*Update September 27, 2019*
Following the Berrien County Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Thursday, September 26, 2019, leadership of the Board met with Special Counsel John Dewane.
Board Chairman R. McKinley Elliott stated the following:
We discussed the scope of his services. Although we appreciate that the criminal investigation has been concluded by the Prosecutor’s Office, the Board’s work is just beginning. We anticipate that Special Counsel Dewane will undertake a complete review of everything that has transpired involving the allegations of Commissioner Freehling’s conflict of interest and the alleged failure to fully disclose the same. The investigative file has already been provided by Prosecutor Sepic, and Judge Dewane is presently going through it. This process will also likely involve contact with various County officials. Special Counsel John Dewane will be granted a broad delegation of the necessary power and authority to conduct a thorough investigation, which will include the full cooperation of our all of our Board members and our employees.
During the course of the meeting with Dewane, Elliott asked him to “follow the arrow wherever it points”, and to advise the Board of Commissioners on any findings which may warrant the imposition of administrative sanctions. In addition to this comprehensive review, the Board of Commissioners anticipates advice and comments on the prospective application of their By-laws to the conflict of interest and disclosure duties of individual Commissioners, including suggested amendments.
(9-25-19)The following statement is being issued on behalf of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners:
The Berrien County Prosecutor, upon a referral from the County Board of Commissioners and after an exhaustive investigation, has decided not to press charges on whether Commissioner Teri Freehling violated the Michigan criminal code governing conflicts of interest by elected officials.
The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has its own by-laws concerning disclosure of Commissioner conflicts of interest. At this point in time the Board has made no decisions on this matter.
To protect the rights of both Commissioner Freehling and the integrity of the Board’s by-law standards, the Board has retained Special Counsel to review the facts of this conflict of interest issue and to advise the Board concerning its appropriate course of action. The Special Counsel will make a report to the entire Board in the next three weeks.