The Centers for Public and Global Integrity rank the state of Michigan 50th in the country in areas of ethics and transparency. Certain members of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners are doing all they can to make sure their community is unable to improve that embarrassing statistic.
Shortly after the new Board was seated, an Ad Hoc Ethics committee was appointed by Rob Henschel to improve the outdated county ethics policy. Ron Clous was to chair the committee completed by Brad Jewett and Betsy Coffia.
A new policy for all county employees was completed. However, Clous and Jewett refused to agree on a policy that would cover appointed and elected officials. They were uncomfortable with disclosing possible financial conflicts, signing an agreement after a required Sexual Harrassment training, and assigning an outside party to oversee enforcement of any ethics violation.
A large number of local residents attended what turned out to be the final meeting of the Ethics Ad Hoc committee. Clous began the meeting by moving to disband the committee; Jewett seconded. He stated there was no need for a policy covering members of the commission, additions could easily be made to the Commission rules. Coffia spoke up to disagree but Clous and Jewett voted to disband the committee and end their work as it stood.
Coffia requested a full commission discussion after all members and the public have been made aware of the policy the group had compiled. During a public comment, many questioned why certain members of the board were so reluctant to being held accountable.
During the next BOC meeting, it was stated that the Ad Hoc Committee could not just dissolve itself. Until it completed its assignment, the work needed to continue. Commissioner LaPointe stated that he could not vote to support the policy in its current form because he disagreed with some of the wording. Jewett stated he felt there shouldn’t be a discussion until the complete subcommittee could be present; Clous was not in attendance, and he and Clous wouldn’t be available to meet for some time. It was decided that, hopefully, a meeting could take place by sometime in December. After months of effort the ethics policy for the commissioners remains in limbo
Local resident Dave Petrove spoke up in public comment. He suggested that, since Clous and Jewett had basically ‘quit’ the Ethics Ad Hoc committee, they should be replaced by two other commissioners, ones that might show a little more interest in meeting the requirements of the assignment.