Township board votes to remove embattled trustee from committees

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 25, 2016


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Clinton Township Board of Trustees wasted little time in dealing with the aftermath of an FBI investigation into one of its own members.

At the board’s routine meeting Oct. 17, six board members — Supervisor Bob Cannon, Treasurer Bill Sowerby, Clerk Kim Meltzer and Trustees Ken Pearl, Jenifer “Joie” West and Paul Gieleghem — unanimously voted to remove Trustee Dean Reynolds from all committees, subcommittees and assignments.

The committees affected are Budget, Ways and Means, Heritage Estates, Parks and Recreation, Fireworks and Sanitary Sewer.

“Many of these committees are important committees that impact the township,” Sowerby said.

Reynolds, 49, a board member since 2004, was arrested by FBI agents Oct. 13 for his alleged role in demanding and taking bribes in relation to a municipal contract allegedly involving Rizzo Environmental Services.

The Democratic candidate for supervisor, Reynolds’ trustee term officially concludes Nov. 19. He was not present at the Oct. 17 meeting.

Prior to the meeting, Township Attorney Jack Dolan said Reynolds could only be removed as an elected official by Gov. Rick Snyder in accordance with election law. He added that a governor won’t normally act on a case until it is concluded.

“Basically under charter township law, there’s nothing that gives the board itself authority to remove an elected member of the board, or to suspend them or diminish their powers,” Dolan said. “(Statutory) duties he has as a trustee, they don’t have the authority to diminish those.”

As far as the board’s vote to keep Reynolds away from committees, Dolan clarified that “it’s basically asking him, not telling him.”

At the meeting, Cannon said it was pointless to go to the governor, which could take months before anything is decided. Gieleghem said the township has an “obligation” to protect itself and its residents.

Board chambers were crammed with residents and media outlets.

Resident Desiree Novak, who said she lived across from Reynolds in 2007, claimed he pushed against her dreams of opening a neighborhood daycare, saying, “It cost me thousands of dollars.”

“I see clear from my situation that things (Reynolds) was involved in were quite questionable,” said Novak, who now runs an at-home daycare.

Some residents made statements to express their good sentiments toward the other elected officials.

“One bad seed does not define our local government,” Nancy Goodchild said.

Resident Doug Robinson said the beauty of living in the United States is that everyone has an opinion, but he admitted that Reynolds’ alleged actions “pains” him.

Resident Steve Brostek made a point about speaking publicly in the past while the board decided to stick with Rizzo without opening the bid process.

On Oct. 17, the board also decided to stick with Rizzo due to price, service and trash bins that have made aesthetic improvements in the community.

In 2010 a Rizzo contract was unanimously voted for, while a 4-3 vote took place in 2012. This past February, a contract extension was unanimously approved, which included the mandatory trash bins for residents.

Sowerby said there’s “a lot more than what is on the surface” when discussing the past Rizzo contracts, and he alluded that things may have taken a turn in 2013.

“That’s when things started to unravel,” Sowerby said.

Brostek said there is a standard of trust when it comes to politicians, adding that there is an elephant in the room when it comes to politics and money. He said he and others expect ethics in government.

“It’s hard for me to believe they would put the smallest domino up first,” Brostek said, referring to Reynolds and the FBI’s efforts to curb “systemic corruption” in southeast Michigan.

After the meeting, Meltzer said she appreciated the support of the township in the board’s decision to remove Reynolds from all committees.

“I know that some think ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ and I agree,” Meltzer said. “However, we do have substantial evidence that’s been conveyed to us by the FBI, that this warrants protecting the public and that it is a violation of public trust.”

Cannon said he thinks the FBI made its decision strategically, just weeks before a major election.

“(The FBI) picked him first for whatever reason, whether he was the biggest fish or the easiest fish or whatever,” Cannon said. “I think I was in very good shape before the election anyway, and now I’m obviously in better shape. I think probably the FBI had that in their mind when they made their move when they did.

“It demonstrates to the community that we don’t like what he did, we don’t like being painted with the same brush he’s painted (with). … What he did affects every board member on every board in Macomb County and the state of Michigan. What he did was broadcast out of the state, and people in other areas know what Clinton Township had as a board member.”

Pearl said he didn’t deal with Reynolds much outside of their government roles, and he hasn’t talked to Reynolds since his arrest.

He added that the Rizzo contract needs to be examined with all options, but with no charges levied, there’s nothing the township can realistically do.

“I want to protect the integrity of our contracts. … We can’t leave them high and dry,” Pearl said. “For whatever reason, Rizzo’s been the lowest bidder a number of years, and everywhere they’ve been bidding, they’ve been the lowest bidder. They’ve been picking up contracts all over the county.

“Now, what I’m not going to appreciate is if other communities were involved in the same things Mr. Reynolds was. That’s not good and something’s got to change fast.”

During the meeting, resident Bob Hogan mentioned West and campaign literature she sent to residents that advocated her support for Reynolds for supervisor. Hogan stated that “a vote for Jenifer West is a vote for Dean Reynolds.”

West is up for reelection as trustee — a role she was voted into in 2004, the same time as Reynolds.

“I can truly, truly say (Reynolds and I have) been friends over the years,” West later said, assuring that she and Reynolds talked about their voting stances but that Reynolds never tried to sway her. “Some of the things that were said tonight, the pay to play — first of all, Garfield and Canal, they’ve given everyone money. Second of all, Rizzo gave me money for a campaign donation after the vote. If they asked if they could give something earlier, (I’d say) no, no.

“(Reynolds) is still innocent until proven guilty, and I just have to go with that. I don’t think any one of us would want to be treated that way.”

U.S. District Court filings show that Reynolds paid $10,000 bond during his Oct. 13 appearance. He is being represented by Stephen Rabaut, whose office is located in Clinton Township.

Rabaut did not return calls seeking comment at press time.