GLWA appoints Suzanne Coffey as interim CEO after McCormick departure

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — Suzanne Coffey, chief planning officer at the Great Lakes Water Authority, was named interim CEO Wednesday after a vote of the board.

Coffey's appointment was approved unanimously at the board's meeting at Renaissance High School on Detroit's west side. There was no public discussion of the measure, but the board's action came after a closed session with authority general counsel Randal Brown.

Suzanne Coffey

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Outgoing CEO Sue McCormick will remain on payroll "for consultation purposes" through late-September.

McCormick "will receive the same exit benefits as all other GLWA team members," including unused paid time off, Brown said. Her health care benefits will run through the end of October.  

In addition, Brown announced that the authority's two investigations into operations during June 25 and 26 rain events that resulted in flooding will wrap up in the next "60 to 90 days" or so.

During the June storms, GLWA officials have said, there was limited utility supply at the Freud pumping station and an outage at the nearby Conner Creek pump stations in Detroit kept the system from reaching firm capacity, or its upper limit. 

An outside investigation, led by attorney Jeffrey Collins and assisted by engineering firms AECOM and Applied Science, will focus on pumping stations, power supply and power redundancy, procedures and employees.

An internal investigation will answer whether there's anything the authority could have done to prevent sewer back-ups in the June storms and others in the weeks that followed.

McCormick said late last month that she would be stepping down following two rounds of severe flooding in Detroit and nearby communities in June and July that damaged homes and roadways in Metro Detroit and prompted public outrage over the region's infrastructure. 

In a July resignation letter to the authority’s board, McCormick said she had initially planned to meet with the board in June to review her employment and her plans “to pursue other options available.”

Despite the interim CEO appointment, GLWA will continue to conduct a search for its permanent CEO. Coffey can participate in that process, GLWA said, but has not yet said whether she will. 

Coffey has been chief planning officer since Jan. 1, 2016, and prior to that worked in the office of the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner.