The Huron-Clinton Metroparks director has been placed on leave.

The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority Board of Commissioners held a special meeting Wednesday and placed Director George Phifer on paid administrative leave following a closed session. Commissioner Steve Williams confirmed the action and said Police Chief Michael Reese will serve as acting director in Phifer’s absence. No official statement or reason why has been provided. Reese told WHMI it is the policy of the HCMA not to comment on personnel matters.

Phifer is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority in his role as director. He was promoted from deputy director in 2015 and was responsible for the overall administration and operation of all 13 Metroparks. Phifer’s leadership was most recently questioned by Macomb Audubon Society. It’s unhappy with what it refers to as aggressive management and over-mowing, which damages nesting sites and bird habitats. A fawn was also accidentally run over by a tractor mower at Stoney Creek Metropark in May. Officials said they’re working with staff to help them identify areas of wildlife before mowing.

Overall, Phifer has a law enforcement background and retired as a captain from the Pontiac Police Department. He became the Metroparks police chief in 2008 and reorganized the department to maximize efficiencies, which led to disgruntled employees and prompted lawsuits.

The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a sex discrimination lawsuit against Phifer and the authority in March. A judge said “being a colossal jerk is not actually unlawful per se, and being arguably unfit for a particular supervisory job does not necessarily constitute an actionable offense.” (JM)