Ingham County officials may seek an outside auditor to review contracts and payments to vendors throughout the county, it was revealed Tuesday night at a county services committee meeting.
The news came as commissioners discussed proposals to address the ongoing ethics scandal that has been rocking the county since the end of October. That scandal has resulted in the termination of two information technology staff for violating the county ethics policy. The terminations came after an investigation by City Pulse revealed that Michael Ashton, former chief information officer, and Frank Chain, former project manager in the IT department, had both accepted junkets and tickets to sporting events but county contractors footed the bill.
But as commissioners were reviewing the revelations two weeks ago, questions arose about how contracts were being issued, monitored and approved. At the time Tim Dolehanty, county controller, told commissioners he would oversee a inventory and review of recent contracts. That review, it was revealed by Teri Morton, budget director — who was standing in for Dolehanty — may end up being farmed out.
“There is a possibility of hiring an outside vendor like Plante Moran to conduct an audit,” she said.
In the City Pulse investigation contracts and payments to various top IT vendors were reviewed. However, it was unclear if all current contracts had been released under the Freedom of Information Act request, but the payments and contracts that were released raised concerns and questions that Dolehanty was unable to address.
Apparently, county officials remain unable to address those questions, or determine the amounts or numbers of contracts currently in use at the county.
Commissioners had a lengthy conversation about the failure of employees to follow county policy requiring all contracts with the county be filed with the county clerk. That policy was reiterated by resolution as recently as September.
Also Tuesday night, commissioners reviewed a draft Whistle Blower policy and a potential standard of conduct which might be attached to all future contracts. That code specifically prohibits county employees from soliciting or accepting gifts, loans “or any thing of value” from contractors and vendors.