Blackman Twp. Trustee Flagged on Tax Break

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Blackman Township residents say a trustee who is already on recall, committed another violation, this time using her position to apply for a tax break she wasn't eligible for.

Locals, many of whom are part of a watchdog Facebook page called "Better Blackman" criticized trustee Betty Brockie for receiving a property tax break for disabled veterans.

"Again it looks like we use the power of our office to get things done when they shouldn't be done," said one man, testifying during public comment at the township board meeting Thursday. "I'm very concerned how this could have gotten through the cracks, or how this could have been allowed in the first place."

Brockie is already under close scrutiny for her actions during a meeting in March, when she, two other trustees and former treasurer and daughter-in-law Sherry Brockie brought in three proposals to raise the pay of the clerk, supervisor and treasurer.

The measures weren't on the agenda, but were successfully added and adopted. The resolutions raised the pay of the clerk and treasurer from $12,600 per year to $49,260, while the township supervisor position increased from $24,000 to $49,260. Those increases will now be put to the voters in August.

Since, Sherry Brockie has retired -- after her letter of resignation was rejected -- and a trustee has resigned. The remaining two who voted for the increases are on recall.

Hence, some residents say, their skepticism that such a tax break could be deemed accidental.

"There's something fishy there," said Mike Swope, who lives in Blackman. "I kind of doubt that it would happen to just anybody, especially when it was a township trustee who is a beneficiary and it was her daughter-in-law who would have had to sign off on it as a township official."

The treasurer and township assessor must sign the exemption application before it is put to a three-member review board.

Assessor Evelyn Markowski dismissed the exemption as an accident, chalking the mistake up to a new policy this year. Joint tenancy, which Brockie had, doesn't qualify, Markowski said.

"It was not anything done deliberately, absolutely not," she said. "When [the pay raises] happened, [the residents] started looking at anything and everything they could find that might be suspicious."

Township supervisor Pete Jancek also dismissed the claim that the tax exemption was a scheme, saying when he went to assessor training, several jurisdictions across the state noted similar cases.

The issue will be resolved Mon. May 12, Markowski said, when the township will be at a state commission meeting. The exemption will be removed from the property and put back on the tax roll.

The Brockies will still have to pay the bill, Markowski said.

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