No evidence of discrimination, harassment found in Macomb Township

Investigation stems from recorded April meeting

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published November 22, 2019

 The results of a grievance report filed by a township employee were recently made public. An outside attorney investigated and found no evidence of discrimination or harassment.

The results of a grievance report filed by a township employee were recently made public. An outside attorney investigated and found no evidence of discrimination or harassment.

File photo

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — After months of debate among the Macomb Township Board of Trustees regarding an employee investigation, its results were recently made public.

At the Oct. 23 board meeting, it was determined to release an attorney-client bill for Craig Lange, a lawyer who conducted the independent investigation for the township. The motion also was to release all documents and Lange’s findings.

Lange is with the law office of Kirk, Huth, Lange & Badalamenti.

On Nov. 6, the Macomb Township Chronicle, via an online public forum, obtained a union grievance letter, Lange’s legal analysis, an invoice, and an audio file of a conversation between Human Resources Specialist Sharalyn Arft and Human Resources Director and Legal Counsel Tom Esordi.

An April 18 grievance form was filed on behalf of Arft and claims that on April 15, Esordi violated an article of an AFSCME contract that deals with nondiscrimination, as well as the township’s anti-discrimination policy.

A July 24 letter to Arft from Lange states there is no evidence of discrimination or harassment in the events of April 15.

On Nov. 12, Arft said she doesn’t want to rehash the grievance, as it has been settled. That same day, Esordi said the investigation is resolved and that everyone is trying to move on.

 

The background
For much of this year, the board has repeatedly discussed Esordi’s dual roles with the township.

In May, an annual employee performance and compensation review was conducted by the board in closed session regarding Esordi, who was named human resources director in January 2017.

The annual review portion of the agreement states the employee’s performance and compensation be reviewed by the board, or an appointed committee of the board, on an annual basis. May 8 marked the first time Esordi’s contract was reviewed.

Also on May 8, a letter signed by 21 township employees, including Arft, was sent to Township Supervisor Janet Dunn and the board. Individuals who signed it are members of AFSCME Local 1917, the salaried employee management union of Macomb Township.

In August, a request to dissolve the position of human resources director/general counsel failed in a 4-3 vote.

In September, the board decided to table paying the $3,561.25 legal bill, classified attorney-client privilege, until it could review the documents, which the board voted to publicly release in October.

 

The recording
An audio recording, which lasts around three minutes and was taped by Arft, captures Esordi and Arft’s April 15 meeting.

In mid-April, preliminary interviews were scheduled to hire building inspectors.

The recording revealed that Arft and Esordi hadn’t discussed preliminary interviews. In the meeting, Esordi expressed that Treasurer Karen Goodhue was furious with him because she is not part of the interviews. Arft said Goodhue received an invite a week prior.

Arft believed Esordi was attacking her from the onset of the meeting. Esordi said he wasn’t attacking her; rather, she needs to communicate with him.

The two debated scheduling interviews and placing them in the online HR calendar. Arft said scheduled interviews were placed in the calendar a week before. Esordi disputed when it was added to the calendar.

 

The investigation
In early July, Lange was requested by the board to conduct an investigation into the incident. After reviewing the transcript and recording of the meeting, Lange wrote he believes Esordi’s questions to Arft were legitimate inquiries about the preliminary interviews, which he did not expect that morning.

“I do not believe that he personally attacked you during that meeting,” Lange wrote. “I know you have a different perspective. But I believe that your perspective was preconceived before you even entered his office as at least partially evidenced by your use of a recording device.”

Lange believes the situation could have been avoided had Arft copied Esordi on her emails to elected officials or included him as a direct recipient of her original calendar invitation, which she sent out April 5.

Trustee Tim Bussineau said he respects the investigation’s findings, adding, “There’s a culture at town hall and a lot of people think that culture went away with some indictments, but I’m not necessarily sure the hostility among some of our departments has went away between employees and the Human Resources Department.”

Bussineau said he thinks the audio tape is an example that the culture is not the way it should be. Going forward, he said the township needs to ensure hostility of this level doesn’t occur again.