Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco violated county ethics when he filmed a TV campaign ad inside the Chapaton Treatment facility on August 31.
Marrocco has been fined by the county's ethics board because he used a county facility in a television ad.
The fine of $125 came after a unanimous vote by the Macomb County Ethics Board.
An ethics violation complaint was filed against Marrocco after a 7 Investigators story revealed he used a county facility to film a campaign TV ad on August 31st. When 7 Action News Investigator Jim Kiertzner showed up at the facility that day, Marrocco exited out the front door but then admitted he was shooting a campaign ad.
Macomb County Ethics prohibit the use of public facilities for campaign and political purposes.
Marrocco's secretary sent an email to the Ethics Board at 10:29 Tuesday night saying the facility was not owned by Macomb County but a drain district and therefore Marrocco could not be found in violation.
The Ethics Board rejected that, voted unanimously that Marrocco was in violation and set a fine of $125. The maximum amount allowed under county policy is $500.
The issue is not the amount of the fine but the label of violating ethics according to Leon Drolet who filed the complaint. He says Marrocco also shows "disdain" for not appearing before the board.
Marrocco is up for reelection next month facing a tough challenge from Candice Miller who is leaving Congress to run for this county position.
He has called it unfounded "political theater" brought on by his opponent in the November election, along with what Marrocco calls her "henchman" Mark Hackel, the Macomb County Executive who has endorsed Miller.
This is one of the most contested local races in the November election.
Leon Drolet, who has served as a Macomb County Commissioner and State Legislator filed the complaint because of what he saw on TV.
On the day of the filming, 7 Investigator Jim Kiertzner was delayed getting inside the Chapaton sewage treatment basin and Marrocco was seen leaving out the front door. Marrocco then said he was there to "make an ad... for my reelection."
"It’s the most clear ethics violation that I’ve ever seen anybody acknowledge," Drolet told 7 Investigator Jim Kiertzner.
Marrocco had denied any wrongdoing and said any of his staff involved in the filming have done nothing wrong. The number of his employees on site on August 31 is unclear. Marrocco said at the time it was, "maybe two."
But in an email to 7 Investigator Jim Kiertzner, Marrocco's Chief Deputy named seven employees. Marrocco through his assistant on Friday called that "incorrect" and said any employees who were there were on their own personal time.
The Macomb County ethics policy states: "Public servants are prohibited from engaging in political campaign activities using County property." And it goes on to say, "Public servants are prohibited from soliciting appointees and employees to work on political campaign activities using County property."
Ethics complaints in Macomb County go through a hearing and can lead to a fine of $500 for each person involved.
Marrocco's opponent in the November election Candice Miller released the following statement about the fine and the proceedings:
After Anthony Marrocco was caught red-handed violating the Macomb County Ethics Ordinance by filming a campaign commercial on County property and on County time a complaint was filed to the Macomb County Ethics Board. Today the Macomb Ethics Board voted unanimously that Marrocco had violated the ethics ordinance and issued a fine.
In the attempt to avoid accountability for using county property for campaign activity, Marrocco issued a flat out lie as his defense. Marrocco actually claimed that the county building full of county employees wasn’t actually owned by Macomb County and thus not subject to the ethics ordinance. The Marrocco defense says in part:
"On August 31, 2016, Hamburger Gibson Creative was granted a permit allowing a half day of filming at Chapaton Basin. The Chapaton Basin is not county-owned property. It was built and is owned by the 8 ½ Mile Relief Drainage District, a separate legal entity, and is not covered by the Macomb County Ethics Ordinace. The Chapaton Basin is governed by the Macomb County Public Works Commissioner who has been granted authority to approve its use for limited commercial purposes."
Where Marrocco’s excuse falls apart is that when he issued a permit, that he had no authority to issue, he instructed the commercial producers to make the check payable to the Macomb County Treasurer. If the pump station isn’t Macomb County property, then why on earth did Marrocco himself tell his consultants to pay Macomb County for its use?
The fact of the matter is Marrocco believes that the Chapaton Basin is his property, not the people of Macomb County, and he believes that those who work at Chapaton work for him and not the taxpayers. Message to Marrocco – the property belongs to us and they work for us, the taxpayers. For decades Marrocco has been running his businesses and his campaigns out of county property in violation of the law and any ethical standards. He is a major factor in the Macomb County culture of corruption and the people of Macomb County deserve better than his dirty water and dirty government.