WARREN TREASURER LORIE BARNWELL SLAMS MACOMB COUNTY TREASURER LARRY ROCCA FOR TRANSPARENCY HYPOCRISY
On June 9, 2020, Macomb County Treasurer Larry Rocca posted a campaign video on Facebook congratulating himself, saying: 'I lead (sic) the way in uncovering and reporting to the proper authorities then Prosecutor Eric Smith's Off-the-Book accounts from forfeiture funds.', and goes on to say, 'We need to have 100% transparency in government.'
Yet when the Lorie Barnwell campaign attempted to FOIA a list of transparency items including information that would verify how often Larry Rocca is (or is not) working, requests for mileage reimbursement, information relating to the Treasurer's handling of the county revolving fund, and requested information regarding how many taxpayer dollars have been spent on Treasurer Rocca's numerous tax-payer funded commercials and radio spots, transparency has taken a backseat to secrecy. The response from county attorneys to the Barnwell campaign's FOIA request is a demand for $10, 204.76 to obtain this public interest information.
Says Warren City Treasurer Lorie Barnwell, who is now running for Macomb County Treasurer, "Treasurer Rocca only believes in transparency when he thinks it can benefit him politically. If he is so transparent about his work habits and his use of taxpayer dollars, especially for his own political promotion, he should release this information to the public."
Treasurer Barnwell also takes issue with Rocca's repeated contention that he "led" transparency efforts with the Prosecutor's office. "That was Plante Moran who discovered an issue in their audit, not Larry Rocca. And now the public has a right to know how Larry Rocca himself is handling and spending taxpayer funds, and to what extent taxpayers are unknowingly propping up his struggling political campaign."
Rocca, a Republican, is facing two primary challengers in August prior to the November general election. The winner will face Barnwell, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Continued Barnwell, "Larry Rocca paints himself as a fiscal conservative, but his questionable use of taxpayer dollars for his television ads, radio ads, and expressway billboards is extremely concerning to many residents and raises a host of ethical issues."
The Barnwell campaign is also concerned about the reliability of the records that would be released if the excessive fee was paid for the FOIA documents. For instance, the response to the portion of the FOIA requesting video footage of the county parking garage from 2017 and onward only has "two weeks" of footage allegedly available. There is also no way to determine whether other requested information would be complete, accurate, or helpful to the public.
Barnwell has not ruled out a court challenge but stresses, "Going to court will compel Larry Rocca to utilize even more taxpayer resources with county attorneys to defend himself from the type of transparency that he hypocritically pretends to believe in. As the guardian of the tax dollars from Macomb County's largest city, who is concerned about Larry Rocca's spending, I don't want to see him waste even more taxpayer funds than he already has."
Since taking office in 2017, Rocca has been a feature on local television and cable TV ads, as well as large area billboards promoting himself and his office. Critics such as Barnwell believe it is a technically lawful, but politically unethical use of taxpayer dollars to promote his re-election.
Concluded Barnwell, "Larry Rocca should do the right thing and release the requested information to the public if he cares so much about transparency. If he does not, it begs the question: "What does Larry Rocca have to hide?"