Attempts to get a proposed ethics ordinance in front of Wayne County voters has been a roller-coaster ride for the citizens group promoting it. First, there was the high of getting former prosecutor George Ward to volunteer his time to the project, crafting a measure that, at its core, would give contractors doing business with the county a simple choice: Either accept that they and their immediate families would be limited to a total of $500 in contributions to any particular candidate or stop doing business with the county and give as freely as everyone else.
Then the county commissioners, who could save the measure’s backers the time, trouble and expense of gathering signatures by placing the matter on the ballot themselves, indicated their support, but said they wanted their lawyers to analyze the proposal. After that came an opinion from county lawyers lambasting the proposal as blatantly unconstitutional.
To Ward’s thinking, that analysis was so far off base, the only conclusion could be that the commissioners had created a fig leaf to hide behind. Then came a commission meeting where Chairman Ricardo Solomon and fellow commissioner Kay Beard got all huffy, taking offense at the displeasure being expressed by Ward, saying he was impugning their sterling integrity. And then there was the odd proposal by Solomon that the matter would better addressed at the state level instead of focusing on Wayne County. At that point it seemed the whole thing was headed straight off a cliff.
But Solomon insists he supports the concept and signaled that he’d be willing to pursue a parallel course. Come up with constitutionally acceptable language, he says, and we’ll push this at the state level; if they don’t act by August, we’ll let the commission vote to put it on the ballot in Wayne County. And so, for the past few weeks, Ward and crew have been meeting with commission lawyer Ben Washburn who, according to Ward, has been suggesting changes that actually strengthen the measure without deleting any key elements. The hope is that final wording should be nailed down soon, putting the matter back in the hands of Solomon and the commission.
But the ride’s not over yet. Hang on with News Hits, and we’ll see if there’s any more stomach-whipping dips ahead.Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org