Council Member Gary Brown May Be Poised To Violate Charter But Probably Has Already Violated City Ethics

Council Member Gary Brown is reported to be in negotiations to accept employment with Kevyn Orr, the Emergency Manager over Detroit. Orr was appointed to replace the duties and responsibilities of the elected mayor and city council under state law, Public Act 436. The media has reported since last week that Brown is intended to resign from the city council. This has not yet occurred and Brown continues to vote and be an active participant.

The city charter recently was updated with a section that was supposed to strengthen the ethics requirements of city officials, those elected, hired and appointed. This section addresses precisely what Brown is attempting to do;

Sec. 2-106.5. One Year Post-Employment Prohibition.

Subject to state law, for one (1) year after employment with the City, a Public Servant shall not lobby or appear before the City Council or any City department, agency, board, commission or body or receive compensation for any services in connection with any matter in which he or she was directly concerned, personally participated, actively considered or acquired knowledge while working for the City. Subject to state law, for a period of one (1) year after employment with the City, a Public Servant shall not accept employment with any person or company that did business with the City during the former Public Servant’s tenure if that Public Servant was in any way involved in the award or management of that contract or the employment would require the sharing of confidential information.

 

Brown has announced his interest, if not a direct intention, to leave the city council and work for what is now effectively the administrative branch. This is a conflict of interest. This will be a violation of the city charter and it is a probable violation of the city’s new and improved ethics section. The much celebrated commentary which was heralded as a means to make clear the intent of the charter commissioners and recently used in the defense of the election ballot language for the charter is below.

 

COMMENTARY: These new sections 2-106.1 to 2-106.14 replace section 2-106 of the 1997 Charter which: (1) prohibited public officers from using their office for private gain; (2) required “reasonable disclosure of financial interests held by any elective officer, appointee, or employee” under certain circumstance; and (3) generally prohibited actions which create an appearance of impropriety, all of which were to be implemented by ordinance. This new section is a more comprehensive regulation of the ethical behavior expected of elected officials, appointees and employees. Section 2-106.1(2)(b) is intended to prohibit the inappropriate use or disclosure of confidential information. Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit a relevant Public Servant from using such information to perform their job duties.

This also reflects the intent to prohibit the actions of which council member Gary Brown is currently engaged. He should be immediately investigated by the ethics commission and probably the Inspector General’s office. The city council can also open its own investigation to ensure that any item under Brown’s review, control or influence by vote has not be misused for his or Orr’s gain.

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