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Ethics Board closes case of alleged violation
MONROE - The City of Monroe Ethics Board voted unanimously Thursday, June 20, to take no further action and closed the case of a department head's complaint that an alderman allegedly violating the city's Code of Ethics for City Officials and Employees.

The board met May 1 to review the statements of Tammy Derrickson, director of the Behring Senior Center, and Michael Boyce, alderman for Ward 3, regarding a meeting the two had the morning of April 23. The board reconvened Thursday to hear sworn, oral testimonies and to gather more information via direct questioning.

Derrickson contended Boyce made a statement or statements to her in her office that led her to believe he was asking for the "support" of her and the senior center board members in return for his efforts to find money in the city's funds to help the center purchase more property to expand parking.

"Support" was never fully defined or clarified by Derrickson during the proceedings Thursday. The implication Boyce was asking for some political favor was made in the context of the conversation April 23, as related by Derrickson.

In her oral statements Thursday, Derrickson said that Boyce noted the senior center "had become an issue" in the 2012 election for mayor, in which he faced incumbent Bill Ross, and asked her to "let the board know he'd done this (helped find money for more property) for us."

Derrickson said she then told Boyce that it "upset" her when "people use the senior center as a political tool ... to cause him to reword" his previous comment ... "that he had done this for us."

Boyce stated during his sworn testimony that his comments were meant to relay the message that he was supporting the senior center and Derrickson and wanted the board members to be made aware of that.

"There was no quid pro quo offered by me for anything," he said.

Boyce said the reason for his visit was to assure Derrickson "that city finances were in good shape."

Derrickson followed her chain of command, notifying City Administrator Phil Rath on April 23, shortly after her meeting with Boyce, to lodge her concerns.

She stated in an email to Rath later the same day that she felt Boyce's visit to her office was "inappropriate," and she questioned the legal aspect of it. She also added that she had felt "very uncomfortable."

During the questioning period, Derrickson stated that Boyce's visit to her office made her feel she was "in an intimidating situation" while "alone with him in my office."

"It won't happen again," she added, looking at Boyce. "I'm very upset about it."

The Ethics Board did not find Boyce's offer to help the senior center quantified as meting out city's funds, because information at a joint meeting of the Public Property Committee and the Finance and Taxation Committee on April 22 indicated that the city had enough money available to acquire some property.

Attorney Robert Duxstad, retained for legal counsel to the Ethics Board for this case, said Boyce's comments, as related by Derrickson, could be taken to mean Boyce "still has to vote to get the money out" for use or designated for the property purchase. Duxstad also said Boyce's statements could be perceived as saying "I will vote for getting more money."

Boyce's request for the senior center's support could be perceived as meaning, I will do this "if you support me by letting other people know," Duxstad added.

That Boyce was seeking political support did not stand up under scrutiny by the Ethics Board. Brooke Bauman questioned that perception by saying Boyce was not facing any elections anytime soon. Bauman did question Boyce why he brought up "an issue in the last election," but Boyce may have misheard or misunderstood the question, because he replied that his comment was in reply to Derrickson's question of "how is your day going?" during the pleasant greeting exchanges during their meeting. He said he answered Derrickson by relating a recent discontentment by some board members that he had just been elected council president April 16.

No Ethics Board member questioned Derrickson or Boyce further regarding their comments about the 2012 mayoral election.

It was during a series of meetings of a mayoral ad hoc committee for government reform in the summer of 2011 that a group of senior citizens protested the idea of making the Behring Senior Center an independent, self-supporting entity. The committee was brainstorming and accepting ideas to put on an initial list of ways the city could save money.

Boyce, a member of the committee, brought the idea for a self-supported senior center to the committee, saying it was requested by a city resident.

Boyce, however, was saddled with ownership of the idea by many seniors and some non-seniors across the city. During election campaign season, Boyce was still defending himself and expressing his support of the senior center, particularly during a mayoral forum on city issues at the Twining Valley Retirement Community in March 2012. Boyce lost the election to Bill Ross on a vote of 838 to 1,207 in April of that year.

Mayor Bill Ross presided over the Ethics Board meetings but didn't ask any questions of Boyce or Derrickson. Board members Phil Rath and Stephanie Bachim were absent; Bauman, Louis Armstrong, Charles Schuringa, Jerry Dahlen and Jim Belke were present.