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Macomb Twp. attorney/HR director can return to work following hearing

Board splits vote amongst allegations, lawsuit

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 30, 2020

 On April 29, it was determined by the Macomb Township Board of Trustees that just cause did not exist in the previous discipline of Macomb Township General Counsel and Human Resources Director Tom Esordi.

On April 29, it was determined by the Macomb Township Board of Trustees that just cause did not exist in the previous discipline of Macomb Township General Counsel and Human Resources Director Tom Esordi.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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Over two months after a decision was made to terminate a township employee, a special hearing was held.

On April 29, the Macomb Township Board of Trustees virtually convened for a meeting. The meeting was held for the purpose of a Loudermill hearing regarding Tom Esordi, the township’s general counsel and human resources director.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the board was tasked with whether or not to affirm just cause exists in the discipline of Esordi. In February, the board voted to terminate Esordi from his roles in the township.

A 3-3 vote April 29 means that just cause did not exist in the discipline. Esordi can return to his positions with the township May 1. 

Trustees Tim Bussineau and Nancy Nevers, along with Treasurer Karen Goodhue voted that just cause did not exist. Trustees Kathy Smith and Charlie Oliver, and Clerk Kristi Pozzi voted that just cause still exists. Supervisor Janet Dunn recused herself from the meeting. 

In February, anonymous performance evaluations of Esordi by 19 Macomb Township employees were made public. They had two categories: organizational/professional standards and management/leadership standards. Participants were asked to rank categories like reliability, quality and communication.

The hearing, part of due process, gave Esordi a chance to present his side of the story, and came eight days after Esordi filed a lawsuit against Macomb Township, Dunn, and Pozzi.

During the hearing, Esordi said the evaluations that supposedly formed the basis of the charges against him, are “inconceivably anonymous.” Two examples he also cited were a 2019 grievance filed against him, and the former planning director’s resignation.

“How can we effectively confront and/or cross-examine basic foundational information, things like who are you and how often have you interacted with me?” Esordi asked.   

The grievance filed against Esordi last year by a human resources employee claimed he violated an article of an AFSCME contract that deals with nondiscrimination, as well as the township’s anti-discrimination policy.

Esordi said the attorney who completed the investigation into the claim said he did not violate the policy, nor the agreement, therefore exonerating him. 

In regard to the former planning director’s April 2019 resignation letter, in which Patrick Meagher cited a “conquer and control atmosphere,” Esordi said no examples are given on what that phrase means. 

In further discussing the evaluations, Esordi said by not knowing who submitted them, it limits his ability to understand what the individual is referring to.

“The statements are so vague and general, unspecific as to time and unidentified to any person, place or circumstance as to render them impossible for any reasonable person to understand,” Esordi said.  

Part of Esordi’s lawsuit alleges that around October 2019, Dunn informed Esordi that she had received money from former trustee Dino Bucci. Bucci was indicted on 18 charges in 2017 and is accused of three counts of bribery conspiracy; nine counts of bribery and embezzlement; and six counts of extortion, mail fraud and money laundering.

Also in the lawsuit, it alleges that Pozzi used her knowledge of Dunn’s receipt of money from Bucci to coerce and force Dunn to agree to certain matters, and/or cast certain votes against her will. 

Prior to opening up the hearing, Bussineau said that in March, he presented an attorney with documentation that “demonstrated behavior of our supervisor, clerk and parks and recreation director that I thought violated Michigan law.”

Bussineau went on to say that he reported the behavior to the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, then was referred to an FBI agent. He indicated he reported his concerns to the FBI. 

“I was then given information by another public official of this township about more behavior related to Mr. Esordi’s situation just days before he was put on administrative leave,” Bussineau said.   

Esordi was placed on administrative leave the week of Jan. 20, the same time in which he sent a confidential memorandum to the township board stating that while he was employed with Macomb Township, he became aware of “nonconfidential information relating to a possible crime or crimes involving a current board member or members.”

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