Michigan County Officials Used Virus Money For Bonuses | News from USA®


CORUNNA, Michigan (AP) – Elected officials in one county in Michigan have given themselves $ 65,000 in bonuses with federal assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money, described as a “risk premium,” included $ 25,000 for Jeremy Root, chairman of the Shiawassee County Commissioners Council.

The predominantly rural county, between Lansing and Flint, has a population of 68,000.

The commissioners – all Republicans – voted last week to award more than $ 500,000 to dozens of county employees. It ranged from $ 25,000 for administrators to $ 2,000 for cleaning staff. All recipients received at least $ 1,000.

In addition to Root, Commissioners John Plowman and Brandon Marks each received $ 10,000, and the other four Commissioners each received $ 5,000.

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Most commissioners are paid $ 10,000 per year for their part-time work, plus a meeting allowance.

“I think I earned it,” Commissioner Cindy Garber said of the bonus. “I work very hard at this job. I was here in person throughout this crazy year.”

Commissioner Marlene Webster said she was “mortified” when money appeared in her bank account and she was unaware she had voted to reward herself.

“I’m giving the money back,” Webster told WILX-TV. “I think a commissioner is giving it to a nonprofit, so these actions indicate that we really didn’t know this money was coming to us.”

A message requesting comment from Root was not immediately returned on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Owosso’s Nichole Ruggiero has filed a lawsuit to try to overturn some bonuses, claiming commissioners violated Michigan’s open meeting law when they met behind closed doors to discuss the money, The Argus-Press reported.

“The arrogance of this advice is far-fetched,” Ruggiero said.

The risk premium was extended to other county officials, including Sheriff Brian BeGole, who received $ 25,000, and District Attorney Scott Koerner, who received $ 12,500.

County administrator Brian Boggs, who received $ 25,000, said the focus on commissioners overshadowed an effort to help county workers.

“It was in the best interests of the employees,” he said of the bonuses, “and maybe we shouldn’t be pursuing other ideas like this to get them extra funding if it is. is how it will be received. “

Garber said the large payment for Root was justified because he “bears the burden of all emergency orders.”

Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, or MAC, said the group is working closely with counties on how to spend federal money linked to the virus.

“We don’t know of any other county considering payments to elected officials, and the MAC has not provided any guidance or advice on doing so. … Decisions, however, ultimately rest with the county council of commissioners in each county, ”Currie told MLive.com.

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