Special Report: More Power Than Most

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

"It was pretty much a nightmare. The water that was in here was just black."

Pete Bosanic's nightmare happened two and a half years ago.

"We had 3 1/2 feet of water in the kids' bedrooms on the lower level," he told News 10.

Water kept pouring from every direction into those bedrooms of his then three-year-old DeWitt Township home, causing, by his estimate, $30,000 in damage.

"Big TVs, dressers, books," Bosanic said.

The same happened to many of his neighbors in the Creekside neighborhood. And the 2004 flood it wasn't the first time.

"Six weeks after we move in, the house floods," Bosanic said. "This is much more serious than your one in a million flood or (100-year flood)."

So many floods in the place where Bosanic's children sleep, that he decided he couldn't live there anymore.

Some of the homeowners say part of the blame lies with an elected official -- a powerful one, but one you might never have heard of: the Drain Commissioner.

"At the local level, in their county, a drain commissioner has enormous power to make decisions about what land is buildable [and] how people are going to be assessed taxes," Bill Rustem of Public Sector Consultants told News 10.

It's those very powers Bosanic and some of his neighbors believe weren't used properly. They say the drain commissioner approved sewer pipes that were much too small to handle rainwater from the new neighborhood.

As proof, they point to the major sewer replacement that runs through Bosanic's backyard that was installed after the flood.

"It's called the Bosanic Branch of the Creekside drain," he said.

And Bosanic has to pay for it.

"Our special assessment was roughly $7,000."

That's his share of a $675,000 sewer project, a project set in motion by an elected official with a low profile.

Rustem talked with News 10 about the history of the job.

"Originally, drain commissioners were set up for the purpose of draining land so it could be farmed," he said. "Their power has expanded over time and not diminished."

Clinton County Drain Commissioner Phil Hanses, who wasn't the Drain Commissioner when the initial sewer plan was passed, didn't want to comment on the story because Bosanic and other neighbors are suing the office. Hanses is running for re-election unopposed.

"Michigan elects a lot more people than most states do. Part of the problem is people don't know who their voting for or against," Rustem said.

This time, Pete Bosanic has a pretty good idea of just who'll be on the ballot this time around.

"It's been hard to stomach," he said. "I've had a house I can't use for its intended purpose for two years."

Unusable, in part he believes, because of the actions of a powerful public official few voters even know about.

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