The Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee met on April 3 to lay out a plan for an upcoming Board of Trustees workshop meeting to review a proposed ethics ordinance. Pictured from left are Tom Sokol, James Gelios, Richard Paul, Rich Maierle, and Stephen Ferrari.

The Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee met on April 3 to lay out a plan for an upcoming Board of Trustees workshop meeting to review a proposed ethics ordinance. Pictured from left are Tom Sokol, James Gelios, Richard Paul, Rich Maierle, and Stephen Ferrari.

Photo by Sean Work


Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee committee meets prior to workshop

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 9, 2019

 Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee members Jim Gelios, left, and Richard Paul attend an April 3 meeting. The committee met to lay out a plan for the April 17 Board of Trustees meeting that will review the ethics ordinance.

Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee members Jim Gelios, left, and Richard Paul attend an April 3 meeting. The committee met to lay out a plan for the April 17 Board of Trustees meeting that will review the ethics ordinance.

Photo by Sean Work

Advertisement

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Prior to the Macomb Township Board of Trustees workshop meeting to review a proposed ethics ordinance, the Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee met on April 3.

The purpose of gathering was to lay out a plan for the April 17 meeting. The Board of Trustees will have a special workshop meeting at 6 p.m. that day about the ethics ordinance.

The April 17 meeting agenda states the ordinance would be reviewed and that the purpose of the committee is to research, develop and report to the board a possible ethics ordinance or other means to address ethical behavior.

The first business item on April 3 was addressing the confidentiality of government officials filing ethics complaints.

“If someone makes a complaint against a public official in Macomb County, and they found there were no problems, can someone FOIA that complaint?” committee member Rich Maierle asked.

Committee Chairman James Gelios said yes, but the record would reflect it was unfounded.

He cited that communication and notes between and within public bodies of an advisory nature — the ethics board and the Board of Trustees — should first approach the ethics board.

“The ethics board would look at it and then file the procedure and advise the clerk. That’s when it becomes a public document,” Gelios said.

Member Tom Sokol said prior to the committee officially forming, residents would fill the conference room at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library in Macomb Township wanting to see the committee put in place.

“Residents saw a need for it and we organized on our own time in a volunteer capacity,” he said. “It was decided by the residents that we needed a committee.”

Sokol’s opinion is that challenges are being thrown at the committee by the Board of Trustees, adding that there isn’t a spirit of collaboration between the two groups.   

Removing his committee member hat, Richard Paul said that as a Macomb Township resident, he questions why there is pushback from the board.

“The ethics committee is a safeguard,” he said. “Does it work all the time? No. At least you have something to fall back on.”

Also at the ethics advisory meeting, members discussed municipal civil infractions.

“The township can create a municipal civil infraction bureau, or it could be someone we already have,” Gelios said.

A municipal civil infraction involves the violation of an ordinance but not any crime under certain specific statutes including the public health code, the Michigan vehicle code, the liquor control act and the Michigan penal code. Cities, villages, townships and counties may adopt municipal civil infraction ordinances.

At the Feb. 13 Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Tim Bussineau addressed the proposed ordinance and explored having a special meeting date set.

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.

Bussineau said the committee met 10 times from March to September of 2018. A draft of the ordinance was presented to the board in September with a special meeting on Oct. 3 to review the ordinance.

At that time, a commitment was made to hold another meeting, which hasn’t taken place, due to the board having to appoint a trustee in December.

The idea of an ethics advisory committee was first brought up by Bussineau in December 2017 after former Trustee Dino Bucci had an 18-count criminal indictment filed against him that included embezzlement charges in Macomb Township.

“We’re trying to restore the faith in local government with the residents and this is a good step,” Sokol said. “We want residents to feel like the board is taking steps to eliminate what happened before.”

Paul’s goal is to exemplify to the Board of Trustees that the ethics ordinance is going to protect township officials, more than hurt them.

Advertisement