Board Debates Benefits, Trustee Abstains from Closed Session

Trustee Tim Bussineau

by ANDREW NEAL

This week’s Macomb Township board meeting featured much of what onlookers have come to expect: trustees debating the language over agenda items and proposals, and residents calling foul play. And something new this week, the Supervisor blamed the press for causing confusion.

Wednesday’s meeting began with a back and forth between trustee Tim Bussineau and township attorney Tom Esordi over the legalities of entering into closed session for an agenda item. Esordi defended the decision, while Bussineau was sensitive to the chance that the board might again violate the Open Meetings Act. Ultimately, the board voted to go into closed session and Bussineau indicated that he would remove himself from that discussion.

Social media banter was abuzz this week as the popular Facebook page “Macomb Township Political Page” was temporarily shut down by its moderators over what they saw as personal and unnecessary attacks levied against officials and residents. The moderators reactivated the page days later with new rules and regulations, but banned regular commenter Tommy Sokol. In response, Sokol launched his own Facebook page, “Macomb Township Voices!”

Nominated ZBA member Dave Pieper stepped up to the podium at Wednesday’s meeting to defend himself and address accusations that his nomination was a political payback. “When someone attacks my integrity, I take it very personally,” Pieper said, alluding to Sokol. “I volunteered to be on the ZBA because I want to be part of the solution to the problems of this community, not to add to the problems.”

Sokol also took to the podium to respond. “I want to expose anybody in this community who’s trying to play both sides because it’s popular, they think it’s going to get them the votes, they’re going to get the support and resources of these incumbents, and that they’re going to get the support of the people who support Tim Bussineau, and I won’t allow it.”

Pieper was nominated to fill the vacant ZBA position on a 5-2 vote, with trustee Bussineau and clerk Pozzi voting no, citing the process by which Pieper was nominated.

In hopes of keeping a campaign promise, months ago trustee Bussineau brought forth a resolution that would rescind health care benefits for part-time trustees. The board voted down that resolution, but trustee Goodhue requested that the township attorney review the language of that resolution and return with suggestions for improvement and clarity.

Township attorney Esordi presented four different drafts at the meeting. “What I attempted to do was to take our current resolution that was adopted in 2014 and amended in 2016 and make that into four separate resolutions for you,” Esordi said. The resolutions separate elected officials, trustees, deputies, and appointed officials. “The retirement benefits and the health care benefits for trustees is as currently exists.”

Bussineau responded, “The intention of my original proposal was (to eliminate) health care benefits for part-time trustees. Now we’re talking about deputies and leave time and what time of day they’re going and I don’t know what you’ve turned this into.” He continued saying, “To me, it’s just a bunch of antics not to get us to vote or approve it,” Bussineau said to a round of applause from the audience.

Clerk Pozzi also took exception to Esordi’s drafts, calling his statements extremely misleading. “I find that the increased clarity doesn’t exist and I find that there was modifications made, although you claim that you didn’t take the input from any particular board members to create this, but we have new language that benefits trustees once again inserted in here when it shouldn’t be,” Pozzi said.

“I told you that I’d be happy to work with you and you can remove whatever portion that you want. It’s not my intent to propose any language,” Esordi responded. “It was not my intent to change anything in what you have different from what’s there.”

“I don’t find that to be honest because there is clearly new language inserted in here, so I’ll go through each line so that I’m perfectly clear as to where I stand,” Pozzi said, before addressing specific lines that she took exception to.

Esordi was very responsive to her concerns and several changes were noted. The discussion led to Pozzi’s larger point that the state of the resolutions were confusing and unclear.

“Because of the nature of this vote, I need to clearly know what I’m voting on,” Bussineau said. He then made a motion to table the vote until the next meeting on Wednesday, November 8, in order to give Esordi enough time to implement Pozzi’s changes and distribute a concise resolution. That motion passed unanimously.

Residents used their public comment time to sound off on the confusing nature of the benefits discussion. “To say that this is confusing is an understatement,” one resident said. “Tim simply wants the full-time benefits for the part-time trustees revoked. It’s as simple as that.”

Supervisor Dunn used her time at the end of the meeting to address recent resignation rumors, which she denied weeks ago, and blamed much of the confusion on a reporter who wrote an article that she believes took her words out of context. “It is the placement of those statements within the article and context that I have serious issue with and is what has caused this entire situation.”

The Supervisor also noted that she would no longer conduct phone interviews with reporters and requested that the written statement she read at the meeting be used in its entirety or not at all.

The next day, Bussineau issued a statement criticizing Dunn’s treatment of the reporter (who incidentally did not write the article) calling it inexcusable and verbally abusive.