Macomb County whistleblower lawsuit dismissed

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published January 20, 2020

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MACOMB COUNTY — A former Macomb County director’s whistleblower lawsuit has officially been dismissed.

According to Eastern District Court filings made public Jan. 7, a lawsuit filed by Ernest Cawvey against Macomb County and former head of Macomb County Health and Community Services Rhonda Powell has been dismissed “with prejudice and without costs or attorney fees to either party.”

“The county and Mr. Cawvey are both very pleased,” said Macomb County Corporation Counsel John Schapka, unable to go into further detail due to a confidentiality agreement. “The settlement was very amicable and beneficial to all parties.”

Cawvey’s attorney, Raymond Carey, could not be reached for comment by press time.

The lawsuit was originally filed by Cawvey on June 14, 2019. Cawvey, the former director of Macomb Community Action, had alleged that he was “instructed” by Powell to verify county employee timesheets for work that could not be verified.

In the lawsuit, Cawvey claimed he reported directly to Powell until he was terminated on March 18, 2019, alleging that he was given “no reason” for being discharged. It was claimed that his job performance “was evaluated as more than satisfactory, if not exemplary, and he received no substantive discipline or warnings pertaining to his job performance or conduct throughout his employment.”

Continued in the original complaint was that Cawvey “did not deem it appropriate” to approve timesheets required to generate payroll for three particular Macomb Community Action employees — all of whom were allegedly friends of Powell and could not have their timesheets verified by Cawvey.

Compensation for the trio of employees came from federal, state and philanthropic grants — funds of which Cawvey was responsible for ensuring were expended in accordance with the terms and conditions of said funds. He was “genuinely concerned” due to possible embezzlement.

Powell allegedly instructed Cawvey to approve the timesheets “regardless of whether he could verify whether they actually performed the work to which their timesheets pertained.”

The Macomb Community Action finance manager raised questions and concerns about said timesheets in a period between mid-2018 and February 2019. Later, Powell allegedly instructed Cawvey to “terminate the investigation” initiated by that finance manager.

He declined and was later terminated during a meeting with Powell and a human resources representative.

Powell was terminated Sept. 5, 2019, and filed her own whistleblower lawsuit Oct. 8 against Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Macomb County Deputy Executive John Paul Rea.

At press time, that case was pending in Macomb County Circuit Court. Court records show parties were last summoned in mid-December.

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