Wayne County Sheriff's tether program under ethics microscope

County Commission wonders if deputy's trip on contractor's dollar is conflict of interest

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

DETROIT - The Wayne County Commission is wondering if it is a conflict of interest for a Wayne County Sheriff's deputy who administers and helps decide the equipment used in a million-dollar tether contract to also get to go on a golf junket paid for by the companies who make the tethers.

On June 1, Local 4 caught up with Lt. Dennis Ramel of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office in Englewood, Colo., just outside Denver. Ramel spoke at an event called SCRAMcon 2013. It's a trade show for an alcohol tether manufacturer called Alcohol Monitoring Systems.

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Ramel sang the praises of the SCRAMx tether he chose to use for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office. He flew in and spoke for roughly an hour on a Saturday morning and yet he spent three luxurious days at the scene Colorado resort -- the Inverness Hotel and Convention Center.

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The rooms run nearly $200 a night at Inverness. Ramel enjoyed never-ending food and drinks along with the resort's specialty, golf. The lieutenant didn't answer when Local 4 asked him who paid for his trip but he said he did play golf well -- his scramble team proudly listed coming in 2nd place on the SCRAMcon website.

As for who paid: Alcohol Monitoring Systems Paid for the hotel, golf and food. Its local Detroit distributor, House Arrest Services in Eastpointe, paid for Ramel's plane ticket. He chose both companies as county tether vendors.

Ramel did not answer Local 4 when asked if he thought it was a conflict of interest to be flying out on the contractor's dime to go to speak. However, some on the County Commission are greatly concerned, such as Commissioner Ray Basham.

"If you're making the decision, and you go on somebody's dime that you're making the decision on, I think even if it's not a conflict of interest, it's an appearance of a conflict of interest. So, I wouldn't do it," said Basham.

Jeriel Heard is the Wayne County Jail director and Lt. Ramel's boss. When the question came up at a Public Safety Commission hearing, Heard heatedly defended the trip to Colorado and others Ramel has taken to visit vendors.

"The Sheriff paid for none of the trips Lt. Ramel took at my direction to survey and to engage with each of the vendors at their respective monitoring sites. No, they paid and should have paid," Heard told the Commission.

Local 4 has learned just one week after returning from that Colorado trip Lt. Ramel is yet again involved with Alcohol Monitoring and House Arrest. Both companies are bidding on another million-dollar contract. This time, it's to monitor the tether program for the county.

Ramel is directly involved in the decision-making process and yet is eating their food, playing their golf and flying on planes they provided.

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