[nfbmi-talk] Fwd: Request for an Ethics Board Advisory Opinion

Larry Posont president.nfb.mi at gmail.com
Wed Feb 1 11:09:31 CST 2012


Dear Michigan Federationists:
     Please read this very carefully.



Subject: Fwd: Request for an Ethics Board Advisory Opinion
To: president.nfb.mi at gmail.com, jcscot at sbcglobal.net, laschuck at juno.com

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Cannon, Patrick (LARA)" <cannonp at michigan.gov>
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2012 11:18:05 -0500
Subject: Request for an Ethics Board Advisory Opinion
February 1, 2012

Janet McClelland, Executive Secretary

State Board of Ethics

Michigan Department of Civil Service

P.O. Box 30002

Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Ms. McCIelland:

I am requesting an Advisory Opinion as to whether ethical concerns
exist because a manager working for the Michigan Commission for the
Blind (MCB) also serves as a member of the New Horizons board, a
non-profit service organization.

The Commission is a public rehabilitation agency, located within the
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA)
providing an array of services to individuals who are blind or
visually impaired, including vocational rehabilitation services,
independent living services for the older blind, youth low vision
services for visually impaired students in the K-12 system, as well as
our Business Enterprise Program (BEP), serving as the State Licensing
Agency (SLA) for blind entrepreneurs running food service facilities
on State and Federal properties.  MCB also operates a residential
Training Center in Kalamazoo, where students learn skills of blindness
to aid them on their path toward independence.

The Commission was created by Public Act 260 of 1978, and under the
statute the Commission board is comprised of five members appointed by
the Governor.  Each Commissioner serves for a 3 year term with at
least 3 of the 5 appointees being legally blind and each serves as a
voting member of the Board.

New Horizons is a nationally recognized, private, not-for-profit
rehabilitation agency providing vocational training and job placement
in Michigan since 1964 with a primary goal focused on preparing people
with disabilities for competitive employment and providing the
necessary skills for consumers to assume responsibility for their own
long-term success.  New Horizons works with referral and funding
sources to help make employment services more readily available and
accessible to persons with disabilities.

The ethics question which has prompted this request for an Advisory
Opinion centers on Ms. Gwen McNeal, the Manager of the Commission's
Detroit Office, who also serves as a New Horizons board member.  A
conflict of interest question has been raised by a commissioner, as
well as by one of two blind consumer organizations in the state, the
National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Michigan in a resolution
adopted at the organization's state convention last November.  All
three commissioners are also NFB members, and the Commission's
vice-chair is also the President of NFB of Michigan.

Ms. McNeal was first appointed to the New Horizons Board in 2010 for a
one year term and reappointed in 2011 to a two year term, with the
verbal support and approval of her supervisor, Leamon Jones, MCB's
Director of Consumer Services.  Ms. McNeal contends that her service
on the board is not in conflict with her duties as MCB Southeast
Region Manager, asserting that at no time did she, as a board member,
vote on anything coming before the board related to financial
interactions, contractual arrangements or programmatic services with
the Commission.  She is strictly a volunteer, receiving no
compensation, meets on her own time and does not directly supervise
the 2 counselors who may choose with their consumers, to receive
services from New Horizons.  She also rejects, as false, the
contentions of the NFB resolution challenging her board service as a
conflict of interest.

In addition to the points raised in this letter you will also find
several attachments that may be helpful in formulating an opinion.
These attachments include the NFB Resolution 2011-08, excerpt from the
draft minutes of the December 9 MCB Commission meeting where the issue
was addressed, excerpt from the 2009 RSA Monitoring Report related to
New Horizons, New Horizons policy on conflict, New Horizons position
description for board members, several confidential sets of minutes
from New Horizons board meetings which Ms. McNeal has participated in
and finally, several threads of email correspondence regarding
conflict charges raised by Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr., a concerned citizen
and NFB member.

Is it a conflict of interest under the State Ethics Act, MCL 15.342,
for Gwen McNeal, a state employee and Manager of MCB's Southeast
Region, to continue to serve on the Board of New Horizons?  Thank you
for considering our request for an Advisory Opinion on these issues.
If you would like any additional information please contact me
directly at 335-4265.

Sincerely,

[cid:image002.jpg at 01CCE0D3.2ACC38D0]

Patrick D. Cannon

State Director
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From:	Cannon, Patrick (LARA)
Sent:	Wednesday, February 01, 2012 10:17 AM
To:	Luzenski, Sue (LARA)
Subject:	FW: request arra information new horizons



 
From: joe harcz Comcast [mailto:joeharcz at comcast.net]  
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2012 7:17 AM 
To: Cannon, Patrick (LARA) 
Cc: Larry Posont MCB Comm.; John Scott MCB Comm.; lydia Schuck MCB Comm.; nfbmi-
talk at nfbnet.org; Craig McManus RSA; Elmer Cerano MPAS; Arwood, Steve (LARA) 
Subject: request arra information new horizons

January 1, 2011

Re: Request for accessible information related to ARRA/MCB/New Horizons

Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.
1365 E. Mt. Morris Rd.
Mt. Morris, MI 48458
E-mail: joeharcz at comcast.net

Patrick D. Cannon
Director Michigan Commission for the Blind
(Via e-mail)


Dear Mr. Cannon,

I am writing you today to request all documents related to the following expenditure of 
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, which should include any invoices, and 
similar documents detailing authorizations and services rendered and signatures of just 
who authorized these expenditures at a minimum:

?NEW HORIZONS REHABILITATION SERVICES

Award Number

H390A090031

Sub-Award Number

N/A

Vendor DUNS Number

Not reported

Vendor HQ Zip Code + 4

483262768

Vendor Name

NEW HORIZONS REHABILITATION SERVICES

Product and Service Description

SERVICES FOR MICHIGAN COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND CLIENTS

Payment Amount

$28,440?

You should have no difficulty retrieving this information from System Seven and are 
required to account and make transparent to the public expenditures of these ARRA 
funds. Nor, should your agency have any difficulty in making these documents fully 
accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 
requirements to do soas, of course your agency is after all the Michigan Commission for 
the Blind.

As a blind person I am requesting these documents as simple Word attachments and/or 
plain text enclosures to my e-mail address listed above.

Sincerely,

Paul Joseph Harcz, Jr.

Cc: Commissioners, Michigan Commission for the Blind
Cc: RSA
Cc: S. Arwood, Michigan LARA
Cc: Elmer Cerano, Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services, Inc.
Cc: National Federation of the Blind, Michigan






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From:	Cannon, Patrick (LARA)
Sent:	Wednesday, February 01, 2012 10:00 AM
To:	Luzenski, Sue (LARA)
Subject:	FW: Question of Conflict of Interest



 
From: Cannon, Patrick (LARA)  
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2012 4:17 PM 
To: Haynes, Carla (LARA) 
Subject: FW: Question of Conflict of Interest



 
From: Cannon, Patrick (LARA)  
Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:51 AM 
To: Lisle, Marie (MCSC) 
Cc: Jones, Leamon (LARA); Brown, Melanie (LARA); Luzenski, Sue (LARA) 
Subject: RE: Question of Conflict of Interest

Hello Marie,

Mr. Harcz has raised his charges in several ways, including at Public Comment during Commision 
meetings, his postings on various list servs and in his Correspondence to the Board.  More recently he 
has advanced to Commissioners a resolution adopted by the National Federation of the Blind (of which 
he and all three commissioners are members) which raises the issue as follows:

RESOLUTION 2011-08
NEW HORIZONS

            WHEREAS, Gwen McNeal has been on the Board of Trustees of New Horizons since 
2010; and

            WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind (MCB) through McNeal, continues 
to do business with New Horizons to this date including contracting for evaluations and engages 
New Horizons personnel on other cash match agreements, including one with Oakland County 
Schools; and

            WHEREAS, in the Rehabilitation Services Administration?s (RSA) 5-year Monitoring 
Report, RSA found that the Michigan Commission for the Blind, the Macomb Intermediate 
School District, and New Horizons Rehabilitation Services engaged in an illegal ?cash match? 
agreement whereby New Horizons kicked in funds for federal match, and then received a no-bid 
contract (see Finding 6); and

            WHEREAS, MCB Regional Manager Gwen McNeal was the responsible agent for this 
and even gave an award to New Horizons in 2008; and

            WHEREAS, this, by any reasonable definition, constitutes a conflict of interest between 
this MCB Regional Administrator and a Community Rehabilitation Program; and

            WHEREAS, this clearly violates state ethics guidelines and may well be a violation of 
state and federal laws;

            NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED   by the National Federation of the Blind of 
Michigan in convention assembled this 6th day of November 2011 in the City of Kalamazoo, 
Michigan
 that the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan abhors this sort of apparent conflict of 
interests; and

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that forthwith NFB-MI informs, in writing, 
Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Office of the Inspector General in the United States 
Department of Education, and the Michigan Attorney General?s Public Integrity Office about 
this situation and requesting a thorough investigation into these and other practices.


Further, Marie, NFB members/commissioners raised the question at the Commission meeting 
last Friday, December 9.

We do, of course, have much more correspondence on this issue if you wish to review it.

Please let me know what additional information you would like, if any.

Best always,

Pat


From: Lisle, Marie (MCSC)  
Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:14 AM 
To: Cannon, Patrick (LARA); Arwood, Steve (LARA); Brown, Melanie (LARA) 
Cc: Luzenski, Sue (LARA); Jones, Leamon (LARA); Robertson, Bob (LARA) 
Subject: RE: Question of Conflict of Interest

Pat,  Do you have a written complaint or other correspondence from Mr. Harcz?  If so, would you please 
send that information to me?  If not, can you summarize what his specific allegations are?  

Thank you!

From: Cannon, Patrick (LARA)  
Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 8:36 AM 
To: Arwood, Steve (LARA); Brown, Melanie (LARA) 
Cc: Luzenski, Sue (LARA); Jones, Leamon (LARA); Lisle, Marie (MCSC); Robertson, Bob (LARA) 
Subject: Question of Conflict of Interest

Hello Steve and Mel,

Joe Harcz, an active consumer and involved citizen, has raised questions about a Manager at the 
Michigan Commission for the Blind who also serves as a Board Member of New Horizons, a community 
rehab partner.  We have been looking into this situation and below is a note from New Horizon officials 
who assert that no such conflict exists because of the nature of Gwen McNeal?s 
involvement.  Additionally, I?ve been advised that every board member of the organization must sign a 
pledge to not engage or dabble in the operations of the agency in any manner.  Since Gwen attends 
these board meetings on her own time (evenings) and since New Horizon officials strongly contend that 
there is no conflict, my initial impression is that I tend to agree, although I wanted to call this to your 
attention so you are aware of the charges of Mr. Harcz.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions regarding this scenario.

Best always,

Pat Cannon
517-373-3125 - Desk  

 
From: Jones, Leamon (LARA)  
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 1:41 PM 
To: Cannon, Patrick (LARA) 
Subject: FW: Letter & Call in Meeting Scheduled regarding conflict issue

Hi Pat,

This is the email that Gwen asked me to forward to you.

 
From: McNeal, Gwen (LARA)  
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 12:24 PM 
To: Jones, Leamon (LARA) 
Subject: FW: Letter & Call in Meeting Scheduled regarding conflict issue

FYI as I move forward.

 
From: Marjon Davis [mailto:mdavis at NewHorizonsRehab.org]  
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 12:22 PM 
To: John C. Cashen (JCASHEN at BODMANLAW.COM) 
Cc: Stan Gramke (gramkestan at aol.com); bkeller at collinsburi.com; Dan Pienta; Ron Storing; McNeal, 
Gwen (LARA) 
Subject: Letter & Call in Meeting Scheduled regarding conflict issue

John:

Ron and I are researching New Horizons formal arrangement with the Michigan Commission for the 
Blind with whom Gwen McNeal is employed. Gwen has been a board member since September 25, 
2008. This whole issue has to do with her having a potential conflict of interest. 

New Horizons has no Cash Match Agreements with the Commission for the Blind and no contracts. 
We?ve served, through a ?fee for service? arrangement, individuals with visual impairment sponsored or 
funded by the commission for more than 30 years.

We are diligently researching our board history, back to at least 2008 when Gwen came on the board, 
but really have not found anything to give credibility to these claims. 

In fact, I was just told by Kris Mooney, Director of Finance, that even though the board approved a 
required local match for some grants to Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), due to regulatory 
changes, we were never required to send any money, so these checks were never cut to the State of 
Michigan.

I think we?re good on this. I have faxed over the requested documents (to John Cashen only).

Stan A. Gramke
New Horizons Rehabilitation Services, Inc.
President / CEO

Call in Meeting Scheduled for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, December 6, 2011. Please see 
normal call in instruction below. 
Instructions for Conference Call In
>	Dial 1-866-303-1446 at the scheduled meeting time.
>	When prompted, enter conference code number, 2483400559 and press the # sign. (The 
conference code is the same as the New Horizons phone number.)
>	You will automatically be connected. Listen carefully to instructions as to muting, if so 
desired.



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