Ethics a central issue at Macomb Township board meeting

by ELENA DURNBAUGH

The May 8 Macomb Township Board of Trustees meeting was consumed with discussion of the proposed Ethics Ordinance and an ongoing debate over the combined position of human resources manager and legal counsel.

Last month, township planning director Patrick Meagher submitted a bombshell letter of resignation criticizing the relationship between board members, human resources/legal counsel, and supervisory staff. In his letter, he described a “conquer and control atmosphere” and said that the HR/legal position created a conflict of interest and was not working for the township. Purchasing Specialist Cynthia Carnes also resigned last month, citing similar concerns.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, trustees voted to move agenda items regarding a performance a review of Thomas Esordi, who currently holds the HR/legal position, to a closed session. During public comment, several residents voiced their concern and frustration over Esordi and the conduct of the board.

“The public has observed, at several past board meeting, hostile behavior from legal counsel and other board members toward Clerk Pozzi and Trustee Bussineau, and even residents that speak up from the podium, so it’s certainly not hard to believe that this behavior probably goes on within town hall,” chairman of the Ethics Advisory Committee Jim Gelios said.

The ethics committee was created in March 2018 to research and develop a possible ethics ordinance or other means to address ethical behavior. Such an ordinance has yet to be passed by the Board of Trustees.

“Given the recent circumstances such as employees resignation, there can be no doubt that an ethics ordinance is needed,” Gelios said during public comment. “Who knows – had one been in effect now, giving the employee a platform to address some of the aforementioned allegations, perhaps some of these resignations could have been avoided.”

The need for employees to have a platform to discuss their concerns was on display when Meggan Young, elections coordinator for Macomb Township, addressed the board during public comment. Young, her voice trembling during her prepared remarks, expressed her concerns over circumstances that she felt were unfair during her employment investigation in front of Esordi, the entire board, and residents at the board meeting.

According to Young, an investigation was opened regarding falsifying information on her employee application. She said that in his investigation, Esordi had provided false information to board members and misrepresented the circumstances under which she left her previous job.

“I come into work wondering if I’ll be terminated and why, and I go home and think about what would happen if I lose my job,” Young said.

After breezing through approvals of agenda items from the engineer and the human resources department, the trustees discussed Trustee Tim Bussineau’s proposal to set a date of June 26 to vote on a proposed ethics ordinance.

Bussineau highlighted that it had been over a year since the Ethics Advisory Committee was appointed, and said that the board had been given more than enough time to move forward on the ordinance they proposed.

“Maybe it’s not perfect, but we can vote on it and we can always amend the ordinance,” Bussineau said.

The June 26 proposal passed unanimously, as did a proposal from Clerk Kristi Pozzi to set a date to receive procedurals on enforcement from legal counsel by June 12.

During public comment on non-agenda items, residents continued to voice their frustration. Residents said that board members expressing surprise over employees resignations at the last board meeting supported what Meagher said in his resignation letter.

“It exactly illustrates the point Mr. Meagher was making in that blockbuster resignation letter,” said Kathy Western. “There’s a disconnect.”

Following Meagher’s resignation, Macomb Township Supervisor Janet Dunn told the Gazette that his resignation was a “shock” to her.

Union members from AFSCME and the Macomb Township Professional Firefighters 5023 also criticized the conduct of board members and Esordi.

The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22, at 7 p.m.