Dec. 9 2015 12:16 AM

County expected to make changes after firing IT employees for being on the take

Ingham County commissioners will vote Tuesday night on a series of proposals to address the ethics scandal that resulted in the firing of two top information technology staff earlier this year.

The Board of Commissioners’ County Services Committee approved three resolutions dealing with protection for whistleblowers, consolidation of ethics policies, and vendor relationships, all of which are meant to strengthen the county’s ethics policies.

But the county will not authorize hiring an outside auditor to review the contracts and payments to contractors, as had been previously discussed by the committee. A City Pulse investigation showed that contracts did not match up to payments. County officials have been unable to answer specific questions about why.

Officials were unsure how the discrepancies would be resolved or addressed, although they said they expected a general audit, as performed annually by Plante Moran, would identify any issues.

County Administrator/Controller Tim Dolehanty told commissioners that there had been no new findings. Commissioners withdrew their support for the motion, effectively killing the outside auditor proposal.

“Some of those issues would be addressed as a matter of the process in our general audits” by Plante Moran, said Kara Hope, a Democratic commissioner from Holt and the board’s incoming chairwoman, replacing Brian McGrain of Lansing. She also served on County Services Committee this year. That committee oversees all departmental operations.

Citing the audit and also the ongoing investigation by the Mason Police Department, Hope said the committee decided an outside audit would be “unnecessary.”

The policy changes would take effect upon approval. One would tighten up language on whistleblowers that provide protections for those raising concerns about potential ethics violations and set a path for specific complaints. The committee passed the resolution unanimously.

Committee members also approved a new policy requiring vendors to be fully informed of the county’s ethics policy. The measure is designed to prevent vendors from “tempting” employees by offering gifts and such, which would violate the county ethics policy, Dolehanty explained in previous meetings.

And finally the committee approved a resolution requesting all countywide elected officials —- Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III, Clerk Barb Byrum; Register of Deeds Derrick Quinney, Eric Treasurer Schertzing and Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann to adopt the ethics policy as their own departmental policies.

Byrum, Schertizing and Quinney said Monday they supported the ethics policy.

“I wholeheartedly endorse the concept,” Schertizing said. His office, as well as the Ingham County Land Bank, which he heads, have had training sessions on the ethics policy, he said.

Quinney said his office will receive training this week.

Byrum said her staff received training last month and has long followed the policy.

“I implemented the policy long before it was cool to implement an ethics policy,” she said. “We were operating ethically long before there were ethics concerns at the county.”

Lindemann and Dunnings did not return calls seeking comment.