Complaint addresses board’s June vote

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 28, 2020

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Following a June vote denying a request for an independent IT audit to be conducted, a Macomb Township trustee has filed a formal complaint.

The issue centers on a June 24 Macomb Township Board of Trustees meeting when, in a 4-3 vote, the board determined it wasn’t necessary to perform an audit which would’ve examined how and why certain software was installed on Clerk Kristi Pozzi’s workstation.

Trustee Tim Bussineau filed a 41-page document July 16 in Macomb County Circuit Court.

“I’m asking for Janet and Kristi to recuse themselves and have a revote about an audit, or have the court order an audit,” Bussineau said. “It constructs a legal argument on why that audit should be done.”

Bussineau is listed as the plaintiff, with the Macomb Township Board of Trustees, Pozzi, and Supervisor Janet Dunn as the defendants. Pozzi and Dunn are specifically named.

When asked why she didn’t recuse herself from voting, Pozzi said the choice to recuse is based on her ability to remain impartial regarding the need to audit at this time.

“Based on the fact that independent entities deemed that no harm was caused in 2018, I felt it was more important to vote against a taxpayer-funded audit expenditure,” she said.

The complaint alleges that Pozzi and Dunn have “apparently abandoned their respective duties.”

It includes that on or about June 7, 2018, Pozzi entered into an agreement with Fore-IT, a private, third party company to install monitoring software, Auvik Collector, on a work computer used for government business only.

At a June 24 meeting, Trustees Charlie Oliver and Kathy Smith, as well as Dunn and Pozzi, voted to deny the audit. Bussineau and Trustee Nancy Nevers, along with Treasurer Karen Goodhue, were in favor of an audit.

A press release from Bussineau notes that an audit is standard operating procedure in situations where a data breach has occurred.

“It is unknown who paid for the software install,” it states. “The Board of Trustees was not consulted, nor made unaware of this install.”

The complaint states that Pozzi did not have authority from the board to contract with or procure service from any IT firm, nor had board authority to authorize the installation of any monitoring software on Macomb Township systems.

“Since the IT contract had been renewed without a competitive bid, I was doing what I could to determine if the computers were under maintenance contract,” Pozzi said. “I did not enter into a formal contract, rather, I received IT guidance from an IT services firm.”

Pozzi explains that Auvik collects stats, and cannot see any traffic content sent through a network.

“They collect a piece of code that uses a number of protocols to gather information about the network, such as topology details, configurations, and network statistics,” she said.

Bussineau’s complaint claims that by Oct. 22, 2018, the software was discovered and brought to Dunn’s attention by the township’s IT firm BPI Information Systems.

“BPI’s investigation determined that the foreign software was attempting to gain illegal access to township information, including state and township electoral information,” the complaint reads.

An October 2018 email from Beth Case, BPI president, to Dunn states that BPI discovered an authorized remote monitoring and management software package, Auvik, on Pozzi’s Macomb Township computer.

BPI’s concern was that the software was conducting internal scans of the data network, then sending results to an external web portal in Ontario, Canada. It also considered the activity a threat to the township’s information systems.    

Case said the conclusion of BPI’s 2018 incident report revealed that the software package, although not malicious, required privileged township credentials to install.

Bussineau said he and other board members didn’t hear about the matter until April 29 of this year during a loudermill hearing regarding Macomb Township Legal Counsel and Human Resources Director Tom Esordi.  

“Plaintiff is left with no other remedy to reestablish, prior to upcoming elections, the admittedly breached integrity of Macomb Township’s computer information system but to seek the equitable intervention of this honorable court,” the complaint states.

Bussineau brought forward five counts in the lawsuit, including civil conspiracy by Pozzi and Dunn, violation of the township’s ethics ordinance by Pozzi and Dunn, and violation of township policy by Pozzi.

“These claims are baseless,” Pozzi said. ”My overall career, my track record as Macomb Township Clerk, and my stewardship over township elections refute these claims.”

Bussineau believes the court should declare the board’s vote denying an audit null and void, and/or reverse the vote by recusing or rescinding Pozzi and Dunn’s votes; have the township immediately contract for an independent audit; and find that the four board members who voted to prevent an audit had consulted and deliberated on the subject in violation of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act, declaring the vote null and void.  

Pozzi said the case should be dismissed with prejudice.

“There are circumstances that warrant going to the courts to settle matters, but to use the courts when a township vote doesn’t go your way is a misuse of the courts and an unnecessary abdication of responsibility,” she said.

Dunn declined to comment for the story.

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