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Joseph W. Colaianne

fax +1 517.318.3065

Joseph Colaianne counsels public and private clients in connection with complex public infrastructure projects, including financing, transactional, real estate, regulatory compliance, and governance.

Joe has more than 30 years of experience in municipal and public sector law. He is well-versed in federal and state statutes governing the financing of public infrastructure, environmental due diligence and compliance, water resources, land use regulations, and municipal water, sewer, drainage and lake level infrastructure projects. Where these laws and practice areas intersect, Joe excels at producing results for clients leading to successful solutions to complex public and private infrastructure undertakings. Joe works with both public, non-profits and private sector clients in the areas of real estate, planning and zoning, environmental regulation, construction, contracts, and litigation. He has significant experience in state administrative tribunals, state and federal trial and appellate courts.

Joe has a wide array of public and private clients, including municipalities (counties, cities, townships, and villages; drain and water resources commissioners, and drainage districts), engineering and environmental consultants, financial institutions, and real estate developers. He works closely with numerous municipalities and drainage districts with financing public infrastructure projects. He is bond counsel to several municipalities and drainage districts, providing legal advice in connection with financing options. Since joining the Clark Hill team in 2015, Joe has assisted with the financing of almost half-billion dollars in public infrastructure projects. In the area of municipal law, Joe regularly assists clients on compliance with the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act, legislation and general municipal governance.

Joe was directly involved with the successful transfer of Wayne County’s Northeast Sewer System to the Southeast Macomb Sanitary District in 2019, which involved a complex set of transactions involving multiple municipalities, governance, interlocal cooperation, finance and real property transfers. Joe was also the lead attorney involved in the negotiation and transfer of the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor from the City of Detroit to the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District (OMIDD). This transfer was the first step in the $160 Million rehabilitation of a 37-year old 21-mile sewer serving 830,000 residents in 24 separate communities in Oakland and Macomb Counties. In 2019, on behalf of the OMIDD, Joe successfully negotiated revisions to the wastewater services agreement with the service provider, that would save the OMIDD over $10 Million per year, and provided the ability for the OMIDD to finance, design and construct additional critical infrastructure upgrades estimated to cost over $100 Million. In 2019-2020, Joe served as bond counsel to finance the OMIDD’s project. Prior to joining Clark Hill, Joe was involved in the monetization and transfer of the City of Pontiac wastewater treatment facility, George W. Kuhn Drainage District rehabilitation project, and various other public work projects throughout Oakland County.

Currently, Joe is assisting property owners in Midland and Gladwin Counties in connection with the recovery, restoration, financing of four lakes and dams that were drained or damaged due to catastrophic dam failure in May 2020. Joe is the general counsel for the Four Lakes Task Force which is a Michigan non-profit organization that was appointed by the Counties of Midland and Gladwin to serve as the counties’ Delegated Authority in connection with the recovery and restoration of the lakes.

Prior to joining Clark Hill, Joe was a deputy drain commissioner, legal counsel and insurance administrator for the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner (2001-2012). Joe was an assistant Cook County (Illinois) States Attorney (1990-1993), Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor (1993-1996), and Senior Assistant Oakland County Corporation Counsel (1996-2001). Joe served as Hartland Township Trustee (2004-2020) and has served on Hartland’s Planning Commission. He is co-founder of the non-profit Hartland Enrichment and Recreation Organization (HERO). The organization operates the Hartland Teen Center which provides an afterschool haven for teens.

Joe is a regular presenter and Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioner conferences and district meetings. Topics include: “Financing Chapter 20 Drains,” “Ethics and Conflicts of Interest for Drain Commissioners,” “Drain Easement Encroachments,” and “Lake Improvement Boards.”


J.D., DePaul University College of Law, Chicago, Illinois, 1990
B.A., James Madison College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 1987


Named a Leading Lawyer in Lansing by Leading Lawyers℠ (2022-2024)


Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners

Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys

Michigan Association of Planning

National Association of Bond Lawyers

Oakland County Bar Association

State Bar Licenses


Court Admissions

U.S. District Ct., E.D. of Michigan