Source: Sherman Publications

Village councilman asked to step down following sanction vote

by David Fleet

April 11, 2012

Goodrich- For the second time this year, a village councilman has been asked to step down.

And for the second time, it’s not happening.

Councilman Richard Saroli made the motion to sanction councilman Doug McAbee at Monday’s village meeting following claims that he violated Chapter 12 of the village code—purchasing contracts over $500, without village council approval. In addition, Saroli said that McAbee violated the village’s security policy resulting in the unauthorized release of 31 Social Security numbers of former and current village employees, along with village bank account information.

The council voted 3-1 to support the motion. Council members Richard Saroli, Richard Horton and Mark Baldwin voted yes. Councilman Doug McAbee voted no. Councilman Pete Morey was absent. Subsequently, the council voted 3-1 to remove McAbee’s name from the banking authorization signature card.

While a judge may ultimately decide the fate of the case, Catherine Mullhaupt, Michigan Township Association director of member information services and attorney, said a council can ask or request a council member to step down, but removal may be up to the voters.

“Sanction is an internal parliamentary term. It means straighten up and fly right—it’s directed at ethics,” she said. “However, it does not remove him or her from office. Recall is still a possibility, but that’s up to the village or township electorate. In the case of Goodrich, it appears the village was exposed to liability and the rest of the council expects this to stop.”

The sanctions stemmed from a Feb. 9, 2011 row when the village council voted to request the resignation of Village Administrator Jakki Sidge. She was also requested to make her computer available to copy the hard drive and ordered to not delete any e-mails.

Sidge officially stepped down on Feb. 11, 2011.

Following her resignation, the hard drive was removed from her computer upstairs in the village offices. The hard drive was delivered to ACA, 3487 Richfield Road, where the Genesee County Sheriff Department takes computer equipment for forensic work. ACA had the hard drive and requested the computer tower, which was still at the village office. ACA said it (the hard drive) had been wiped clean. They were not trained to go any further with the investigation.

After that, then-Village Council President Patricia Wartella and Councilman Doug McAbee authorized the computer to be sent to Lansing-based Dalman Investigations. The decision to contract with Dalman was made without a village council vote. The report was not released to the public; however, 31 individuals’ Social Security numbers were allegedly included on the computer hard drive.

“You (McAbee) should step down from the council—you have no credibility,” said Saroli, following the sanction vote. “You had no authority to hire Dalman and any purchase over $500 requires council approval—that was never done.”

“There are remedies, we could go to court and a judge could decide this misconduct in office,” he said.

Saroli continued that a judge could decide this case and a fine of $100 or 90 days in jail could result for McAbee.

"There could be an internal hearing for McAbee with attorneys he would have the opportunity to bring in witnesses and cross-examine individuals would also be possible," Saroli said. "The results would hinge on the definition of misconduct-if convicted it would allow his removal from office by a council vote."

McAbee responded.

“I will not step down,” he said

“There was not a proper investigation by Karl Haiser —he overstepped his bounds—The Dalman investigation was ongoing when I signed that— I did not hire Dalman,” he said.

In November, the village council voted 4-0 to hire Grand Blanc CPA Karl Haiser to investigate the issue a report was issued in March that also called for the resignation of McAbee. Haiser recommended the village council not pay Dalman and look to the individuals requesting his services for liability payment. The request for services was requested and approved by Wartella and McAbee, councilmembers of the Village of Goodrich. Both signed the contract and paid the required retainer. Furthermore, in Haiser’s report he suggested that Wartella and McAbee believed they had authority to investigate the Village of Goodrich server data activity and required security.

In a special meeting on March 14 the village council had voted 4-1 (Saroli voted no) to let the village insurance company handle the breach of the Social Security numbers and recommended that Lifelock, a security company that alerts the client when personal information, including Social Security numbers, is being used to apply for wireless services, retail credit, utilities, and mortgage loans be paid for by the village to protect against possible credit fraud.

“The village insurance company replied to the need for LifeLock,” said Horton. “Until a claim is made, then they will decide on how to act—until then there’s no LifeLock,” he said. “The insurance company would be open to liability. They don’t want anything to do with this.”

The yearly minimal cost of LifeLock for 31 village employees is $88 per person. A more extensive LifeLock plan would cost $221 per person, added Jakki Sidge, village administrator.

Council members encouraged those village employees to seek LifeLock or a similar security company on their own. However, no compensation by the village was offered.