Monday, August 5, 2013

How the Ethics Commission failed

The McHenry County Ethics Commission failed its own test on ethics, when it conducted such a shoddy meeting on July 25.

As more details about its rules and procedures come to light, it is even clearer that the Commission did not know how to conduct its hearing into Cal Skinner's complaint against Undersheriff Andy Zinke.

There was an attorney present from the State's Attorney Office to advise them.

The County Board liaison was there.

The Ethics Commissioners had plenty of time to get ready for the hearing.

And they failed.

In meetings of many, if not most, "public bodies", the public comment period is the time when matters not on the Agenda are discussed. If you want to chip in with your 2¢ worth on an Agenda item, you hold your tongue until the item comes up. That's a good way to do it.

The County commissions apparently require those who wish to speak during the public comment period to sign in. Then the chairman will call speakers in the order in which they signed in.

At the July 25 hearing, there was a clipboard and sign-in sheet. Mark Gummerson signed in as the first speaker; Rebecca Lee (from Gummerson's office) signed in as the second speaker. Then the clipboard "accidentally" ended up underneath Rebecca Lee's three-ring binder.
At County Board meetings, the sign-in sheet is outside the door and where anyone can find it.

When I informed Commission Chairman Spencer that I hadn't known of the sign-in requirement and hadn't seen the sign-in sheet because it was under Lee's binder, Gummerson quickly said that had been unintentional.

When Attorneys Gummerson and Lee launched into Zinke's defense, the Commission Chairman should have stopped them in their tracks and told them to wait for the hearing to open.

The Commission failed to explain to those present, including Complainant Cal Skinner, that it was critical to speak during the public comment period and before the Commission ran for the Closed Session.

Frankly, it looked like they didn't even want to be there in the first place, so the shock was less when they came back into open session, voted against moving the complaint forward, and left.


Curious1 said...

It is extremely common to have a required sign in sheet for public comment in such a forum. I know when I want to speak the first thing I ask when I walk in to a local governmental agency meeting is how to sign up to get time to speak.

Gus said...

And, indeed, there was a sign-in sheet on a clipboard.

Usually, at public meetings, the sign-in sheet is kept in a visible location where it can be spotted.

Maverick50 said...

Look at the rules that govern a public forum and enlighten me. Where does it say you have to sign up to speak!