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

Joe Sontag suncat0 at gmail.com
Wed Feb 1 12:01:52 CST 2012

I have to wonder if Mr. Cannon is taking his legal advice from the AG's 
office or from the lawyer representing New Horizons?  It's clear from the 
request that he's looking for a specific result from the Ethics Board, just 
as he did with Mark Eagle.  What's right is right, what's legal is legal, 
but what some people are permitted to get away with is almost beyond belief.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Larry Posont" <president.nfb.mi at gmail.com>
To: <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2012 12:09
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] Fwd: Request for an Ethics Board Advisory Opinion

> 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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