Public officials have a recognized duty to the public to not enrich themselves through their public service other than through their wages and established fringe benefits.  Yet many officials, or their immediate family members, may manage or have jobs in private sector companies that may seek out contracts with the official's public entity.  Laws do not totally block such companies from getting these public contracts due to the conflict-of-interest, but laws offer a process by which such contracts can be granted in a fair and open manner.

For over a decade, the City of Ludington has regularly contracted with Tye's Incorporated/Safety Decals for a wide variety of products and services, despite their owner sitting on the council for many of those years and his wife, Heather Tykoski, serving as the City's Community Development Director during this period.  This was evident at the last meeting when the council approved a $717 payment to Safety Decals for printed t-shirts under their recreation department purchases. 

The additional emails in the link shows that the city clerk worried that the purchase may violate the City's policy on contracting with an entity that had a pecuniary interest with the City, presumably referencing Heather Tykoski's position with the company and the city.  City Manager Mitch Foster approved it, despite this concern, offering no reason of why it was not against city policy-- when it was since the City expends money for its Recreation Department purchases. 

There are multiple businesses in the area that customize t-shirts:  the Ludington T-shirt FactoryM&M Associates2nd Shift Graphics, to name only a few; the records show they (and hundreds of other internet custom printing companies) weren't even considered despite Safety Decals fairly expensive price of $12.58 per youth shirt.  One can buy 72 colorful youth shirts shipped with customization for under $6 per shirt here.  It's not unique, but neither is the acceptance of such corruption by Ludington officials for over a decade.  

The culture of corruption has been so prevalent, so thick, and so pervasive at Ludington City Hall over the last couple of decades that neither the city staff nor our elected officials have taken the simple steps to assure the public that they are conducting the people's business ethically.  The state has enacted Act 317 of 1968 to set baseline rules; Ludington has their own rules, stronger in some cases, to thwart such conduct, yet neither get followed when it comes to our community development director.  

In state law, Heather Tykoski is a "public servant" and the City is a "public entity" as defined in the statute.  Safety Decals describes itself as a "third generation family-owned business", owned by Heather's husband, Nick.  She is listed in the employee directory of Safety Decals.  She would indirectly, if not directly, benefit financially from any contract arranged between the public entity she serves and the family-owned business she's part of.  

Simply put, the relevant part of the statute says:  "a public servant shall not directly or indirectly solicit any contract between the public entity of which he or she is an officer or employee and any firm of which he or she is a partner, member, or employee."  It does offer two exceptions regarding the status of the public servant which do not apply as Tykoski is a full-time employee for the City of Ludington.

Otherwise, there is one basic way to avoid the appearance of impropriety in such a situation.  Be the lowest bidder in a properly noticed sealed bidding process where the notice does not bar any qualified person from bidding.  Section 2-72 of the city charter provides a host of other rules describing prohibited conduct by city officials, some of which may apply here and in past Safety Decals purchases.

The record in this case indicates Brent Gillett of the LASD and the City's Rec Board was the person who purchased these youth shirts going through salesperson Nick Tykoski using the city's recreation fund money.  Gillett appears to have chosen Safety Decals without any attempt to contract with anyone else, even though the cost was somewhat prohibitive. 

Making a batch of customized t-shirts is not the usual milieu of Safety Decals, so one wonders why this contractor with the well-known and obvious connections to the city was chosen over all others, and why the city manager could overlook the possible pecuniary interest that his community development director would receive in this purchase made without any concern for the higher-than-expected cost, sold by her husband.  

Until one remembers that Ludington City Hall has a firmly entrenched culture of corruption.   

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Turn a blind eye to this corruption, again. Poor Ms. Tykoski may need a new BMW.

At least the taxpayers aren't paying for more useless street signs.

X, upon first reading I couldn't find the link from Deb Luskin concerned about the pecuniary interest in Heather Tykoski husband's company, Safety Decals making tshirts. (I did find it in the $717 payment link). I'm glad Clerk Luskin asked Mitch Foster. Have you asked Mitch directly why "it is ok?" Your arguments above are very convincing that they are breaking the law. Thanks for pointing this out.

I have not asked Mitch about that, I did ask him questions-- when I had his ear-- about a new policy set to be adopted on Monday.  

The city has mostly avoided the topic through the years even when it was more blatant, like back when Tye Sign's got the DDA's $150,000 signage contract for those golden wayfaring signs and Nick was in the DDA, on the signage subcommittee, and was given the contract after a non-competitive bidding process was made after his company had already did much of the project.  Soooo many laws violated regarding ethical conduct, but the City's position then and since was that Nick saved them money by putting up those mostly useless wayfaring signs.

Here, the defense would likely be that Mr. Gillett as a representative of the school didn't know a thing about the conflict of interest, nor apparently does he have a grasp of the city and LASD policies that indicate those who procure goods and services should get more than one company to consider when spending the public's money on purchases above a de minimus cost.

Yeah ... right (about Gilett not knowing to get multiple sealed bids and take the lowest). I hope you get a chance to ask Mitch directly and hope Mitch is not getting so corrupted to know right from wrong. Thanks for pouring through the spend sheets ... if not for you, the corruption would probably be much bigger and more brazen ... because who has time to read the Council packets? I'm sure you read more than the Council members.


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