County executive names interim corporation counsel

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 31, 2013

MACOMB COUNTY — Ralph “Skip” Maccarone was due to start as interim corporation counsel July 26, following George Brumbaugh’s retirement after nearly 30 years of service to the county.

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners has until Sept. 15 to confirm a replacement for the position, but has not yet created a confirmation schedule.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said even if the board acts quickly, it will still take some time for the transaction to take place and asked Maccarone to fill the gap. No approval is required for the interim position.

“Skip is well-versed in the charter and he has excellent working relationships in the county’s legal community,” Hackel said in a statement. “I don’t know if he will be in the position for a few weeks or a few months, but he’s indicated that he has the flexibility to take on the assignment.”

Maccarone is an attorney in private practice and was the Macomb County Charter Commission executive director. He also was the supervisor of Shelby Township from 2000 to 2008 and teaches American government and public administration courses at Walsh College.

“I was approached by the county executive within the last week,” Maccarone said. “I told him certainly — I’d be happy to assist.”

Maccarone praised Brumbaugh and his legal staff.

“The staff is losing a real treasure,” he said. “There are three stellar attorneys and a good staff there, and I very much look forward to the opportunity to learn from them and assist in any way I can in the short time I will be there.”

Brumbaugh, 63, said he plans to take some trips and spend time with his wife, who retired from teaching last year, but he wants to continue to dabble in county government part-time.

“I just thought it was time to enjoy life,” he said. “You just don’t know what the future holds.”

As for his experience with the county, Brumbaugh said his career was great because he got to practice law and face different issues every day.

“I’m happy I got to spend the majority of my legal career here,” he said, “I think I’ve helped make the county a better place and I think I’ve established some criteria for that office to follow.”

He said one of the tasks of the corporation counsel is to be legal advisor to the retirement system, and that he has overseen its tenfold growth — from $80 million to $840 million.

“We never were hit with a large verdict or really adverse court ruling that negatively affected the county,” Brumbaugh said, attributing that to department heads and elected officials being mindful of duties, as well as selecting the right attorneys for various suits.

After an extensive selection process lasting several months, Hackel submitted Gabriel Orzame’s name to the board to serve as Brumbaugh’s permanent replacement.

Al Lorenzo, the assistant county executive, said a five-person panel including himself, Hackel, Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, Macomb County Circuit Court Chief Judge John Foster and Macomb County Director of Human Resources Eric Herppich conducted a careful screening of 47 applicants.

Lorenzo said Orzame has 20 years of legal experience (the last 13 years in three different court systems), has an intimate knowledge of a wide range of litigation and has spent a significant amount of time researching the law.

“We are very proud to put his name forward,” he said. “(Orzame) is a very talented, very experienced person.”

Although the executive office has appointed Orzame, the Board of Commissioners will make the final call.

“I’m excited at the prospect to get the opportunity of representing the county and its interests,” Orzame said. “But there’s nothing more I can say.”

The corporation counsel, Lorenzo said, has two primary roles: to be chief legal advisor to the county and to manage all of the litigation — or lawsuits — in which the county is involved.