Macomb Township ethics ordinance approved, takes effect in November

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published October 30, 2019

 Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee member Tom Sokol addresses the Macomb Township Board prior to its vote on an ethics ordinance. The board unanimously approved the ethics ordinance Oct. 23, nearly two years after an ordinance was first proposed.

Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee member Tom Sokol addresses the Macomb Township Board prior to its vote on an ethics ordinance. The board unanimously approved the ethics ordinance Oct. 23, nearly two years after an ordinance was first proposed.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Nearly two years after the creation of an internal ethics policy that would govern elected officials was proposed, the Macomb Township ethics ordinance was unanimously approved at the Oct. 23 Board of Trustees meeting.

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

After the vote was cast, residents in the audience applauded the decision.

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.

“This has been an emotional journey,” said Trustee Tim Bussineau, who spearheaded efforts for an ordinance. “Tonight, we took a huge step in supporting a more ethical township government.”

He added the reason behind getting the push for an ordinance underway was a direct result of federal and state civil and criminal investigations into unethical, corrupt and illegal activities involving township officials.   

Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee Chairman James Gelios said the ordinance will serve as a guide to clarify proper behavior that residents expect of public officials.

“It provides an avenue for employees and elected officials with a procedure to pursue clarification on any ethical issues in question,” Gelios said. “The goal is to serve as a deterrent and be preventative in nature to ensure only the best behavior and values are followed.”

Prior to the ordinance’s approval, Macomb Township Ethics Advisory Committee member Tom Sokol said it’s been a long time coming and highlighted what the process was like.

“This has been a cross-functional effort that started with Mr. Bussineau and quickly transformed to a project that was embraced by a diverse group of residents,” he said.

Recently, he said, there was a collaboration between Treasurer Karen Goodhue, Trustee Nancy Nevers and Township Attorney Tom Esordi.

As a high school government and law teacher, Bussineau said he teaches the importance of written law -— in this case, the ordinance — to guide the actions of residence and governments.

“This is a safeguard to try and prevent current and future elected officials and employees from repeating history,” he said.    

Sokol said at first, some board members and township employees were concerned the ordinance would be used to unfairly target them.

“The main purpose of this ordinance is to serve as a deterrent and to take the current level of accountability and transparency to a higher, more stringent level,” Sokol said.

Clerk Kristi Pozzi said she is thankful that board members, committee members, residents and employees collaborated to complete the ordinance.

“I’m thankful that by working together, we approved a document with input from all in an effort to get it right,” she said.   

The Ethics Advisory Committee, whose job is complete, consisted of Gelios, Sokol, Richard Paul, Rich Maierle, Rob Montilla and Steve Ferrari.

The next step is for individuals to apply to serve on the permanent ethics board.

Also at the meeting, it was announced a water and sewer rates informational meeting is scheduled for Nov. 14 at 6 p.m.

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