Township board adopts ethics policy

By: Brad D. Bates | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 14, 2012

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Shelby Township Board of Trustees made sure the board that was elected Nov. 6, and that will be sworn in at noon Nov. 20, is held to an ethical standard.

The current board, of which six members will serve on the newly elected board, voted 6-1 at its Nov. 8 meeting to adopt an ethics policy that ensures “fair, ethical and accountable government” for township residents and those doing business in the township.

“Our residents are entitled to fair, ethical and accountable government, and the purpose of this policy is to confirm that we are following the standards of conduct that residents expect from their officials,” township Supervisor Richard Stathakis said.

The lone dissenting vote against the policy, which Stathakis placed before the board, was Trustee Michael Flynn.

Stathakis said he had hoped to extend the ethics policy to all township employees, but they could not do so without formal approval from the unions during collective bargaining.

“We’re just going to go ahead and make this one for the Board of Trustees, and we’ll begin to work it into our contracts when we negotiate,” Stathakis said.

“We’ve never had an ethics policy, but we’ve made important progress in terms of governmental transparency, and this is another important step forward.”

The policy’s general standards of conduct for board members are to “comply with all laws and policies of township government;” “be independent, impartial, and fair in their judgment and actions;” “use their public office for the public good, not for personal gain;” “conduct public business openly, as provided by law, in an atmosphere of respect and civility;” and “cooperate fully with any request of the township human resources director for information, or assistance subject to law.”

The policy also defines conflicts of interest, acceptable and unacceptable gifts and gratuities, inappropriate use of township time and property for political activity, rules for handling confidential information, and regulations for use of public assets for private purposes.

The policy also outlines sanctions and remedies for officials in violation of the policy.

Along with adhering board members’ conduct to state and local law, the policy states those in violation of the policy are “subject to appropriate personnel actions.”

Stathakis said he could not define those actions further, and that the policy was purposely  vague on the topic of repercussions to protect against abuse of the policy for political gain.

“We have to protect the minority opinion on the board,” Stathakis said. “There may be six board members who don’t like one board member, so there has to be something to stop them from using this policy to censure that person at every meeting.

“I would hope that we never get to that point,” Stathakis added of the need for punitive actions for violation of the policy. “But, if we do, the Board of Trustees will take action.”