Ethics board not yet created

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published September 4, 2020

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Nearly three years after an idea was proposed to have an internal ethics policy that would govern elected officials, no ethics board has been established in Macomb Township.

In October 2019, Macomb Township ethics ordinance was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees. It took effect in mid-December.

The 10-page ordinance includes prohibited conduct, violation, enforcement and advisory opinions. The ordinance applies to board members, township employees and appointees.

As part of the ordinance, a three-person ethics board will be created by the Board of Trustees. The ethics board will serve as an advisory body for the purpose of interpreting the ordinance. The initial members will be appointed for one-, two- and three-year terms of office.

At that time, it was reported that the next step would be for individuals to apply to serve on the permanent ethics board.

To date, applications haven’t been posted on the township website for the position.

“We have failed to implement the law that passed,” Trustee Tim Bussineau said. “An ordinance is a local law. As soon as a millage is passed, we start taxing people on their millage, but when this law calls for an ethics board, we ignore it.”

In March, an update was provided regarding the status of the township’s ethics board.

Meeting minutes indicate that language to amend the ethics ordinance was to be presented at the March 25 meeting.

The following month, Greg Meihn, then the township’s legal adviser, provided an update regarding the ethics ordinance. He said one question the board should address is whether three members of the board, of three public members should be appointed.

Jim Gelios, who served as chairman of the Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee, said he’s not sure why it has taken so long to select a permanent ethics board, calling it kind of “discouraging.”

He said he’s been vocal about the township being able to accept applications prior to the pandemic.

“I think a few board members had questions about it and I told them once a permanent board is intact, they can tweak the ordinance,” Gelios said.

He’s certain that at this point, the ethics board won’t be in place until the new Board of Trustees takes office, in mid-November.

“I would like to see an honest person who is willing to take a set of circumstances and decipher what it is and if it’s an actual violation,” Gelios said when asked what the ideal candidate looks like. “Someone with good old-fashioned common sense.”

In 2017, Bussineau proposed the creation of an internal ethics policy that would govern elected officials. At that time, the board approved Bussineau to pursue and solicit a team to research and develop a possible ethics board and ethics ordinance.

“The procedures to file an ethics complaint says you have to bring that to the ethics board,” he said. “If you don’t want ethics complaints, don’t establish the board.”

In March, resident Charles Missig questioned as to why no board had been set.

“In light of continued corruption at the county level and our well-documented history of unethical and illegal activity at the township level, it’s way past time to make an ethics board a reality,” he said.

Bussineau believes the ideal candidates to serve on the ethics board is someone who is not very political, and understands how to interpret law.

He thinks for a board to be established, residents will have to drive the effort.  

Supervisor Janet Dunn did not respond for comment regarding the matter by press time.

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