The Oakland County Board of Commissioners is expected to consider a resolution tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 2 that would grant the authority to Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Gingell (R-Lake Orion) to appoint an ad hoc committee to study the county’s 20-year-old ethics policy and possibly propose changes. This comes after a Democratic commissioner towards the tail end of last year put forth proposed modifications of his own, although they were eventually scuttled by a procedural move. The Board of Commissioners would be wise to approve the resolution and start down the path toward coming up with revisions to the out-dated ethics policy.
Gingell would have the authority to appoint a three-member ad hoc committee consisting of two members of the county board’s Republican Caucus and one member of the Democratic Caucus, in addition to “other non-commissioner members” as he sees fit. The committee would then report back with any proposed changes.
When Commissioner Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) came out with several proposed changes last year, we felt that while his heart was in the right place, the modifications he wanted to see would have been troublesome due to various issues regarding the disclosure of things such as paid law enforcement informants, for example.
A 20-year-old ethics policy, in this day and age with changing technology and practices, is simply outdated. Things governments, and elected officials and county employees are capable of today were likely unfathomable two decades ago. As such, the current policy could likely use a light makeover. However, we don’t suspect it needs a major facelift in order to make it applicable and modern.
With an ad hoc committee — particularly one controlled by Republicans in a Board of Commissioners that currently has a 15-10 GOP majority — we suspect that any recommended changes would likely sail through the county commission without too much difficulty. But although Republicans could quite easily force the changes through, we hope they take Democratic ideas into consideration instead of simply brushing them aside because they came from the opposing party.
We also suspect that any proposed changes coming out of the committee would be a bit more tempered than the ones that we saw proposed last year. Some county Republicans have called last year’s proposed changes a political stunt. We don’t necessarily buy that, but we did — and still do — think there were flaws with the changes proposed in 2010.
The county’s ethics policy has, by and large, served the county well. We hope the Board of Commissioners continues to head in the right direction by allowing Gingell to appoint the ad hoc ethics committee, and that the committee comes out with reasonable and measured changes, not drastic overhauls.