Pressure mounts to separate positions in Macomb Township

Performance review held in closed session

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published May 16, 2019

 AFSCME Local 1917 Representative Denis Martin addresses the Macomb Township Board of Trustees May 8 regarding the combined roles of Macomb Township Attorney/Human Resources Director Tom Esordi.

AFSCME Local 1917 Representative Denis Martin addresses the Macomb Township Board of Trustees May 8 regarding the combined roles of Macomb Township Attorney/Human Resources Director Tom Esordi.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

 A motion was unanimously approved May 8 to execute a performance and compensation review of Esordi, pictured. His position in both roles has come under fresh scrutiny after former Planning Director Patrick Meagher resigned earlier this month.

A motion was unanimously approved May 8 to execute a performance and compensation review of Esordi, pictured. His position in both roles has come under fresh scrutiny after former Planning Director Patrick Meagher resigned earlier this month.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — An annual performance review sparked much debate at a recent Macomb Township Board of Trustees meeting.

A request for the performance review and compensation review pursuant to the employment agreement between Macomb Township and Attorney/Human Resources Director Tom Esordi was executed in closed session.

In January 2017, Esordi was named human resources director.

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 was sent to Township Supervisor Janet Dunn and the board. Individuals who signed it are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 1917, the salaried employee management union of Macomb Township.

The letter states they agree with information provided in former Planning Director Patrick Meagher and Purchasing Specialist Cynthia Carnes’ resignation letters.

“We agree that the culture described in these letters is accurate,” it reads. “We believe the first step in changing this negative environment would be to separate the positions of human resources director and in-house legal counsel.”

It goes on, stating the combination of the positions have, at times, presented a conflict of interest, and that the performance expectations in these two “vital” roles is extremely important to the successful functioning of other township departments.

In his resignation letter, Meagher stated that there is a distinct disconnect between department heads, board members and the human resources/legal counsel department.

“The relationship is devolving into a conquer and control atmosphere, rather than a congenial partnership” Meagher said.

Those who signed the letter include Township Engineer Jim Van Tiflin, Parks and Recreation Director Sal DiCaro, and Human Resources Specialist Sharalyn Arft.

“On the subject of Mr. Esordi effectively negotiating union contracts, the union could not disagree more,” AFSCME Local 1917 Representative Denis Martin said in public comments. “During negotiations, we have found Mr. Esordi to be unprepared and combatant.”

“Our past four contracts were negotiated with a full-time HR director,” Martin said. “Those contracts were completed in five or less meetings within a two month period. Since combining the positions, we’ve met 22 times over seven months.”

Resident Denise Aquino said she doesn’t see the need for a full-time legal counsel position when the township could hire attorneys for different cases based on their expertise.

“When most department heads address the board, they sit at the table on a business manner,” she said. “Mr. Esordi is sitting with the rest of the board, giving his recommendation and then is asked for legal advice. It looks bad and it’s a conflict of interest.” 

Macomb Township Fire Sgt. Ryan Gierman, who is also president of the Macomb Township Firefighters Association, said at the meeting he couldn’t agree more with Meagher’s statement of a “conquer and control” atmosphere.

“That’s exactly how a majority of employees would feel and describe the general atmosphere here,” Gierman said. “I am not personally attacking Mr. Esordi. I don’t think anyone, whether it’s Mr. Esordi or John Doe, could effectively serve in both roles.”

In 2017, Township Clerk Kristi Pozzi, Trustee Tim Bussineau and former Trustee Dino Bucci voted against naming Esordi the human resources director.

“It’s been a conflict of interest when there’s questionable behavior or questionable things about HR, you then lean on legal to verify whether or not your suspicions or questions are valid,” Pozzi previously said. “They’re the same people, so you don’t have one or the other to rely on.”

In March 2017, Esordi provided an update on the first two months of his full-time employment, saying, “Any suggestion that it’s inappropriate conflicts with everything that’s going on in the industry and with what I do and what people who do what I do.”

As of press time, Esordi could not be reached for further comment.

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