Now that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Human Resources Committee has unanimously reported out a measure to revamp the county’s 20-year-old ethics policy, the 25-member Board of Commissioners is slated to consider the proposed changes today, Wednesday, Feb. 1.
“The new ethics policy will help ensure that elected officials and other county employees perform their duties with integrity,” said Commissioner Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills), who is running for a state House of Representatives seat and spearheaded the ethics policy reform initiative. “It provides specific guidelines for ethical conduct and establishes a mechanism to hold officials and employees accountable for any wrongdoing. I applaud my colleagues for working with me in a bipartisan manner to get this done.”
Greimel said some of the main differences between the policy up for consideration today and the existing one include a “very specific” prohibition on the giving of gifts to county employees or officials in a pertinent decision-making position by people who are currently contracting with the county or seeking to do so. Some exemptions exist, such as if a meal is under $25, as well as others, but Greimel said “generally it’s a very specific and very strict policy.”
In addition, the ethics proposal “really tightens up conflict of interest provisions” to include “a wide range of family relationships that constitute a conflict of interest.”
“Before, the conflict of interest provisions were more vague and it was only with very close relatives. Now it covers a broad range,” he said.
However, he said the most important part of the proposal is that it includes a “new mechanism by which to hold employees accountable if they violate the policy.”
Greimel, who has been trumpeting county ethics policy reform since 2010, said he was “very pleased” with how the proposal turned out and thanked those on the other side of the political aisle for working together to draft the proposed policy modifications.
“This contains the stringent ethics rules that we need in the county,” he said.
Other members of the ad hoc committee, established last year by board resolution, that studied the existing policy also spoke highly of the proposal.
“We worked to pull all the county’s ethics policies together in order to create a more current policy that addresses ethical issues and dilemmas that are reflective of our day,” said Commissioner Phil Weipert (R-Walled Lake, Wixom).
Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield), who also chairs the Board of Commissioners Human Resources Committee, said that while he didn’t think the policy update was needed, he doesn’t think there’s anything “wrong” or “onerous” with the proposal.
“It just added more pages to the policy we already had,” he said. “They cite a lot more case law and copy a little bit of what the former Attorney General Mike Cox had (in his ethics policy while he was in office). It’s not a bad policy.”
Scott said it would cost about $6,000 to disseminate the policy changes, if adopted, to county employees and officials, a cost that he said should come out of the Board of Commissioners’ travel budget.