Anthony Marrocco found in violation of ethics ordinance

By: Thomas Franz | C&G Newspapers | Published October 20, 2016 | Updated October 21, 2016 2:18pm

 Anthony Marrocco

Anthony Marrocco

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MACOMB COUNTY — The Macomb County Ethics Board found Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco to be in violation of the county’s ethics ordinance for use of a county facility for the purpose of campaigning.

Board of Commissioners candidate Leon Drolet, R-Macomb Township, filed the complaint with the Ethics Board. He and Macomb County Deputy Executive Mark Deldin each spoke during an Oct. 19 Ethics Board meeting to voice their concerns about Marrocco’s actions.

Marrocco was not present at the meeting, but he emailed his response to the complaint at 10:30 p.m. the night before the meeting.

He was issued a $125 fine from the board.

“I appreciate the board’s willingness to act quickly and not delay this and end this bureaucracy,” Drolet said. “My reaction is also a little bit flabbergasted at Mr. Marrocco’s apparent disdain for this entire process and for ethics in general. The fact that he doesn’t send a representative to the Ethics Board on a complaint of this nature tells me he doesn’t really care.”

Marrocco said he would accept the ruling.

“While I strongly disagree with this decision, I will abide by the ruling,” Marrocco said in a prepared statement.

Drolet’s complaint alleges that Marrocco acted in violation of section 2.8 of the ethics ordinance, which states that public servants shall not engage in political campaign activities using county property or during time in which they are performing official duties.

Drolet’s complaint states that Marrocco violated the ethics ordinance Aug. 31 when he used the Chapaton Pump Station in St. Clair Shores to film a campaign commercial.

The main question for the Ethics Board to resolve was to determine if the pump station is county property.

Marrocco’s response letter claims the pump station to be owned by the 8 1/2 Mile Drainage District, which he said is a separate legal entity and therefore not covered by the ethics ordinance.

The Ethics Board said the pump station is indeed county property through testimony from Deldin and assessing records from St. Clair Shores.

Deldin said the Executive’s Office is the sole authority to issue approvals for individuals or groups to use county facilities, and most often that involves Freedom Hill.

Over the past five years, Deldin said, he has no knowledge of anyone requesting the pump station, and his office also never received a request from Marrocco to use it.

Deldin also said Marrocco spoke to the Macomb County Board of Commissioners at an Oct. 6 meeting to request that the board spend $128 million of general fund dollars for improvement of Chapaton.

“Two weeks ago, he was asking the commission that if they care about clean water, they will spend $128 million of county dollars to approve the expansion of Chapaton,” Deldin said.  “We would not spend any money on property we don’t own.”

“In all other cases through the Public Works Department, when drain stations or pump stations are approved that are not part of the county but part of the Oakland-Macomb Drainage District, the only thing the commission is asked to do is to use its good faith in credit in issuing a bond,” Deldin said.

Following that discussion, the five-person ethics panel voted unanimously to approve a motion that based on the preponderance of the evidence, it would appear that Marrocco did violate the ethics ordinance by utilizing county property for campaign purposes. 

This was done in spite of the fact that the deed registered to the basin is owned by the 8 1/2 Mile Relief Drainage District, and it has been owned by the district since 1965.

The deed was not known to board members, as well as Deldin and Drolet, during the meeting.

“I believe that we are owed a complete public apology by the Ethics Board and by Leon Drolet, Mark Deldin and everyone who participated in this kangaroo court,” said Michael Radtke, a spokesperson for Marrocco’s campaign, a day after the Ethics Board’s decision.

Upon learning that the deed belongs to the drainage district a day after the meeting, Drolet said Marrocco still violated the public’s trust by using taxpayer property for political advancement.

“The big point is, it doesn’t really matter if it’s owned by the state or the county or the township or drain board. It’s not his property, it belongs to the taxpayers, and it’s unethical to use taxpayer resources in a campaign,” Drolet said.

Board Chair Donald Amboyer said during the meeting that Marrocco’s actions were inappropriate and unethical.

“It’s my personal opinion that this is a miscarriage. Mr. Drolet talked about spending $500 to get a lot of free publicity in the press and media and the worthiness of that,” Amboyer said. “I just don’t feel that’s right.”

Drolet said the fine is symbolic that Marrocco has abused his office.

“It would be nice if there was a fine available that’s commensurate. For him to pay a couple hundred bucks to get $400,000 worth of campaign material, unless the fine is going to be $400,000, the decision by this body is that he has indeed violated the public trust and violated the ethics that we expect out of elected officials.”

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