Ludington mayor explains reprimand. 

July 27, 2019

Ludington mayor explains reprimand. 

Letter to the editor by Mayor Steve Miller

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Mayor Miller is referring to the events covered in an article posted on MCP Friday, July 26. You may see that article here

Dear Editor, 

As I stated at the last City Council meeting, Monday the 22, it brought me no pleasure to bring forward before Council an unprecedented public reprimand resulting from public comments made by a City Council member on social media.

I’d like to clarify for the public the process and procedures of the city’s Code of Conduct.  Minutes of the April 22 council meeting express, “Council determined that they would like to see personal code of conduct for employees drafted in their personnel policy manual and they would like City Manager Mitch Foster to draft this language…He stated he would work on getting the two policies, one for employees and one for the council, drafted.”

Quoted directly from the minutes of the following council meeting on May 6, “Councilor Serna questioned whether this policy is subjective and City Manager Foster confirmed that it is and it is self-regulating…If someone believes there is a violation of any item in this code of conduct, this can be brought up under one of the categories, such as a verbal communication one on one, then move to a verbal reprimand, a formal public letter of censure…Councilor Serna questioned one section of the code of conduct regarding verbally reprimanding an individual and how is this productive in fixing a situation.  City Manager Foster stated that other sections should be used before getting to this step. City Attorney (Richard) Wilson reminded councilors that any reprimand of a public official must be done in public at a public meeting under the Open Meetings Act…if action must be taken by the council, this must be handled in a council meeting.”

On May 20, the city’s Code of Conduct was passed unanimously after a motion by Councilor Johnson, seconded by Councilor Lenius, and without further discussion.

In a memorandum accompanying the Code of Conduct, City Manager Foster expressed, “actions, statements, or reactions by any member of those bodies reflect on the City as a whole and while not employees, they have a standard to meet.”  In addition, Mr. Foster specified, “This policy would signify to the public that the City Council and its subsequent boards/committees hold themselves to a higher standard.”

Section 3 of the Code of Conduct reads: The professional and personal conduct of Members must be above reproach and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.  Members shall refrain from rudeness, disrespectful comments, insults, name-calling, abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other Members of Council, boards, committees and commissions, the staff or public.

Given the process and procedures unanimously accepted by City Council, and as directed by the council’s action to institute and be held to a “higher standard” of conduct, proper administration of the code of conduct was upheld.  Previous one-on-one conversations with multiple council members regarding Council’s expectations for personal deportment were the result of incoming communications and concerns of area residents. However, those conversations proved to be ineffective, as demonstrated by comments posted on social media this past weekend.  An invitation to meet privately once again to discuss the issue prior to the council meeting was refused, prompting a public reprimand, as directed by the code of conduct’s next course of action. 

Civil actions and respectful statements by elected officials demonstrate beyond reproach, the reasonable expectation of the public.  Those expectations have been clearly elevated by the council’s unanimous acceptance of their own standards and procedures.  

I encourage every citizen to speak out and present their thoughts and opinions, but to do so in a manner that elevates content well above any appearance of disrespect.   But, to also be prepared to accept the consequences for their words, particularly when they violate the very standard to which they have agreed to maintain.

Steve Miller

Mayor, City of Ludington




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