Former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds is remanded by U.S. Marshals June 21, outside of U.S. District Court in Port Huron, after being found guilty of 14 bribery and conspiracy charges.

Former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds is remanded by U.S. Marshals June 21, outside of U.S. District Court in Port Huron, after being found guilty of 14 bribery and conspiracy charges.

File photo by Nick Mordowanec


Justice, volunteerism, epidemic defined 2018 in Clinton Township, Fraser

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published January 2, 2019

 Aaron Arbitter, right, who graduated from Fraser High School in 2016, surprises his brother, Logan, Feb. 7 at Richards Middle School. They hadn’t seen each other since December 2016.

Aaron Arbitter, right, who graduated from Fraser High School in 2016, surprises his brother, Logan, Feb. 7 at Richards Middle School. They hadn’t seen each other since December 2016.

File photo by Nick Mordowanec

 Michael Fante places a special marker, accompanied by a citation and an American flag, next to the headstone of his brother, Robert Fante — who died 50 years ago in Vietnam — Aug. 6 at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township.

Michael Fante places a special marker, accompanied by a citation and an American flag, next to the headstone of his brother, Robert Fante — who died 50 years ago in Vietnam — Aug. 6 at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Jim Woodman, of Harrison Township, holds music while Charles Cole, of Fraser, dances April 17 at Fraser High School in anticipation of the Metropolitan Detroit Chorale’s April “Cabaret” performance.

Jim Woodman, of Harrison Township, holds music while Charles Cole, of Fraser, dances April 17 at Fraser High School in anticipation of the Metropolitan Detroit Chorale’s April “Cabaret” performance.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 41-B District Court Judge Carrie Lynn Fuca presents a certificate to U.S. Army veteran Brandon Petrykowski May 10 during the Macomb County Veterans Treatment Court graduation ceremony. It was held at the courthouse in Clinton Township.

41-B District Court Judge Carrie Lynn Fuca presents a certificate to U.S. Army veteran Brandon Petrykowski May 10 during the Macomb County Veterans Treatment Court graduation ceremony. It was held at the courthouse in Clinton Township.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow discusses water quality and environmental protections May 14 on a fishing pier looking over the Clinton River spillway. From left, she is joined by Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Water Resources Program Manager Michael Gregg, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller and Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow discusses water quality and environmental protections May 14 on a fishing pier looking over the Clinton River spillway. From left, she is joined by Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Water Resources Program Manager Michael Gregg, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller and Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

 Dorothy Parpart, of Fraser, plays her favorite card game, pinochle, on her 100th birthday Feb. 12 at the Fraser Senior Center.

Dorothy Parpart, of Fraser, plays her favorite card game, pinochle, on her 100th birthday Feb. 12 at the Fraser Senior Center.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

 A traditional Assyrian dance is performed during International Evening March 27 at the Chippewa Valley High School auditorium. The event celebrated ethnic and cultural diversity.

A traditional Assyrian dance is performed during International Evening March 27 at the Chippewa Valley High School auditorium. The event celebrated ethnic and cultural diversity.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP/FRASER — Political corruption, bicentennial celebrations, volunteers doing good deeds and an unraveling opioid crisis — the top stories of 2018 had a little bit of everything.

 

Former trustee found guilty of major crimes; planning director resigns after testimony
On a blistering hot day this past June, former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds sat inside U.S. District Court in Port Huron, awaiting his fate on 14 corruption-related charges.

Following nearly 60 minutes of deliberation, a jury found Reynolds guilty of 10 counts of bribery and four counts of conspiracy.

The trial, which concluded in six days, was the final step in the saga of a man who was the first accused in relation to a widespread Macomb County scandal involving a former big-time trash hauler, Chuck Rizzo.

But Reynolds’ ties ran deeper than just his relationship with Rizzo, who gave up his own innocence to help the FBI as an informant. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Bullotta and David Gardey used Reynolds’ own words — via wiretapped phone calls and secret surveillance footage — against him throughout the trial.

During the trial, Bullotta called the defendant “the face of public corruption,” stating that accusations of wrongdoing against the former trustee were “staggering.”

Illegalities had ran amok for years, prosecutors told the jury, when the countywide corruption probe began in 2014 under the code name “Operation Golden Ring.” On June 14, FBI agent Robert Beeckman told the jury that the investigation involved the review of bank records, surveillance footage, wiretaps and consensual recordings to attain evidence.

Reynolds became intertwined with the probe in 2015. A trustee who was elected in 2004, 2008 and 2012, his relationship with Rizzo and Rizzo Environmental Services — which is now defunct — put him on the radar.

It started in July 2015, when Reynolds and his ex-wife, Tammy, were in the middle of an expensive divorce. Rizzo connected Reynolds with his attorney, Jay Schwartz, who never billed Reynolds for an estimated $44,000-$56,000.

According to former best friend Angelo Selva on the witness stand, the embattled trustee at the time thought Tammy was putting a dagger in his chances of winning an election — alluding to Reynolds’ eventual 2016 run for township supervisor, which was won by incumbent Bob Cannon.

Rizzo routinely referred to Reynolds as a “shakedown artist.”

Reynolds was also involved with Paul “Paulin” Modi — a former engineer of Giffels Webster, an engineering firm contracted by Clinton Township.

Between 2009 and 2012, Modi gave Reynolds $15,000 in bribes as a means of assuring future contract leverage for Giffels Webster. Modi testified that Reynolds implored him to write “loan” on the checks so they didn’t have the perception of being bribes.

Former Clinton Township Planning Director Carlo Santia was present at one of the meetings, in which Modi gave Reynolds $7,000.

Santia testified under oath, admitting that he had “heard through the grapevine” of Reynolds’ questionable and illegal behavior. It was also brought to the jury’s attention that Santia had funneled Modi’s money through his own company, Traffic Engineering Consultants, which then went toward Modi’s wife’s business, SAI. That was intended to be money never reimbursed by Reynolds.

Following Santia’s June 20 testimony and Reynolds’ conviction, Santia’s dismissal was placed as an agenda item for the June 25 Board of Trustees meeting. That same morning, Santia retired from his long-held position — where he made more than $99,000 and retained benefits and pension.

On July 23, the Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to hire an external investigating firm to look into Santia’s past for any other conflicts of interest. On Oct. 1, the hiring of a firm out of Troy had been agreed upon, but no new information has come to light since then.

On Dec. 20, Cannon said a few people did some terrible things, and that they don’t represent the township as a whole.

“What happened last year, we had some very unfortunate events occur,” he said. “I try to put them out of my mind as much as possible. … That’s in the rearview. We’re looking forward.”

At press time, Reynolds’ sentencing date was scheduled for Feb. 6.

Bicentennial is celebration of past, and a pathway forward

This year saw Macomb County, Mount Clemens and Clinton Township all celebrate bicentennials.

“We had a lot of very interesting things happen this year,” Cannon said.

He pointed to the township’s celebration of Patriot Day as one of the biggest points of pride this calendar year. The annual Sept. 11 remembrance day was moved to outside the Clinton Township Civic Center, where a ceremony was celebrated along with the dedication of a new bicentennial fountain and a state historic marker, as well as a rededication of the courtyard.

Other bicentennial celebrations occurred during the Gratiot Cruise, the Festival of the Senses, and during the Clinton Township Parks and Recreation Department’s summer evening concert series.

Cannon will expound on future goals during his State of the Township address in early 2019. Two major initiatives planned for discussion are road rehabilitation and marijuana dispensaries.

In the August election, 11,455 residents — or 54.3 percent of voters — voted down a road proposition. If approved, the millage would have generated approximately $5.6 million annually. In November, 195,977 Macomb County residents — or 54.9 percent of voters — approved a statewide proposal to authorize and legalize the possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers.

In other news, 2018 was a busy year locally. Clinton Township received grants for areas including the Clinton River spillway and Gloede Drain; it formally took over the Nicholson Nature Center; it received a path grant from SEMCOG; police and fire millage renewals were successful; additional police officers were hired to work within the Chippewa Valley and Clintondale school districts; and after almost two decades and approximately $30 million, an administrative consent order is estimated to be completed in 2019. The funds have been used to fix seven sanitary sewer overflow pumps that were installed incorrectly in the 1970s, according to Cannon.

“We are thrilled about that,” he said. “It’s been cited by the state and county as being an ideal program for a problem created by us in the past, and (we’ve) just about corrected it.”

Cannon calls the township a “bedroom community,” saying that township employees and representatives need to work hard to provide a high quality of life for residents.

A big basis of that plan continues to revolve around Groesbeck Highway. On Nov. 15, local businessman Jim George purchased the 12.7-acre Parkway Plaza complex on Groesbeck, near Metropolitan Parkway, for more than $2 million.

Cannon said he and others continue to look at the corridor, examining marketing, tenants, old infrastructure and signage.

“Groesbeck is a hodgepodge, and we’re working hard to clean it up. … We’re going to continue to redevelop,” he stated.

He also praised newly hired Planning Director Bruce Thompson, who made his way over after many years in Westland. Cannon referred to him as a “clear-cut winner.”

“We’re filling and we’re redeveloping,” Cannon said. “Parkway Plaza is the No. 1 project for us. We have someone with the wherewithal to change the corner for the next 50 years.”

 

The impact of good deeds
Tireless efforts in multiple communities proved that hope really does spring eternal.

In Fraser, after about 12 years of determination, grant writing and volunteerism, McKinley Barrier-Free Park’s progression continued.

The watchful eyes of a city organization, Fraser First Booster Club, worked hand in hand with city officials and other entities to receive $28,000 from Ralph Wilson Jr. Legacy Funds, via the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

That money was added to $22,000 that was already in private funds, with the total $50,000 intended to pay for three baby/toddler swings, two handicapped-accessible swings and traditional swings, as well as the pouring of the foundation.

The club earned another $10,000 through a viral giving campaign.

In September, the city of Fraser as a whole was honored with the Michigan Municipal League’s Community Excellence Award, given to a community that emboldens its residents and creates innovative ways to interact and live.

Elsewhere, the Clinton Township Fire Department received five LUCAS 3 chest compression devices, usually ringing in at about $16,000 a pop.

The Clinton Township Kiwanis Club raised funds for the first device, and the township Board of Trustees agreed to use saved funds and followed suit. The now-defunct North Clinton Township Kiwanis Club raised money for the third; township resident Carol Barker withdrew $16,000 from her own savings to donate for another device; and the final device was just purchased in December, thanks to Kiwanis members and their families, among other donors.

Others, such as volunteers beautifying the Clinton Township Arboretum and members of Fraser VFW Post 6691, consistently do positive work in the community.

 

The opioid epidemic continues to unravel
As suicide rates increase nationwide, so do deaths by way of opioid use.

In a three-part feature series that first ran this summer, one major theme kept rising to the surface: How did this happen?

Kyle Bond, a Warren man in his mid-20s, talked about growing up in a broken home with a mother who worked multiple jobs, an ailing grandfather and an alcoholic father. Eventually, he sought help and found it by way of organizations like Families Against Narcotics and Hope Not Handcuffs.

Linda Taylor’s daughter, Marina, died in June 2017, just hours following her prom. Taylor issued a warning to parents everywhere: “One bad dealer or one bad pill can kill you instantly. It’s like Russian roulette.”

People are making a difference behind the scenes. That includes recovery services that are interpersonal, such as those offered through CARE of Southeastern Michigan. Randy O’Brien, director of the Macomb County Office of Substance Abuse, called the opioid epidemic “the worst I’ve ever seen” in his 30 years of substance abuse prevention.

There are the first responders who administer Narcan to individuals who have overdosed. Law enforcement officers who, instead of hauling people to jail, are now instead giving addicts the opportunity to get clean through programs like Hope Not Handcuffs. Doctors like Anthony Colucci, at Henry Ford, are calling out over-prescribing practices. A focus on fentanyl is likely to increase moving forward.

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