Pursuit of township ethics ordinance gains resident support

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published January 24, 2018

 Macomb Township Trustee Tim Bussineau updated the Board of Trustees at the Jan. 10 meeting on residents looking to draft an ethics ordinance for the township. He held an informational meeting earlier in the month with residents at the library.

Macomb Township Trustee Tim Bussineau updated the Board of Trustees at the Jan. 10 meeting on residents looking to draft an ethics ordinance for the township. He held an informational meeting earlier in the month with residents at the library.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Macomb Township Trustee Tim Bussineau gave an update on a possible ethics board or ordinance during the Jan. 10 meeting, with several residents speaking in favor of an ordinance.

Bussineau originally proposed the creation of an internal ethics policy that would govern elected officials during the Dec. 6 Board of Trustees meeting. The board approved Bussineau to pursue and solicit a team to research and develop a possible ethics board and ethics ordinance.

Bussineau brought the proposal forward in the wake of a current and former trustee being indicted on federal criminal charges in the past 14 months. Bussineau said he hoped to have board members, township employees, union representatives and residents be part of the team.

But, following an informational meeting early this month, Bussineau told the board on Jan. 10 that the residents are leading the way on the creation of an ethics ordinance and he would just bring it to the board to review when it was drafted.

“What is happening is absolutely why I love to live in this community as the residents have hijacked the process from me,” Bussineau said. “So many people had questions about what was going on and concerns about how that process might go. I believe the ethics ordinance you will see will be given to the board for review by the residents of this township. The residents decided it might be in the best interest if they bring that ordinance forward.”

Bussineau said the meeting was held at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library North Branch and there were dozens of residents in attendance. After the board meeting, he said Clerk Kristi Pozzi was also in attendance.

In bringing forth the idea of an ethics ordinance or board, Bussineau said he thinks a policy could help employees have resources if they are asked to do something unethical by an elected official.

In November, Trustee Dino Bucci was indicted on 18 criminal charges, including allegations of embezzlement and kickbacks in his position as a trustee, as well as working for the Macomb County Department of Public Works.

In May 2017, former Trustee Clifford Freitas accepted a plea deal after being charged with accepting a bribe from Rizzo Environmental Services in exchange for obtaining a contract with Macomb Township.

Treasurer Karen Goodhue said she wanted Bussineau to post an application form on the township website for a possible ethics board, as was discussed during the Dec. 6 meeting. Bussineau said after the meeting that while that was discussed, the residents wanted to draft an ethics ordinance first and a board could come later.

“I don’t need permission to talk to residents, and residents decided it was probably in the best interest to pursue that ordinance,” Bussineau said. “We talked about why we need an ordinance and the residents took that process over for me.”

Resident Jim Gelios, who is a former deputy clerk for the township, said during the Jan. 10 meeting that he heard of numerous cases of employee harassment and threats when working for the township and that an ethics ordinance was the right direction to go.

“We need to work together to put something in place to prevent future incidents from occurring again,” Gelios said. “Moving forward, I can’t see why any of you would not be in favor. This is a way to ensure honesty and integrity in township government. It is a new day and a new way of doing things.”

For several residents, a possible ethics ordinance was about moving forward from the corruption, as well as honest communication between officials and residents.

“This is something this township needs in order to move forward to keep corruption from happening again in this township,” said resident Neil Kaffenberger. “It not only protects residents and employees, but it is something that needs to get done and approved so this township can move forward.”