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Residents question letter for former trustee who took bribe

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published June 6, 2018

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Several Macomb Township residents recently called out Trustee Nancy Nevers for writing a letter on behalf of former Trustee Clifford Freitas, who is awaiting sentencing in regards to a guilty plea on bribery charges.

Nevers, however, said she doesn’t regret sending a letter asking a federal judge to be lenient in his sentencing of the former trustee.

Court documents filed May 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit include a letter from Nevers to Judge Robert Cleland that includes details on how Freitas has told Nevers how regretful he is and Nevers asking Cleland to “show mercy.”

Freitas pled guilty last summer to conspiracy to commit bribery charges in relation to allegedly accepting $7,500 from Rizzo Environmental Services CEO Charles B. “Chuck” Rizzo in exchange for obtaining a contract with Macomb Township.

The maximum penalty is up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

During the public comment section of the May 23 Board of Trustee meeting, many residents asked Nevers how she could send a letter in support of a “convicted felon” who used his power as a trustee to go against the best wishes of the community.

“I am very disappointed in Ms. Nevers for writing that letter to the judge on Frietas’ behalf,” resident Neil Kaffenberger said. “He was on this board and he manipulated the system to make better power for himself. I don’t know how (Nevers) could actually send that letter knowing he was sitting next to you and knowing what he did.”

In the letter, Nevers said she has known Freitas for about six years and he has contacted her several times in the past year. She continues that Freitas acknowledges his actions caused the board to be disgraced and she feels he is “truly penitent.”

Nevers states in the letter that Freitas told her he thought he was doing a job assignment when it came to the bids for Rizzo’s services, but now knows it was a “total betrayal of his fiduciary responsibilities” as a board member.

Resident Ted Nicodemus said there is no job assignment that requires someone to take a bribe.

“He tried to screw over the residents to get the trash bills added to our water bills, when our rates are already high,” Nicodemus said.

Resident Jim Gelios said the responsibility for what Freitas did lies on him and Gelios believes Nevers should not have written the letter, especially being a current trustee.

“Of course he has regrets,” Gelios said. “Regrets that he got caught. Freitas made his own decisions and he is responsible for his decisions.”

Nevers’ letter was one of 13 that were attached to the court documents in support of Freitas or as a character witness. Those included letters from family members, friends and people Freitas has worked with.

Nevers said she thought hard on whether or not to write the letter to the judge, and did factor in the fact that the letter may become public, but she thought she did the right thing.

“Last time I checked, we still enjoyed freedom of speech in this country,” Nevers said. “I believe forgiveness is something I was taught growing up and it is part of my Catholic faith. When I believe someone is truly penitent, I forgive. Again, I stand by what I did.”

According to court documents, Freitas is scheduled to be sentenced in front of Cleland at 2:30 p.m. July 17.