Divided Ingham County board members adopt new ethics policy

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Commissioner Grebner says he will not use a public email.

Ingham County commissioners voted Sept. 24 to adopt a revised ethics policy for themselves. The policy will update the previous one, adopted in 1995.

According to Commissioner Emily Stivers, the main goal of the new policy is to promote transparency. To do so, the policy requires all officials to use public emails for all county business. 

“There is no good reason for county employees to ever use private email in the conduct of county business,” Stivers said. “Either you’re hiding something or you’re being lazy if you’re doing that.”

Adopting the policy was not easy. Discussion ran for two hours during a County Services Committee meeting the week before and received more pushback Sept. 24.

Commissioner Mark Grebner, who helped write the original policy, had many arguments against the revised policy. Grebner said he disagreed with bing required to use public email for county business because he did not want to adapt from using the Google suite (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.) to Microsoft suite (Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.).

“I’m nearly 67 years old. I’m pretty set in my ways,” Grebner said. 

The policy says that if county officials fail to use their public email for county business by mistake, the remedy is to forward those emails to their public email. Grebner said he intends to break the policy and continue to simply cc his gmail to his public email so the information is public.

Commissioner Todd Tennis also spoke against the new policy. He argued that if commissioners should use only public emails for county business, then they should also be using only county issued cellphones for calling and texting other employees, which would cost taxpayers money.

Commissioner Ryan Sebolt agreed that, regardless of whether commissioners use public or private email, unethical people will still do unethical things, but he argued the new policy is about more than just trying to deter people from acting unethically. 

“The laws and policies and procedures are certainly a statement of values, and it is how we … express the behavior we place value in,” said Sebolt.

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