Third time would not be a charm for Host
Elected officials, whether city commissioners in Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, or board of trustees members in Bloomfield Township, have a duty to residents and businesses in their community to be fair, trustworthy and impartial in order to perform their job, which is to listen to agenda items which come before them, read up on those items and then come to a decision with their fellow officials in a collaborative manner. Depending upon the item, they may have set opinions, knowledge or experience – perhaps from their career or from previous work on a committee in the community.
A strong and reliable elected official is able to put this aside and let planning boards and other committees do their job to work on ordinances, zoning items, strategic and master plans – all the work of a municipality on which a commissioner or trustee must make the final decision. If they offer their opinion before then, whether verbally, in writing, on social media, amongst the members of the community, then they cannot be impartial. And even worse, they risk influencing members of other boards – and the public – before the item has gone through its proper channels.
In its worst case scenario, false information can be spread by an elected official.
We note all of this because unfortunately, in recent years, we have witnessed just these events play out on the Birmingham City Commission, including in recent weeks.
In 2020, a complaint was filed against commissioner Clinton Baller by a resident who claimed he libeled her on a social media site and via a newsletter he disseminated through email in which he was known as a city commissioner. While Baller alleged free speech, the Birmingham Ethics Board determined, “All city officials and employees must avoid conflicts between their private interests and the public interest. Public officials and employees must: Be independent, impartial, and responsible to the people.”
Baller has since performed according to protocol.
More recently, commissioner Brad Host seems to have not learned that once elected, you always wear the hat of an elected official. In January 2023, former city manager Tom Markus took Host repeatedly to task for posting videos on social media and letters to residents perpetuating false information about part of Birmingham’s 2040 master plan, and when the behavior continued, in March, Markus sought an advisory opinion from the ethics board. The ethics board provided an opinion which stated to Host that “you cannot intentionally misrepresent the facts,” further adding: “'The Code of Ethics is clear that Commissioner Host – and the planning board members, too – must be independent, impartial, and responsible to the people; he and they must make governmental decisions and policy in the proper governmental channels.”
Host was also cautioned that despite his dialogue, he represents every citizen and business in the city as an elected official.
Despite the admonishment, in early November city manager Jana Ecker had to once again warn Host he had crossed a line by providing a citizen group with information and telling them to take action against the city, and that they “had his support.” Host denied wrongdoing.
There's no reason to believe there won't be a third time, and the third time won't be a charm. Any resident can bring Host before the ethics board on violation of charges of duty – and if he is found guilty, the city commission could well censure him for his rogue actions.