2018-06-21 / Views

Steps must be taken to avoid conflicts

The zoning administrator of Leland Township is a public official who holds enforcement power over its residents.

There we said it. Someone had to.

We understand why the Township Board handled with kid gloves a conflict of interest complaint filed on behalf of a Leland Township couple against the actions of Mr. Cypher.

And we’re disappointed. But not because of how the board handled the specific allegation. That may become a civil matter.

We were disappointed because the Board appeared afraid to speak in frank terms about their expectations for the person in charge of zoning enforcement. It’s an important position, affecting people’s property and lives. It’s the board’s business.

But because the township contracts with Mr. Cypher’s company, called All Permits, he is not considered an employee of the township.

Giving too much direction over how Mr. Cypher does his job has the potential to cause liability, township supervisor Susan Och told the board.

And so the board basically punted ... everything.

Here’s what we wish had been said directly to Mr. Cypher, whose company is also the zoning administrator for four other townships.

 Residents should not feel afraid to speak to you or about your public work because of fear of reprisal. Those attending the meeting felt that you intimidate them, and said so. That’s something you need to fix.

 You need to stay out of property disputes unless you are acting in your official role as zoning administrator. That did not happen when you became involved in the Denoyers’ sale of property near your home, the basis for the complaint. Mr. Cypher said he was acting as a private citizen and neighbor, but from what we heard he did not attempt to make his interest clear to the Denoyers.

 Continuing with the theme, you need to do a better job of separating your role as zoning administrator from your private business. All Permits works for private landowners to secure zoning and building permits for private property owners. Yet it also holds regulatory authority as the zoning administrator for five townships. The roles conflict by design. The best alternative could be for you to chose between them. Or perhaps form different companies to at least separate them on paper. Specific business cards, emails and phone numbers that reflect which hat you’re wearing would be a start.

 This one might seem small, but it still irks us. Provide the people - represented by township clerks - with specific information with your mileage reimbursement requests. You’re paid 54.5 cents per mile, the highest level allowed by the IRS. You have been submitting a bill with just the total mileage driven on behalf of a township for a given month, with no destinations, dates or work orders.

Mr. Cypher has his friends and foes, and we count ourselves as neither. We do, however, count him as a public servant working for township governments.

Public servants should do more to avoid the perception of conflicts of interest.

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Agreed.

Agreed.