MACOMB TOWNSHIP, Mich. - After one Macomb Township trustee was hauled off by the feds and another was accused of extortion in a civil lawsuit, Wednesday night's board of trustees meeting was filled with political theater and elected officials fleeing from the cameras.
Trustee Cliff Freitas, busted by the FBI for shaking down a garbage contractor for bribes, was a no-show at the meeting.
Trustee Dino Bucci, who has been accused of extortion in a civil lawsuit, did attend. After initially telling me he would make a statement during the meeting, Bucci ran from our cameras and gave us a crisp "no comment."
Meanwhile, allies of Mark Grabow, who lost in the primary to current supervisor Janet Dunn, packed the meeting and railed against the board and demanded the members all resign. One man even compared Bucci to Saddam Hussein.
"I was intimidated by Dino Bucci,. He twisted my arm three years ago, " Eddie Jawad told the board.
Hecklers shouted insults at Bucci.
Supervisor Janet Dunn would not answer questions, but did address the issue at the beginning of the meeting.
"The purpose of my comments is to assure the public that the township will fully cooperate with the FBI, " Dunn told the crowd of about 75 people.
Election Day in Macomb Township is going to be one to watch.
New information emerges Wednesday
New information emerged Wednesday in the growing corruption investigation in Macomb County.
The case involving Rizzo Environmental Services is rocking at least two Macomb Township communities, and as more the of case background is brought to light, there's revealing information surfacing about the officials involved.
Freitas ducked into a car outside of federal court Tuesday. The Rizzo employee and Air Force veteran is charged with taking $7,500 in bribes to deliver Rizzo the contract, but allegedly demanded $35,000 after the approval.
The incident prompted Township Supervisor Janet Dunn to put out a statement, reading, "I am personally shocked and deeply saddened to hear of these allegations, We simply have no information. I would like to emphasize that this office condemns any and all actions by public officials that betray the public trust."
Reynolds is charged with taking nearly $100,000 in bribes for his votes on various contracts.
"It's no surprise to me at all," said Reynolds' opponent for township supervisor, incumbent Robert Cannon. "He was always looking for an angle on something, always. If he was going to vote for something, he wanted something in return. I never liked that at all about him."
By all accounts, Reynolds is cash strapped. He is going through a fourth divorce and the federal complaint shows there are wire tape recordings saying he wanted Rizzo to pay for his divorce lawyer.
In 2009, The Palace of Auburn Hills sued Reynolds for nearly $300,000 for not paying for a suite his company rented. The suit was later settled.
Reynolds also filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy in 2014.
"He decided he needed a job, and if he was able to extort money in a part-time position, imagine what he would have done full time," Cannon said.
This is just the beginning of the court cases with which Reynolds has been involved. There are other creditors looking for money from him, as well.
Freitas faces bribery charges
Freitas is charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, including demanding and accepting money in exchange for official acts as a trustee, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.
Freitas was taken into custody Tuesday by FBI agents.
From U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade's office:
"Freitas’ arrest is another part of an ongoing and long-running investigation into systemic corruption in multiple municipalities in southeast Michigan, primarily Macomb County. The investigation has employed telephone wiretaps, consensual audio and video recordings by cooperative individuals, undercover operations, physical surveillance, telephone tracking warrants, and subpoenas of financial records and other documents.
The complaint charges that Freitas demanded and accepted money from a municipal vendor in exchange for using his official position as a Trustee to get the vendor a municipal contract and to secure favorable terms for the company. In July 2015, Macomb Township put out a request for proposal for a municipal contract. Soon thereafter, Freitas approached a representative of a prospective vendor, and Freitas demanded money in return for Freitas’ support as a Trustee.
Freitas agreed to accept $7,500 from the vendor in return for his assistance in getting the contract. Through his position as a Trustee, Freitas obtained sensitive bid information on the municipal contract in order to help the vendor, telling the vendor what bid was needed to beat out competing contractors. After the vendor was awarded the contract by Macomb Township, Freitas demanded an additional $35,000 from the company representative for his additional assistance as a public official relating to the contract. In May 2016, Freitas accepted $2,000."
Freitas will be in federal court Tuesday afternoon for his initial appearance, McQuade's office said. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Reynolds taken into federal custody on bribery charges
FBI agents took Reynolds into custody Thursday on federal charges of demanding and taking bribes in exchange for his vote on municipal contracts.
Reynolds, 49, is charged with demanding and accepting money and other things of value in exchange for official acts as a trustee.
Reynolds was running for Clinton Township supervisor as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Robert Cannon.
The investigation employed telephone wiretaps, consensual audio and video recordings, undercover operations, physical surveillance, telephone-tracking warrants and subpoenas of financial records and other documents.
According to the federal complaint, Reynolds accepted multiple bribes from the representative of a company that was seeking and secured a significant contract with the township in 2012. Authorities said he accepted $50,000 to $70,000 in cash from the company’s representative.
Reynolds also accepted $17,000 in cash payments from an undercover agent of the FBI, the complaint said.
Reynolds allegedly sold his vote on the Board of Trustees in favor of the company’s contract and provided information about the votes of other trustees.
“Corruption undermines the very nature of representative government,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said. “Law enforcement is committed to seeking out and prosecuting corrupt public officials in all areas of the Eastern District, including suburban communities.”
If convicted, Reynolds faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, if convicted.
Reynolds was elected to the Clinton Township Board of Trustees in November 2004. He serves as chairperson of the Parks & Recreation Committee and is a member of the Budget, Ways & Means Committee, Sanitary Sewer Committee, Emergency Management Committee and is an alternate for the Personnel Vacancy Review Committee.
Dino Bucci accused of extortion
Authorities continued their probe into alleged dirty politics in Macomb County as a company came forward and pointed a finger at Macomb Township Trustee Dino Bucci for extortion.
Macomb County was abuzz Monday after learning who the targets were for the ongoing federal probe. But one company isn't waiting for the feds and is going after Bucci for extortion.
"Mr. Bucci called my client and asked to meet them in a parking lot," Attorney Benjamin Aloia said.
That was the beginning of the shakedown, according to the attorney representing a contractor in Macomb County.
Gianna Investments LLC said it's entitled to have fees returned. According to the lawsuit, Bucci told Gianna that he would see their $151,000 was returned as long as he and Bucci would get $75,000 of it. Bucci is also the county's deputy public works commissioner.
"It was offensive to my client," Aloia said.
You can watch Mara MacDonald's full story in the video posted above.
Rizzo Environmental Services cooperating with FBI
Sources told Local 4's Mara MacDonald that Rizzo Environmental Services was working for the feds for months as they probe politicians who are alleged to have been shaking businesses down for cash and favors.
Reynolds was running for Township Supervisor, before being accused of shaking down businesses in Macomb Country for nearly $70,000 in cash and high-priced favors, like a free lawyer to handle his divorce.
The key company Reynolds was allegedly squeezing for money was Sterling Heights-based Rizzo Environmental Services.
"We have cooperated with law enforcement straight along from the moment we were asked until now," Joseph Munem, of Rizzo Environmental Services, said.
Lawyers for Rizzo limited what the company can discuss, citing the ongoing criminal probe. Rizzo won an $18 million garbage contract in Clinton Township through the competitive bidding process, and recently won an extension. They were the lower bidder.
Head of Rizzo Environmental Services resigns
Chuck Rizzo Jr. announced his resignation Tuesday from Rizzo Environmental Services amid the federal investigation and corruption charges against public officials in Macomb County.
Rizzo Environmental Services had been cooperating with the federal investigators for months as they probed politicians who are alleged to have been shaking businesses down for cash and favors.
Rizzo Environmental Services recently was purchased by GFL Environmental, Inc., whose president and CEO Patrick Dovigi released this statement Tuesday afternoon:
"The allegations surrounding Rizzo Environmental’s potential involvement in the FBI’s investigation were first brought to our attention following local press reports which speculated that a principal at Rizzo had made cash payments to Dean Reynolds in connection with a Clinton Township contract. These allegations, which reportedly occurred in late 2012 through 2015, predate GFL’s acquisition of Rizzo last month. We had no prior knowledge of the FBI’s investigation or the allegations associated with elected officials in Macomb County, Michigan.
Upon learning of the situation, we immediately began the process of conducting our own internal investigation to better understand the facts. While our review is ongoing, the allegations that have been presented in two Federal criminal complaints are completely counter to the way we that GFL does business. Adhering to the highest ethical policies and conducting our business with the utmost integrity are among GFL's most important priorities. We are outraged by the allegations that have been reported and have zero tolerance for employee misconduct or unprofessional behavior.
Therefore, in the best interests of the company and our customers, Chuck Rizzo, Jr. has resigned, effective immediately. I will oversee Rizzo’s business on an interim basis until further notice.
We are committed to providing the highest quality waste collection and recycling services to commercial, municipal and industrial customers while following only the highest legal and ethical standards."
Interim CEO of Rizzo goes on offensive
Tuesday night, the new interim CEO hit the pavement to see if Rizzo will be able to salvage business.
"Dearborn Heights means a lot to us as a company, that being the founder and CEO of the company, that's why I'm here," Dovigi said.
Rizzo's new interim CEO went on the offensive Tuesday. Dovigi is the CEO of multibillion-dollar Green For Life, the environmental company in Canada that just bought Rizzo at the end of last month and found itself right in the middle of a federal probe.
Dovigi is now running the day-to-day operations at the company since Rizzo abruptly resigned Tuesday after Freitas was busted by the FBI for shaking down Rizzo for bribes.
Dovigi went to Dearborn Heights to salvage the contract the city had already agreed to with Rizzo.
"I don't like that every other week we're getting a surprise," Councilwoman Marge Horvath said.
Council members are leery of approving the deal, and three members of the audience complained about Rizzo. But in the end, the council voted for the contract.
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