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Eastpointe to reinstate city ethics board

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 19, 2020

EASTPOINTE — The Eastpointe City Council voted unanimously at its regular meeting June 2 to reinstate the city’s ethics board, which had been disbanded since 2011.

During that time, all issues that would have gone to the ethics board went directly to the City Council instead. Councilman Cardi DeMonaco, who called the proposal up for a vote, said the council wanted to take this step to help provide an extra layer of accountability and transparency within the city.

“I’ve seen too many problems in Macomb County with regard to ethical issues,” DeMonaco explained. “There were at least 20 indictments involving municipal figures recently. We don’t want to even allow anything like that to be possible in Eastpointe. We don’t want a vendor or elected official to be in a position to abuse their position. Hopefully, it will never be necessary, but it never hurts to have a stronger code of ethics.”

Mayor Monique Owens said maintaining strict enforcement of the ethical codes to make sure no one with authority can abuse their power is more important now than ever.

“Council and I wanted to make sure this was something we were doing. I hope that everybody gets a better idea of what ethics mean and that everyone has a better understanding of how to run a city in an ethical manner,” Owens said. “Each member of council will get to choose one person on the board, so we have to look at people in our community who live their lives in an ethical manner and can share that with others.”

The move to reinstate the ethics board was first proposed by residents.

“Before we had the ordinance at the council table, residents were suggesting changes at a commission on public feedback,” said DeMonaco. “We came up with a proposal for the ordinance to add the board back. We proposed a few changes and figured out how to integrate it with our current ethics ordinances.”

DeMonaco said the changes will largely focus on how the members of the board are selected.

“There are a few minor changes to what it used to be and what it will be,” he said. “It will be a board of five members that are each selected by one of the City Council members. (Each selectee) will then each be confirmed by City Council. Previously, they were all selected by the mayor and confirmed by council.”

Those interested in serving on the board can apply on the city’s website, www.cityofeastpointe.net.

“We will give it about a month to look at various candidates,” said DeMonaco. “Each council member will bring their person forward, and we ask people to bring forth an application, which they can get on our website in the boards and commission section. We hope to have them meet for the first time in August.”

The ethics board will meet whenever there is a question of whether a city official or employee has violated the city’s policies in an unethical manner.

“The board will be looking at any issues brought to them,” Owens said. “If anyone thinks the code of ethics has been broken, anyone can bring it forward to the board and they will look at it and decide if they need to take action or investigate. They also can make suggestions to (the City Council) in regard to ethical matters. They’ll only meet if there are complaints brought forward.”

DeMonaco said that putting ethical issues in the charge of an independent body, rather than the City Council, will be more efficient for the council and ensure there is no conflict of interest if one of the council members become involved in a questionable ethical decision.

“I talked to council members who were on council in 2011 when the board was removed. The council members at the time thought the City Council should handle these items themselves,” he said. “However, it could take a lot of time to discuss these items. Someone could make a very serious complaint and we could end up doubling the council meeting lengths or putting these matters off. If you had three of these complaints come up, you could have a 10-hour council meeting. More importantly, if you had two council members involved in a complaint, it wouldn’t be appropriate to have them be the ones determining the outcome of the situation.”

DeMonaco said he believes this decision will help Eastpointe residents trust their local leaders.

“I think that, as a citizen, I want to see officials and government workers conducting themselves ethically,” he remarked. “With all the cases people are hearing about in our area, I want Eastpointe residents to know we are doing everything we can to keep things on the up and up.”