Author: Don Obrien

Macomb County Board of Commissioners seeks greater access to county financial data – Macomb Daily

Attorneys for Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and the county Board of Commissioners argued Monday about the board’s request for greater access to financial data maintained by the executive’s administration.

Attorney Peter Webster told Judge James Maceroni during a civil hearing in Macomb Circuit Court that under the county charter and ordinance, as well as state law, commissioners should have constant access to software that records and maintains financial dealings and statuses on an ongoing basis.

“The real world reality for us is it delays information and provides problems to us,” Webster said in court. “Just let them (board members) have a look at it like other people do.”

He said the board could designate one individual to access the data and report it to the board.

“We need one person to look at the same information the Finance Department does,” Webster said.

But attorney Joe Viviano, representing Hackel, said the executive fulfills his obligation to the charter and state law by providing financial data to the board on a quarterly basis or upon request. Viviano said ongoing language in the board’s annual appropriations bill that provides the board with “read only” access to the software is invalid.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel

“The right to information doesn’t mean you have the right to gather it,” he said. “The right to it doesn’t mean you have the right to go through file cabinets … or computer software.”

He said the board’s citing of charter language mandating the access to the board is “very thin.”

He contended no other governmental body, including Congress, has such unfettered access to executive records, adding a favorable ruling for the board also could trigger a “slippery slope” that could lead to the public release of data that shouldn’t be.

If Maceroni grants access, “What’s stopping them from passing an ordinance that the whole board can look at it (the data) or the public can look at it?”

Viviano noted the charter gives the executive the authority to manage the finances of all the departments other than those under elected county-wide officials.

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