By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — Officials say the city will be reimbursed for work last month by Department of Public Works employees on private land along Goddard Road.
A resident who drove by the site spotted the crew working to fill ruts in grass where cars had been parked March 17 for a St. Patrick’s Day party at McGuckin’s Pub, 20130 Goddard. The bar is owned by the family of DPW Director Sean McGuckin.
Officials said a video shot by the resident, which is posted online, shows a truck with city markings attached to a trailer with a front-end loader, which pulls onto the site to spread a load of dirt dropped by a dump truck, also bearing city markings. The crew disperses once the resident recording the video is spotted.
A resident raised the issue near the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting without referring to McGuckin or details of the work on the property, which is owned by Worthington Steel-Michigan Inc., 11700 Worthington Drive.
Mayor Jeffery Lamarand responded to the resident by saying he had talked to those allegedly involved, and that the work would be paid for, calling the incident “an error in judgment that won’t happen again.”
Councilman John Delo asked that a written report containing all of the details of the incident be provided to him and the rest of the council.
“They were in the process of dumping a load of city dirt and fixing ruts when they noticed the citizen taping them,” Delo said Wednesday, adding that he has heard from “more than half a dozen” residents about the incident. “One of the crew made a phone call and left the site.
“My conclusion is that it was use of city-owned machinery for private purposes. To think this is just going to be forgotten is a mistake.”
Councilman Rick Sollars said at the meeting that he and Lamarand had discussed the matter, and that he believed the mayor is addressing the issue. Sollars declined Wednesday to give details of that conversation. Telephone calls to Lamarand and McGuckin seeking clarification on the incident were not returned as of press time.
“It may be there is something completely innocent about this,” Delo said, “but I don’t have quite the imagination it requires to come up with that kind of conclusion.”
He said he doesn’t question Sollars’ decision not to press the matter beyond reimbursement for the crew’s work, but that in 13 years as a member of the council, “anytime (something like) this has occurred there have been serious consequences.”
Sollars said Wednesday that “the department head made an error in judgment and a bad decision to do this,” adding that he is not saying he agrees with what he said was Lamarand’s decision to allow the city simply to be reimbursed for the cost of the work.
“I’m not saying that is where I would stop,” Sollars said. “We’re talking about a department head, one that you entrust to run an entire department of the city.”
While the cost of a spreading a load of dirt and the workers’ actual time may not be exorbitant, he said, money isn’t the main issue.
“It’s not the value of what took place,” Sollars said, “it’s the intention of it. We are leaders of this community, and we’ve got to make smarter decisions.”
Similar incidents in the city’s past have resulted in disciplinary actions for the officials involved, he said, adding that the recent turmoil that has resulted in recall efforts for six of the seven council members and Lamarand make now an especially bad time for such an incident to happen.
“You’ve got a fire burning in a toxic environment with all that’s happening,” Sollars said. “We just put fuel on it. This was not good time to make this decision.”
Delo said his request for details of the incident was “based upon the implausibility of mayor’s answer,” which is “impossible to accept.”
“You can’t do that,” Delo said.
Sollars also is looking forward to hearing more details on the incident. “There’s been too much speculation,” he said. “I’m not suggesting let’s stir the pot, I’m saying let’s clear the air.”
The video recorded by the resident can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpklbfAPHTU.