(Brian McGrain is an Ingham County commissioner representing District 10, which includes the eastern and southeastern sides of Lansing and Lansing Township, as well as the southeastern portion of East Lansing and Michigan State University. He chairs the Board of Commissioners.)
As readers of the City Pulse are aware, Ingham County has recently found itself in the midst of a situation regarding alleged unethical actions by one of our former highlevel employees. While Ingham County has prided itself in being well-run and well-managed over the years, this situation may have caused the public to question our reputation.
To recap, it appears that the County’s former Chief Information Officer accepted gifts from contractors and may have leveraged his County position for personal gain. County officials became aware of these incidents when filling a request for documents filed by the City Pulse under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. County officials were quick to identify incidents of questionable conduct by our former Chief Information Officer. An investigation ensued, facts were verified, and the employee was terminated – all within a 24-hour timeframe. Additionally, this situation has been turned over to police authorities for further investigation.
Ethical lapses are unfortunate. Officials sometimes seek to spin such issues to make them sound less significant than they actually are, but the most effective way to deal with the issue is full and timely disclosure. Please rest assured, county officials are working tirelessly to be as transparent as possible during this time.
Details of who knew what and when have been distorted. While the County had been working for months on dealing with “performance” issues affecting its IT delivery, no charges or allegations had been made regarding unethical conduct. Commissioners were indeed surprised when this information came to light and supported quick action to rectify the situation.
Now that we are past the initial shock of what happened, it is imperative that our organization take time to reflect and reassess. Not only do we need to understand how this ethical lapse occurred, but perhaps more importantly, we need to determine what changes need to be made to ensure this does not happen again. A formal review of internal controls was initiated to determine if there is need for systemic change. Amongst many changes being considered, employees will be required to undergo a review of ethical conduct policies, and future contracts will require vendors to abide by County ethics standards.
No written policy can prevent unethical acts by a determined individual. However, residents should know that Ingham County sets a high bar when it comes to employee ethics. Breaches will not be tolerated, and any report of an ethics violation will be taken very seriously from the outset. We will do our best to regain your trust and confidence in County government, and I challenge everyone associated with Ingham County to do the same.