Problems at the Berrien County Road Commission were deemed too serious to ‘patch.’
As a result, “profound” and “severe” measures were taken.
Two members of the Berrien County Board of Road Commissioners were removed from their positions while a third resigned.
That left three seats on the five member board--vacant.
About 65 people work at the Berrien County Road Commission which is in charge of deciding how the local share of gas tax monies will be spent.
For months, some of the workers have adamantly complained that working conditions were downright hostile.
“People were subjected to vulgar language, a lot of jobs being threatened,” said Maintenance Foreman Don Geisler. “We were told somebody's heads going to roll today but don't worry it’s not yours, and I guess on the days we weren't told that, we were wondering, could it be our heads on the chopping block? And for no reason.”
Today, heads did roll, but they were the heads of some of the people ultimately accountable for what goes on at the road commission.
All five road commission board members were summoned to publicly explain what was going on.
Three of them did not leave as board members.
“Well, yeah, I’m looking forward to my time off,” said Charles Collins who was removed from his duties by unanimous vote.
Board member Lawrence Merritt was removed by a vote of 9 to 4.
“We were concerned that they did not take the allegations as serious as they needed to,” said Berrien County Commissioner Marletta Seats.
It’s alleged that some road commission members were kept in the dark and were never told about repeated employee complaints, by other board members—who never addressed those complaints.
“I have to define that to be a cover up, and if you do that you should not be serving either elected or in an appointed capacity,” said Berrien County Commissioner R. McKinley Elliott.
Road commission board members are appointed—and in this case—removed—by the elected members of the Berrien County Commissioners.
Road commission employees weren’t the only ones upset with management. “They weren’t difficult, she, it was more impossible,” said Russell Costanza of his dealings with the commission over a private drain pipe project.
Now Costanza has been named an interim member of the Berrien County Board of Road Commissioners. He’ll provide a quorum and he insists that more personnel changes will come soon.
“There’s a problem still there that has to be addressed, she's, the former manager or manager or whatever position she has now, she needs to be relocated. Something done she needs to be out of that environment there.”