CCRC manager placed on leave pending settlement

June 6, 2019

By Pat Maurer

The Clare County Road Commission was standing room only when the board met Wednesday and heard comments and concerns about the possibility of removing Deepak Gupta as Engineer-Manager, shown at far left..

Despite overwhelming support for him shown by Clare County Commissioners, township officials and others at the packed meeting of the Clare County Road Commission Wednesday morning, and following a closed session that lasted two hours and thirty-five minutes, a motion was unanimously approved to enter into settlement negotiations with Engineer Manager Deepak Gupta, and in another unanimous vote Gupta was placed on paid administrative leave until the settlement is resolved.

Wednesday afternoon Gupta said, “Based on today’s action, if my employment with the CCRC is ended, it has been a privilege to serve the Clare County citizens over the past five years. It has been a pleasure working with the 16 township supervisors, the County Commission, the cities and villages and the citizens at large.”

For most of the hour long regular meeting at the Road Commission, the board fielded comments from the audience, with help from their attorney Angelina Barnes. The crowd included several County Commissioners, who were holding a posted meeting there as well.

County Commissioner Leonard Strouse said, “Deepak is well liked, but there’s a rumor that he is not well liked here.”

Gupta responded, “I’m happy to comment all issues as soon as I am allowed – if their [the CCRC board’s] investigation results are reported to the board. I’ve always been transparent. Their investigation should be over by now.”
He was referring to an investigation which Attorney Barnes would neither confirm nor deny.

Grant Township Supervisor Dan Dysinger said the board has appointed other people to do Gupta’s job. Al Leonard was appointed as Engineer and Aric McNeilly as manager.

Gupta said he was on a “brief” medical leave. “It wasn’t necessary to appoint replacements for that amount of time,” he said.

The attorney said, “Gupta is still the Engineer/Manager. While he was on leave we felt it was necessary.”

Commissioner Mark Fitzpatrick asked, “Who initiated this investigation?” CCRC Board Chair Dick Haynak didn’t answer, but said, “I authorized it to continue.”

County Commissioner Dale Majewski said, “At the Board of Commissioners, we have been hearing a lot of concerns and have a growing concern about the road commission.”

Gupta said, “I’ve felt for the last few years [road] maintenance was lacking – the CCRC felt maintenance was fine.” He continued, “I would just like the ability to do my job and address these concerns.”

CCRC Foreman Aric McNeilly said, “We haven’t had one call of complaint. We answer every call or call back. One hundred percent of our force is on maintenance.”

Haynak said, “We’ve pulled crews off gravel projects for maintenance issues.”

Gupta said, “The board wanted Monday through Wednesday for maintenance and Thursday and Friday as construction days…” He was stopped from further comments by the Attorney.

County resident Al Demarest commented that there has been “feedback that the county should take over the road commission.”

Again Gupta was stopped from commenting.

Freeman Township Supervisor Alan Housler said the “spreadsheet” of projects was way out of “kilter” with “math errors.”

Kimberly Kimmel, CCRC finance director and secretary said the only errors were in Grant Township figures. In a phone interview, Dysinger said he had found errors in the figures for other townships in the spreadsheet. “I told Road Commissioner Tim Haskin about this,” he said.

Housler added that he is “really concerned over what I am seeing.” He said to the board, “I strongly urge you to be very careful with what you are doing.” He said it could affect future millage renewals.

Demarest said, “As a concerned taxpayer I was here [at the CCRC] meeting in May because I had heard there was a potential controversy. Why was the money promised to Grant Township taken away? There was never a real clear answer why that happened.

Haskin responded, “If we spend 30 percent of the money in Grant Township, some of the other townships only get one percent.”

Note: The CCRC offers a match of $40,000 to all townships for paved projects and a $20,000 match for gravel projects. Grant has used that match each year for the past several years to improve their roads, and all townships have the same option.

Haskin spoke about the proposed $1.3 million paving project on Stockwell Road. When we look at things we look at the big picture,” he said. Despite the information in the newspaper, he said, “This is not being done.” He said the Stockwell project was on the board’s “wish list.”

“That was only a rumor,” he added. He said he had asked for information on Stockwell Road three times. Gupta said, “And it has been provided by email.”

Later in the day, Dysinger said he had evidence that the project was being considered and the board had gotten estimates for it.

Note: That information was not in a Review article but was in the column by Grant Supervisor Dan Dysinger in the May 31st issue of the newspaper on the “Viewpoints” page.

Demarest added, “You could certainly clarify this…”

He was stopped from making further comments with the board’s attorney saying to Haynak, “You should adjourn the meeting.”

Again, Deepak was not allowed to speak about the Stockwell Road project.
The board stopped taking public comment and continued with normal business before going into the closed session to discuss action against the Engineer Manager.

Several other projects were discussed including four in Hayes Township, Supervisor Terry Acton reported and Mark Fitzpatrick was chastised by Haskin for not getting a permit for work on the road right of way. “There’s $6,500 in damages,” he told Fitzpatrick.

The board approved an Engineering reimbursement, the North Road Project in Surrey Township and Culvert Repair on Bailey just north of Adams.

Deepak reported on new chip seal on North Clare Avenue and micro milling and chip seal in Frost Township on Old US 27 near the Roscommon County line. He also reported on a 500 foot project in Freeman Township, a 50-50 split using limestone in a swampy area.

A request from Majewski that the County Board be allowed to attend the closed session was denied, because it was a personnel matter.

While the board was meeting in closed session, Freeman Township Clerk, and former CCRC board member Julie Lightfoot said, “The board is only supposed to set policy, approve the budget and hire, or fire the engineer and/or manager.”

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