Miller dumps 2 public works officials

Jim Lynch, and Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Clinton Township — Less than three days after taking office as Macomb County’s public works commissioner, Candice Miller has begun a house-cleaning in her department affecting three top officials.

The moves strike at a trio of appointed mainstays of predecessor Anthony J. Marrocco a Democratic administration the Republican former congresswoman attacked as corrupt during her 2016 campaign.

Former Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh, a wastewater services manager, and William Misterovich, Marrocco’s longtime deputy public works commissioner have been fired, said Brian Baker, an incoming chief deputy commissioner.

In addition, Dino Bucci, a current Macomb Township trustee who also worked as a Marrocco deputy, has been placed on administrative leave this week pending an investigation. Last year, Bucci was accused in a civil lawsuit of soliciting a $76,000 kickback from a local investment company that wanted a refund on certain development fees.

At a news conference Wednesday, Miller said a forensic audit of the Public Works Commissioner’s Office should be conducted in the near future. She plans to hire an outside accounting firm to handle the review.

Marrocco, she said, had a fully loaded, luxury vehicle to use for county business — paid for by the Macomb County Drainage District. Other county officials are issued basic vehicles, which are paid for by the county’s general fund.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said Wednesday that Marrocco’s office didn’t provide him with financial information.

“It was purely autonomous,” Hackel said. “Information I could get from the sheriff, prosecutor, the clerk, I had to FOIA from the public works commissioner.”

Bucci and Steenbergh could not immediately be reached for comment. During the campaign against Marrocco, Miller’s camp attempted to highlight the allegations against Bucci.

“The pay-to-play culture of corruption perpetuated by Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco has been well known in Macomb County for decades,” Miller stated in an October release. In the campaign’s final week, Miller called on Marrocco to fire Bucci because of the lawsuit’s allegations.

Misterovich said he was given notice in December that he would not continue working past the end of the year. On Wednesday, he was matter-of-fact about the dismissal.

“I had been an at-will employee for 16 years as chief deputy public works commissioner,” he said Wednesday. “As such, I realize I am subject to termination at-will by my boss. She has the right and the discretion to choose who she wants to be in that position.

“I would like to commend the existing staff of the public works office. I think they are a dedicated crew. They did their jobs, and I wish them luck now moving forward.”

The personnel moves occur against the backdrop of a federal public corruption investigation in Macomb County that has resulted in charges against three local elected officials. The federal probe has not been linked to the Public Works Department.

The officials from the townships of Chesterfield, Clinton and Macomb have been accused of taking bribes ranging from as little as $5,000 to as much as $50,000 to $70,000 in exchange for getting municipality contracts for the trash-hauling company formerly known as Rizzo Environmental Services.

Since taking office Sunday, much of Miller’s time has been occupied dealing with a massive sinkhole that appeared Dec. 24 along 15 Mile in Fraser.

She held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to update progress on efforts to bypass a ruptured sewer line that led to the sinkhole’s creation. But she ended the conference fielding questions about the personnel changes.

“I’ve made some new appointments,” she said. “Some of the people who were here were appointed by my (predecessor). They were at-will, political appointments. He had made those appointments, and now they are gone. My new folks are in.”

Miller said she is not at liberty to discuss Bucci’s employment situation.

“But I don’t think it’s any secret that Mr. Bucci is being sued for extortion and a number of other allegations have been made against him,” she said.

“When I ran for this office, I had a pretty simple slogan: Clean water and clean government. And that I intend to stick to.”

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