Commissioners to vote on creating a new code of conduct

CASSOPOLIS — The Cass County Board of Commissioners is still dealing with the fallout from its explosive first meeting of 2018.

During the Jan. 18 meeting, County Administrator Karen Folks accused District 3 Commissioner Skip Dyes of bullying and harassment. Now, the board is looking to revise its code of conduct policy.

“Obviously everyone was at our January meeting, and I’d like to see some changes made so this doesn’t happen again,” said District 1 Commissioner Terry Ausra at a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday morning. “My proposal is to revisit and revise this code of conduct to cover more situations.”

Skip Dyes

The board of commissioners will vote Thursday whether to revise the code of conduct policy via an independent policy committee. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Ausra said a new code of conduct policy is necessary as there were issues that occurred and discussed at the Jan. 18 meeting that were not covered in the current policy.

Dyes questioned whether commissioners would adhere to a new code of conduct, saying he did not believe the issues he was accused of at the Jan. 18 meeting were included in the handbook. During that meeting, Folks accused Dyes of stopping by her office unannounced and demanding to speak with her, and raising his voice during meetings. He also said that the way he was accused may have been in violation of the code of conduct.

“What’s it going to do if we revise it?” Dyes asked of the code of conduct policy. “You didn’t use it last time. Who says you are going to use it this time? … I don’t think [the code of conduct policy] is even used.”

Ausra responded that a revised code of conduct would fix issues that are present in the existing policy and would cover some of Dyes’ concerns.

“I think we need to bring it back to the policy committee and make it more specific to cover things and issues that might arise,” he said. “We need to update this. … We want some clarification on this policy so [what happened at the Jan. 18 meeting] doesn’t happen again.”

Outside of what took place on Jan. 18, some commissioners said the policy needed to be revised as sections of it were out of date. For example, the sexual harassment and anti-harassment policy has not been updated since 1992.

“Things have changed since then,” said District 4 Commissioner Roseann Marchetti. “That could use another look. I think those all need to be reviewed and updated.”

The commissioners agreed that prior to a new code of conduct policy being adopted, the committee in charge of revising the policy should receive input from elected officials in Cass County.

“This is a pretty front-burner issue,” said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz, who was in the audience at the Committee of the Whole meeting. “The electors should be engaging in a discussion of the committee.”

Also Thursday:

• The commissioners will vote to approve appointments to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and the Veterans Advisory Committee.

• In financial business, the board will vote to appropriate $2,200 from the general fund to the District Court Bond Account, to approve a one-time transaction of $3,230 for Soil Erosion and Stormwater Construction permits and to reclassify circuit court file room clerks from pay level two employees to pay level four employees.

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