The Ethics Board is responsible for accepting and handling complaints and conducting investigations into potential Ethics Code violations.
Potential Ethics Code violations may be brought to the Ethics Board by either: (1) filing an investigation request; or (2) filing a verified complaint. A verified complaint must be sworn before a notary public or other individual authorized to administer oaths, while an investigation request must simply be in writing and signed (M.C.G.O. § 9.09(4)(a)).
All verified complaints are referred to the district attorney, whereas investigation requests are referred to the district attorney only after the Ethics Board approves the investigation (M.C.G.O. § 9.09(4)(c)). All verified complaints must be filed no later than three years after the violation is alleged to have occurred. When an investigation request or verified complaint is filed, it does not become part of the public record, unless the accused requests to have the matter made public (M.C.G.O. § 9.09(4)(b)). A verified complaint becomes a public record at the close of all proceedings only if it results in a finding of an Ethics Code violation.
All Ethics Board deliberations regarding complaints or investigations will be held in closed session, unless the accused requests to have the matter heard in open session (M.C.G.O. § 9.09(4)(g)). The identities of the individual making the complaint or investigation request, and the person(s) named in the complaint or investigation request, shall remain confidential (M.C.G.O. § 9.09(4)(h)).
If at this point there is a reasonable basis for the belief that a violation of the Ethics Code has or might have occurred a Preliminary Conference will be scheduled. The purpose of the conference is to determine whether the matter may be resolved without the need of holding a hearing (M.C.G.O. § 9.10).
If a hearing is to be held, the Ethics Board will appoint a hearing examiner to conduct the hearing (M.C.G.O. § 9.11(2)). Based on the evidence from the hearing the Ethics Board will determine whether a violation of the Ethics Code has occurred (M.C.G.O. § 9.11(1)).
The finding of an Ethics Code violation may result in one or more of any of the following, or such other orders as may be necessary:
An order requiring the individual to conform his or her conduct to the Ethics Code.
A monetary forfeiture of $100 to $1,000 for each violation.
An order to return county property, funds or gifts and/or restitution for the value of property, funds or gifts procured in violation of the Ethics Code.
Censure, suspension or removal from office or employment (M.C.G.O. § 9.12(2)).