Thursday, August 20, 2020

Ethics, racism commissioners to be named

Westland officials are seeking a group of residents to serve on two separate commissions charged with ensuring integrity and non-discrimination in city government.
Mayor William R. Wild is currently accepting applications to reestablish an ethics commission in the city. Members of the ethics commission would evaluate and submit written opinions about any ethical concerns or complaints filed by residents or city employees. That written opinion would be forwarded to the mayor and the departments involved in the complaint for a response or action.
Applications for the committee can be submitted online by accessing the city website, but candidates will be held to some high standards according to Wild, Council President Jim Hart and Councilman Jim Godbout. All have expressed concerns about applicants seeking an appointment for political reasons and a concern that there is a danger of “weaponizing” such a commission.

Wild said that the five commission member appointments are something he is committed to completing, but only with “the right candidates.” 
While the entire council agreed that the ethics commission would be of value, Hart expressed his concern about the misuse of such authority.
“I have a concern that next thing I know there's political agendas. This ethics commission is there to go through legitimate ethics concerns,” Hart said.
Councilwoman Tasha Green was a strong advocate of the new commission and said she felt it could be a key piece in “holding elected officials accountable in our positions.”
The initial appointments to the ethics commission in the city would include two three-year members, two two-year members and one member who would serve for only one year. Following the first year, all appointments would be for three-years. Members cannot be city officials or city employees.
In another step to ensure the impartiality and non-discriminatory actions of the city, Westland officials unanimously approved a resolution defining racism as a health crisis in the city.
The action, urged by residents and local activists, also urges city council members and the city administration to adopt policies that improve the health of communities of color and build city relationship with diversity focused groups.
Wild has been directed to establish a commission to conduct as assessment of internal policies and procedures in the city to ensure racial equity as a core element. 
The vote followed a version of the resolution that was presented to council members two weeks earlier. When no action was taken, several residents were critical of the failure of the council members to act on the issue, particularly in light of the current political climate.  The resolution approved was proposed by Councilwoman Tasha Green although minutes of the meeting indicate the resolution was proposed by Council President James Hart.
Hart said he was listed as bringing the motion only to indicate an item was coming from council.
“I have been fighting for equality, not only racial equality but gender equality, since I was elected three years ago,” Green said. “As you can see based on some of the things that happened tonight, we have not quite arrived yet.”