May 30, 2019

Report on Ethics Committee meeting May 29th


Citizens Taking Action in North West Michigan

Report on AdHoc Committee on Ethics Grand Traverse Board of Commissioners

Wednesday May 29, 2019

Commissioners Clous (Chair), Jewett and Coffia are assigned to this committee

There was a draft ethics policy that was being discussed. There were several points of discussion:

  • Chair Clous was concerned that elected officials such as the sheriff or judges would not want to file such a business/financial disclosure annually as was being required.
  • The disclosure section calls for disclosing the person or spouse’s interest in unincorporated associations, trusts, corporations, business and real estate holdings.
  • If a person had more than 5 real estate holdings, they would list 5 and then just state that there were more holdings.
  • Jewett stated this information is “not anybody’s business”. Later he called it his personal business.
  • Coffia stated that as a taxpayer, it would increase trust to know what someone’s business interests were when they were making county financial decisions.
  • The disclosure section was removed and the conflict of interest sections was strengthened. All three voted for this because both actions were one motion.
  • There was quite a bit of discussion about an employee working in another job after hours. They decided to leave that up to a manager to approve.
  • They will work on a Board Rule to have every commissioner review the policies and then sign that they agree to disclose any conflict of interest and abide by the policy.

There was a discussion after the meeting was over about how a disclosure statement should be required when you file to run for an office. I completely agree with that. I would have been happy to do that. It would be a state law that requires this disclosure

Mr. Clous said several times that a commissioner can still vote even if s/he reveals that they have a conflict of interest. This seemed an odd focus to have.

He also said several times that the voters could throw him out if he violated their trust. The reality of our elections is that the violation has to be detected and widely advertised for any incumbent to not be reelected.