Dear Emmet County Commissioners and Citizens:
On June 5, 2023, the Emmet County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to establish policies and positions to guide representation on the Northwest Michigan Board of Health (Health Department), composed of two county commissioners each from Emmet, Antrim, Charlevoix, and Otsego County. The resolution attempts to impose the Emmet County Code of Ethics and Conduct (Code), adopted May 24, 2018 upon representatives from Emmet County to the Health Department. It is unclear whether any other county board of commissioners approved such a policy, and the record appears to reflect that Emmet County acted alone.
On August 23, 2023, Emmet County Commissioners Neil Ahrens, David White, and Matthew Koontz provided the County Clerk and County Administrator with notification they had a reasonable suspicion that Commissioner Rich Ginop may have acted in violation of Sections (B) 11 of the Code relating to his committee assignment on the Board of the Health Department. per Section (B)(15)B of the Code. These same Commissioners requested a public hearing that was subsequently scheduled for September 11, 2023 at a regular meeting of the County Board of Commissioners to determine whether a violation of the Code had occurred and, if so, what sanctions shall be imposed. It is noteworthy that the alleged “reasonable suspicions” were never set forth specifically as to when they occurred. Nor was the nature of the alleged violation stated in either their request for the public hearing nor in the notice provided to Commissioner Ginop.
On September 11, 2023 a regular meeting of the Emmet County Board of Commissioners was held and pursuant to the above Commissioner’s request, a public hearing was held to determine whether Commissioner Rich Ginop had actually violated the Code, specifically Section B(11) and B(15)(B).
The Code, under Section B, adopted May 24, 2018 states:
County Commissioners shall represent the official policies or positions of the Board of Commissioners to the best of their ability when designated as delegates for this purpose. When presenting their individual opinions and positions, County Commissioners shall neither state nor imply that they represent the opinions or positions of the Board of Commissioners or Emmet County, (sic) and must affirmatively state that it is their own opinion or position, and not that of the Board of Commissioners. Commissioners shall always be mindful of the needs of the entire county, and not just the district they represent.
(12) . . .
(15) Compliance and enforcement.
A. . . . .
B. All County Commissioners have a responsibility to act when they
learn of actions of another County Commissioner that appear to be in violation of the Code of Ethics. Upon being notified of reasonable suspicion of a violation of the Code of Ethics, the Chairperson shall set, or any three Commissioners may require the setting of, a public hearing at a regular or special meeting of the County Board of Commissioners to determine whether a violation of the Code of Ethics occurred and, if so, what sanctions shall be imposed for the violation.
C. . . .
D. A violation of this code of ethics shall not be considered a basis for challenging the validity of a County Board of Commissioners decision. (Emphasis Added).
Following the public hearing, no finding of facts were made. Nor did the Emmet County Board of Commissioners engage in any discussion of what was the appropriate sanction to be imposed other than Commissioner Ginop being removed from the Board of the Health Department.
I would suggest no evidence was ever presented, nor does the actual wording of the Code suggest that Commissioner Ginop was in violation of the Code, specifically section B(15)(B)!
There was no showing that Commissioner Ginop ever represented his individual opinions and position as that of the Emmet County Board of Commissioners; nor was there any showing that Ginop was not mindful of the needs of the entire county, and not just the district he represented. The public record does not indicate or suggest that any vote of Commissioner Ginop affected any member of Emmet County adversely.
There is no legal justification that would require any commissioner from providing or being forced to provide a second to a proposed motion, especially where three other commissioners also failed to provide a second thereby causing a motion to fail for lack of support.
There was no showing that any dental needs in Emmet County were withheld as a direct result of Ginop’s refusal to support a proposed grant program. In fact, dental services for the poor are provided in Emmet County not only through the Health Department, but via the United Way and pro bono services provided by local dentists!
Several commissioners expressed a belief that they could not support Ginop on the Health Department because he expressed a view, subsequently recanted, that he would not abide by the Code, thereby ignoring Commissioner Ginop clarification his opposition was to the June 5, 2023 resolution and not the Code itself.
Given this record, a majority of Emmet County Commissioners still voted to remove Ginop from the Health Department Board which may itself be a violation of Code section B(15)(D)! And, in the absence of any specific violation on a date certain appears to be a denial of due process.
To an interested citizen, the Code and Resolution working in concert are just a method of stifling discussion and limiting dissent on any issue, especially where no findings of fact or date of the alleged offenses is specified. In other words, to hold office you must go along to get along – shameful.
How can the oversight function of elected officials be undertaken in such an environment. Of course, it can’t. If you want a rubber stamp, I see no need to have the Health Department (Board). It appears, the Salem Witch Trial procedures may have provided better protection to Commissioner Ginop.
Therefore, any elected official should not sleep easy if they vote against a popular idea because the mob will eventually destroy our Republic.
Apparently, these commissioners are unaware that loyalty oaths are not a basis to hold office in this state. The only oath to hold office is that the elected official will obey the laws and Constitutions of the United States and Michigan. To suggest otherwise is a violation of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, Article XI, section 1, which states:
§ 1 Oath of public officers.
All officers, legislative, executive and judicial, before entering upon the duties of their respective offices, shall take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of ... according to the best of my ability. No other oath, affirmation, or any religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust. (Emphasis Added)
Frankly, I’m disappointed Commissioner Ginop, et al, believe a Code of Ethics and Resolution were even necessary. In my opinion, such documents are offered more to provide a basis against proper governmental oversight than any legitimate concern for the public good.
Sincerely, James M. Flint, Gaylord
ERG wonders: Why did Emmet County's Civil Counsel Steve Joppich, who specializes in constitutional law and civil rights, countenance this circus?