A motion to approve a legal invoice from Nemeth Law P.C. passed 5-2 July 24. The issue regarded services for an employee investigation.

A motion to approve a legal invoice from Nemeth Law P.C. passed 5-2 July 24. The issue regarded services for an employee investigation.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

Macomb Township board approves paying legal invoice

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 29, 2019


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — For the second time in as many months, a legal invoice was up for debate.

A subject of unfinished business at the July 24 Macomb Township Board of Trustees meeting was an invoice from Nemeth Law P.C. It was postponed from the July 10 meeting.

Supervisor Janet Dunn said the three top elected township officials – herself, Clerk Kristi Pozzi and Treasurer Karen Goodhue — met in July regarding this issue.

The issue regarded legal services for an employee investigation.

The motion was approved to pay the attorney invoice 5-2, with Trustee Tim Bussineau and Pozzi voting “no.”

“We didn’t find anything unforeseen in this,” Dunn said. “We knew it was going to be an expert that was called in because of the unusual circumstances.”

Pozzi responded, saying the situation was not foreseen to her.

“I didn’t agree with it and still don’t believe it was necessary,” she said. “In that discussion, suggestions were made on how we could avoid getting into this position again in the future.”

Pozzi’s concern is that one department head, General Counsel and Human Resources Director Tom Esordi, can bring invoices to the board after services have been conducted, without pre-approval.

In the meeting with Dunn and Goodhue, Pozzi said it was recommended by Dunn that legal invoices over $5,000, per the township’s purchasing policy, will be brought before the board.

Bussineau said he was placed on the board for a reason — to guard tax dollars.   

At the July 10 board meeting, Bussineau discussed a legal bill in which he said the township was billed for 5.3 hours for an attorney to attend the township board meeting. The attorney was Kathleen Gatti, of Nemeth Law.

The June 11 invoice is for $6,041.

“How does this attorney bill us for 5.3 hours?” Bussineau asked. “If someone is going to bill us $275 an hour to sit at our meeting, I suggest at that moment, that closed session goes first and let that attorney go home.”

On July 24, Bussineau said it’s not out of line for any board member to question taxpayer dollars.

The invoice includes over $2,900 to draft the confidential investigative report, $1,457.50 for Gatti to attend the May 8 board meeting, and $385 to plan and prepare for the meeting by reviewing the reports, documents and drafting talking points for closed session with the board.

The May 8 meeting agenda included closed session for the discussion of a written legal opinion regarding township rights relative to an employment application and investigation.   

In May, Pozzi questioned another Nemeth Law invoice from services conducted in March for $6,050.

Pozzi said an investigation conducted on an employee in her department centered around an allegation the employee falsified information on her employment application.

She said Esordi investigated on his own, and what concerns her is the investigation is supposed to be unbiased.

Bussineau previously said a line from Esordi’s contract has been ignored by the board in regard to legal bills.

From the contract, he read, “The employee in his capacity as general counsel shall have the authority and duty, under the general direction of the township supervisor, to contract with legal counsel when, in the employee’s exercise of his legal discretion, such an arrangement is in the best interest of the township, and/or legally required, such retention shall be subject to the board’s review.”

Bussineau said the only review the board has ever had is to approve bills.

Also at the July 24 meeting, it was decided that discussion and a vote to dissolve the position of human resources and general counsel be postponed to the board’s next meeting on Aug. 14.

As previously stated, Esordi does not comment on township operations.