by any police agency, nor by any investigator of any kind. These allegations appear to be a matter of timing more than a matter of due process or any kind of justice.
I believe it is vital, and I am requesting that the Judicial Tenure Commission conduct an impartial, thorough investigation, as the election for my successor has divided the courthouse staff, and the Chief Judge who removed me from the courthouse is a friend of the candidate I have not endorsed.
After Dimkoff spoke with 13 ON YOUR SIDE, the Newaygo County Chief Judge Springstead issued a statement responding to Dimkoff's claims that being taken off the bench was political retaliation. Springstead said politics played no role in his decision and he believes both Dykman and Paige are qualified to be Newaygo County judges.
Springstead's full statement can be read below:
After reading Judge Dimkoff's and his wife’s statements in response to my order relieving him of his caseload I feel compelled to set the record straight. My order, as Chief Judge of the courts in Newaygo County, was entered after consultation with, and approval from, Newaygo County Administration and the Michigan State Court Administrator's office. I was motivated solely by my obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of court staff. It is my obligation as Chief Judge to follow state and federal law and court and county policies when a complaint of sexual harassment is made against someone under my authority. In discharge of those duties, I requested an investigation into the allegations on the first business day after I became aware of the complaint made against Judge Dimkoff. The impartial investigation started promptly and is on-going.
I categorically reject Judge Dimkoff's, and others’, reckless and uninformed opinions that my order was politically motivated and an attempt to aid candidate Mike Paige. I have known both candidates, Ms. Dykman and Mr. Paige, for their entire careers and believe they are both extremely well-qualified to serve as Probate Court Judge. Although permitted to do so by the canons of judicial ethics, I chose not to publically [sic] or privately endorse either candidate, in my individual capacity or in my capacity as the 27th Circuit Court Judge. I chose not to endorse either candidate because they both have the qualifications, knowledge, and temperament to competently serve the citizens of Newaygo County. I told both candidates early in the election cycle that I was not making an endorsement in their election and I have kept my word.
Judge Dimkoff's statement, and those statements of Judge Dimkoff's supporters and friends, that candidate Paige is somehow responsible for bringing forth the allegations of sexual harassment are absolutely false. The report of alleged sexual harassment and misconduct was made by someone other than Candidate Paige.
The allegations are being investigated in a fair, impartial, and confidential manner. Witness interviews are taking place, and when complete Judge Dimkoff will be informed of the substance of the allegations and given an opportunity to respond. After reviewing all the information, which absolutely will include any statements Judge Dimkoff chooses to make, I will decide as Chief Judge, whether Judge Dimkoff will resume handling cases in Newaygo County. My order relieves him of his docket, it does not remove him from office. Only the Judicial Tenure Commission has the power to remove a judge from office.
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