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TUESDAY, March 5 — A private firm co-owned by Ingham County Undersheriff Andrew Bouck will be paid up to $33,000 by the county this year, partly to provide training for deputies within his own department.
A longstanding contract between the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office and MACNLOW Associates has helped provide annual training to local first responders for more than 20 years. And despite concerns about a possible conflict of interests, the deal again passed through the county Board of Commissioners last week.
Bouck and his sister, Kristen Kemp, bought the company in 2013, according to its website. The firm has provided a wide array of developmental classes for local emergency personnel for decades, all covered on the county’s dime. Bouck, a former East Lansing Police officer, has worked as an instructor there since 2003.
After Bouck took over, Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth made it a habit to clearly outline the undersheriff’s “small pecuniary interest” to county commissioners before the deal was renewed each year. He again maintained that Bouck had properly separated himself from his own business dealings and offered the best bang for the buck.
“Although there are other options for similar training, maintaining this contract is in the best interest of the county as a whole to best serve its residents,” Wrigglesworth noted in a recent memorandum to commissioners. “The negative financial impact to the county, if we discontinued this contract, would be sizable.”
Wriggelsworth said Bouck also won’t earn a direct paycheck through the contract. Those profits, instead, will be used to cover the debt that Bouck incurred when he first purchased the company from McKinnon. Bouck, for his part, declined to comment. Attempts to reach Kemp for clarification were unsuccessful.
Some commissioners objected to the continued relationship before it ultimately passed by an 8-4 vote on Feb. 26.
“I have concerns about this contract with the undersheriff’s company,” explained Commissioner Derrell Slaughter. “I understand it was cleared and necessary disclosures have been made, I just feel uncomfortable voting on this particular contract. I have some concerns. I’m not comfortable supporting this one right now.”
Commissioner Carol Koenig was also not “completely comfortable” supporting the deal for another year. Commissioners Thomas Morgan and Chris Trubac also voted against the contract.
The Sheriff’s Office didn’t engage a formal bidding process for the contract, Wriggelsworth noted. He previously called MACNLOW the most affordable and convenient option available, especially because the training occurs in Mason. Any others would invariable include added travel expenses, he suggested during a previous interview.
Course offerings include active shooter training, classes on implicit bias, stress and time management, media relations, verbal de-escalation and dozens of other options. The cost per person for each of the classes ranges from $275 to $699, depending on the intensity of the coursework, according to county-provided documents.
MACNLOW could charge up to $33,000 but officials also emphasized the total bill will likely be much lower. Last year, for instance, MACNLOW charged less than $20,000 for its countywide emergency training services.
“For us, they have a proven track record of providing excellent training for law enforcement officers in the area,” Commission Chairman Bryan Crenshaw said previously. “We’re satisfied with the statements and the sign off that the undersheriff won’t be involved in the operations or the direct profits of this contract.
“There’s no real conflict.”
Regardless of the potential cost savings with MACNLOW compared to the competition, Wriggelsworth said his department won’t attempt to pursue another contract with Bouck’s company next year — especially given the perception of ethical concerns recently raised by a few county commissioners at last week’s meeting.
Bouck earns an annual salary of about $108,000, according to county human resources officials.