Miller: FBI probing Macomb County public works office
Mount Clemens — A federal grand jury is investigating the Macomb County Public Works office and has subpoenaed testimony from about a dozen public employees, office Commissioner Candice Miller said Monday.
FBI agents are asking questions about Miller’s predecessor, Anthony Marrocco; his former deputy, Dino Bucci, and millions of dollars in payments to an unnamed county contractor, Miller said.
The information reveals a new focus of an ongoing public corruption investigation in Macomb County. The focus is emerging as federal prosecutors are poised to secure guilty pleas from four Macomb County-area politicians charged in a bribery scandal involving trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services.
“I have no idea what the FBI is looking at or what is happening in the grand jury,” Miller told reporters Monday. “But we have had the FBI into the office for various documentation.”
Miller declined to identify the county contractor, saying she did not want to prejudice an investigation that is focused on operations within a public works office before she defeated Marrocco in the November election.
But she said the contractor has contracts worth millions of dollars and was paid in an unusual manner.
“On every ... one of the invoices, it says: ‘Give the check to Dino’ or ‘give the check to Marrocco.’ That’s the type of thing the FBI is looking at.”
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said the invoices were “highly unusual.”
“No other department sent a check that was hand-delivered to somebody,” Hackel said.
The parade of public works employees testifying in front of the grand jury is a significant development, said Hackel, who criticized Marrocco for a lack of transparency and questionable management.
“It’s that bully-on-the-playground mentality, and now you have public officials who are not going to turn a blind eye,” Hackel said. “There is somebody willing to step up and say ‘this isn’t right.’ ”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment. Lawyers for Bucci and Marrocco declined comment or have failed to respond to messages seeking comment.
Bucci is a Macomb Township trustee who also worked as a Marrocco deputy. He was placed on administrative leave from his county job in January and retired after being accused in a civil lawsuit of soliciting a $76,000 kickback from a local investment company that wanted a refund on certain development fees.
After Miller took office, she fired former Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh, a wastewater services manager, and William Misterovich, Marrocco’s longtime deputy public works commissioner.
The FBI investigation is continuing as prosecutors inch closer to securing convictions against four of five former local elected leaders in Macomb County charged in a wide-ranging bribery conspiracy involving Rizzo.
Former Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas has struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors and is expected to plead guilty June 1, according to federal court records.
The nature of the plea hearing is unclear, but Freitas is charged with bribery conspiracy involving federal funds, a five-year felony.
Freitas is accused of pocketing $7,500 in bribes from Rizzo between July 2015 and January 2016.
The expected guilty plea leaves former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds as the only person charged in the corruption case without a plea deal.
Reynolds was indicted in November and accused of taking $50,000 to $70,000 in cash from Rizzo in exchange for supporting the firm’s $3.5 million annual contract bid. He also was charged with taking $17,000 in cash from an undercover FBI agent.
Former Chesterfield Township supervisor Michael Lovelock also is expected to plead guilty June 1. In November, he was indicted on four counts of conspiracy and demanding bribes in exchange for corruptly influencing his decisions as a supervisor.
Federal prosecutors accused him of taking multiple bribes totaling more than $30,000 from 2010-16 from a company that had a “significant contract” with Chesterfield Township. Rizzo has provided the company’s trash services for the past 12 years, officials say.
Former New Haven trustees Christopher Craigmiles and Brett Harris also were accused of taking bribes from an FBI agent posing as a Rizzo employee.
Both have reached plea deals and are awaiting sentencing dates in federal court.