The Macomb Township Board of Trustees adopted a resolution that prohibits individual trustees from speaking on behalf of the board or township without authorization.

The Macomb Township Board of Trustees adopted a resolution that prohibits individual trustees from speaking on behalf of the board or township without authorization.

File photo by Joshua Gordon

Township board adopts resolution pertaining to trustee actions

Trustee Bussineau’s letter to governor helped prompt drafting of resolution

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 10, 2018

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Macomb Township Board of Trustees adopted a resolution that regulates actions by board members on behalf of the township that appears to be more in response to a letter sent by Trustee Tim Bussineau to Gov. Rick Snyder, and not criminal actions by a current and former trustee.

Supervisor Janet Dunn presented the resolution to the board during the March 28 meeting and it was approved by a 5-1 vote, with Bussineau voting against it. The resolution states that only the board as a whole can act on behalf of the township, unless an individual trustee has authorization from the board.

It also states that a trustee who acts for him or herself, but implies that they are acting on behalf of the board, is in direct contradiction of the resolution.

Bussineau said he thought the resolution was in regards to Trustee Dino Bucci being brought up on an 18-count federal indictment last November, with charges including embezzlement in Macomb Township.

Former Trustee Clifford Freitas also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery charges as part of a plea agreement last summer. Freitas was arrested by the FBI on bribery charges in relation to allegedly accepting a $7,500 bribe in exchange for obtaining a contract with Macomb Township.

However, Trustee Nancy Nevers said she believed the resolution was in response to a letter Bussineau had sent to Snyder in February that he said served as a follow up to another letter Dunn had sent on behalf of the board asking Snyder to remove Bucci from his elected position. Bucci has not attended a board meeting since the indictment was filed.

Dunn said Nevers was correct, and called out social media activity as another reason for the resolution. Bussineau has been called out in the past by other board members for being active on social media in interacting with residents. The board approved drafting a social media policy for employees and elected officials earlier this year.

“Due to the chaotic nature of the last board meeting as well as some social media posts, I am requesting the resolution in front of you tonight,” Dunn said.

Bussineau’s letter to Snyder lays out what has happened with Bucci, as well as touching on Freitas, before outlining the effect Bucci not attending meetings has had on the township and again recommending Bucci be removed from his position.

Bussineau said he never heard from anyone on the board about an opinion regarding his letter, which he shared on Facebook, but continuously stood up for what he said were his First Amendment rights.

“I was in support 100 percent of (the) resolution until it was stated that the resolution was pointed at me to try to limit my actions, including a letter to the governor trying to give my personal opinion,” Bussineau said. “All I can say is I know certain members of this board are trying to quiet me about letters I am sending about Mr. Bucci, but I am 100 percent doing the job residents sent me here to do.”

Bussineau asked several times during the discussion what constituted an official action, but was never given an answer.

He asked Dunn if a State of the Township address by Dunn was one board member speaking on behalf of the board, to which Dunn replied as supervisor she is the spokesperson of the township.

Nevers said while Bussineau sent the letter to Snyder by himself, as a board member and in bringing up the letter already sent by Dunn, he made it appear he was representing the whole board when other members did not know he was writing it.

While Bussineau said he was just giving his opinion in the letter, Nevers said as an elected official, his actions come off as representing the board he was elected to.

“Everyone has First Amendment rights, but when you are speaking in the collective for the board, it is inappropriate, as it is perceived as you speaking on behalf of the board,” Nevers said. “When you go as high as the governor of this state, from your seat as a trustee, that is an official act, and you did not have permission to do that.”

Clerk Kristi Pozzi was one of those that voted in favor of the resolution, but during her comment time at the end of the meeting, she said it should not have come across as being because of Bussineau’s letter and instead focused on the actions of Bucci.

“It is unfortunate with the resolution that was presented tonight that the main focus was toward Mr. Bussineau and a letter he sent the governor when in the much bigger scheme of things we did have a board member that did act on behalf of the township on many items,” Pozzi said.

“There is an 18-count indictment focusing on all those things he did on behalf of the township. I do feel the resolution is important and something we should have established to prevent that going forward, but I feel the focus of it was wrong and should have been on the big-picture items.”

Treasurer Karen Goodhude followed up by agreeing with Pozzi’s comments, as did Bussineau. But, Bussineau said he would write the letter again, as he felt he was doing what was right for the township.

“I did not need permission and I would do it again to fight for (Bucci’s) empty seat right there,” he said. “As an elected official, I do not lose my First amendment rights. I think it is fighting for the residents.”