Macomb Township residents respond to letters from attorney

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published August 12, 2019

 In 2018, former township supervisor Mark Grabow, seen here, received a letter from attorney Michael Rataj, retained by Tom Esordi, following comments Grabow publicly made about Esordi at an April 11, 2018, board meeting.

In 2018, former township supervisor Mark Grabow, seen here, received a letter from attorney Michael Rataj, retained by Tom Esordi, following comments Grabow publicly made about Esordi at an April 11, 2018, board meeting.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Macomb Township residents are questioning the motive behind letters sent from the township attorney, via his attorney.

One letter was sent July 19 from attorney Paul Cassidy, who represents Macomb Township General Counsel and Human Resources Director Tom Esordi, to resident Diane Kujawa Schneider.

On July 21, she posted on the Macomb Township Voices! Facebook page that she received a threatening letter. She begins her response indicating her initial July 19 Facebook post was retracted.

“I expressed my feelings on Mr. Esordi and that was what started it all,” Kujawa Schneider said. “My words were that he was being unethical.”

Cassidy demanded Kujawa Schneider retract her statements about Esordi on Facebook.

When asked why the letter was sent to Kujawa Schneider, Cassidy said because she slandered and libeled his client.

“She retracted it, so she obvious acknowledged it was a lie,” he said.

Kujawa Schneider said that although Esordi is not an elected official, the Michigan Supreme Court has not ruled on the definition of a public official in regard to the Open Meetings Act, or OMA.

“A reasonable person would consider Mr. Esordi a public figure,” Kujawa Schneider said.

Cassidy says Esordi is not a public figure and that Kujawa Schneider’s statements taken separately and together are false and defamatory and amount to libel and slander.

“He’s an employee like any other employee,” Cassidy said.

One example she provides that Esordi is a public figure is that he is a government employee who has, or appears to the public, to have a significant role in the business of Macomb Township and public affairs of the township.

Kujawa Schneider was shocked when she received the letter, adding that she was afraid of being sued.

Her belief is that Esordi and Cassidy want to silence residents who voice their opinions.

“I think he was trying to intimidate and bully me,” she said. “To send letters to people to control and silence them is a horrible way to control residents.”

Cassidy’s response to the claim that he is trying to silence people is that residents can say anything they’d like, as long as it doesn’t break the law or defame someone.

“Don’t go out and defame him,” Cassidy said. “She could easily be sued and has no defense.”      

Cassidy cites remarks made by Kujawa Schneider on Facebook that he calls untrue and defamatory. They include that Esordi is “breaking the law and a greedy, unethical man.”

Former township supervisor Mark Grabow received a letter from attorney Michael Rataj, retained by Esordi, in 2018, following comments Grabow publicly made about Esordi at an April 11, 2018, board meeting. He was asked to retract his comments.

Much like the letter Kujawa Schneider received, Grabow’s letter was in regard to claims for libel and slander.

“I went after a number of issues and he turned around and said ‘you can’t say anything about me,’” Grabow said.

Grabow believes Esordi is a contracted employee whose client is the township.

“Free speech doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want about somebody. But when you defame them, they can sue you,” Cassidy said.

He added that Esordi is just doing his job and that a small group of malcontents are unhappy with his client.

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