Macomb Twp. supervisor calls for end of Rizzo contract

Holly Fournier, Jennifer Chambers, and Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Macomb Township Supervisor Janet Dunn is calling for the termination of her community's contract with embattled Rizzo Environmental Services.

"It is my sincere hope that I have earned the voters trust so that I can continue in the position of Supervisor," Dunn said in a statement Thursday.

Macomb Township Supervisor Janet Dunn is calling for the termination of her township's contract with Rizzo Environmental Services.

"However, whether re-elected or not, I shall introduce at the next regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting a motion to commence a thorough review of the current trash hauling agreement and to encourage the Board to consider all options up to and including termination of the existing contract."

Trash hauling company Rizzo is at the center of a long-running investigation into systemic corruption in southeast Michigan and primarily in Macomb County. Dunn's statement came after Macomb Township trustee Clifford Freitas, 43, was arrested last week by FBI agents on a criminal complaint charging him with demanding and taking bribes in exchange for official help on the municipal contract.

"I was extremely shocked and terribly saddened by the news," Dunn said of the arrest. "A thorough review of (the charging) documentation makes it clear that a representative of Rizzo has accepted responsibility for the unethical and allegedly illegal attempt to manipulate the Township’s (request for proposal) process through Mr. Freitas."

Freitas did not vote on the final Rizzo contact, Dunn said.

Freitas appeared in shackles Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Detroit, the same day Rizzo founder Chuck Rizzo Jr. stepped down from his post.

Rizzo's resignation was announced by his company’s new owner, GFL Environmental Inc., following the two community officials' arrests. Toronto-based GFL acquired Rizzo on Oct. 1.

In court Tuesday, Freitas answered “yes” when asked if he understood the charges against him. U.S. Judge Magistrate Mona Majzoub ordered Freitas released on a $10,000 bond and to return to court Nov. 15 for his next appearance on the charges.

Freitas, who faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, declined to comment after his court appearance. Members of his family attended the hearing and also declined to comment, as did his attorney, Daniel Garon.

Prosecutors allege Freitas engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity, including demanding and accepting money in exchange for official acts as a trustee.

According to the complaint against Freitas, Macomb Township put out a request for proposal for a municipal contract in July 2015. Soon after, Freitas allegedly approached a representative of a prospective vendor and demanded money in return for his support as a trustee.

Freitas is accused of accepting $7,500 from the vendor in return for his help in getting the contract.

Through his position as a trustee, Freitas obtained sensitive bid information on the municipal contract to help the vendor, telling the vendor what bid was needed to beat out competing contractors, prosecutors allege.

After the vendor was awarded the contract by the township, Freitas demanded an additional $35,000 from the company representative for his additional help as a public official relating to the contract, according to the complaint.

Earlier this month, Clinton Township trustee Dean Reynolds also was charged in federal court with demanding and taking bribes in exchange for his vote on municipal contracts since 2012. Reynolds, 49, is accused of accepting $50,000-$70,000 from a company that secured a “significant” contract with Clinton Township. He also accepted $17,000 from an undercover FBI agent, which was recorded on video, officials said in a statement.

GFL, the new owner of Rizzo, plans to change all branding from the Rizzo name, according to the company's president and CEO, Patrick Dovigi. The company will now be called GFL Environmental USA and all the signature red trucks will be repainted green.

GFL’s policy is to rebrand its acquisitions within six months of the sale, but that process likely will be expedited given the allegations against Rizzo, Dovigi said.

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