Michigan County Officials to Return Virus Bounties
CORUNNA, Michigan (AP) – Elected officials in a conservative Michigan county who gave themselves bonuses of $ 65,000 with federal COVID-19 relief assistance said they would return the money after days of criticism .
Shiawassee County commissioners acted after the prosecutor declared the payments illegal, the Argus-Press reported.
Michigan’s constitution prohibits additional compensation for elected officials “after services have already been rendered,” Attorney Scott Koerner said on Friday.
The commissioners, all Republicans, voted on July 15 to give themselves $ 65,000 as part of a plan to give $ 557,000 to 250 county employees as a “risk premium” to deal with the pandemic of coronavirus.
The smallest amounts for recipients were $ 1,000 to $ 2,000. But county board chairman Jeremy Root received $ 25,000. Two other commissioners received $ 10,000 each, while four others received $ 5,000 each.
The vote was 6-0 with a commissioner absent.
The commissioners gave money to other elected officials, including the district attorney, sheriff and clerk, all Republicans. They too said they would return it.
“Since these payments were made, confusion over the nature of these funds has become widespread,” said a statement from the commissioners. “(We) deeply regret that this gesture was misinterpreted and have unanimously decided to voluntarily return the funds to the county, pending further guidance from the state of Michigan.”
Commissioner Marlene Webster insisted she had no idea she voted to pay herself and returned the money last week, even posting a copy of the check on Facebook.
She criticized the latest statement, saying there had been no misinterpretation of the payments.
âThis is an insult to the citizens of Shiawassee County,â said Webster.
Two members of Congress from Michigan, a Democrat and a Republican, said federal virus aid was not meant to reward elected officials.
Separately, a judge has set a hearing for today in a lawsuit aimed at overturning civil servants’ bonuses. It was filed before the last action.