Shiawassee County Commissioner calls on Commission Chair to resign

COVID bonuses could cost county big time
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:03 PM EDT
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CORUNNA, Mich. (WILX) - The American Rescue Plan was designed to help reward workers who risked catching COVID-19 just by showing up to work every day. Shiawassee County’s decision to spread that money around to employees who weren’t on the frontlines could be a costly mistake.

Attorney Philip Ellison said, “These guys who are on the front line deserve our thanks and our appreciation. It’s those who essentially took more out of the pie than they were really entitled to, at least morally.”

Ellison is suing the board of commissioners, and it could end up costing Shiawassee County big. The US Treasury Department says the money from the American Rescue Plan the commissioners gave to every county employee, including themselves, was only meant for low-income and essential workers who faced the greatest risk during the pandemic.

In a statement the department said, “If state and local governments don’t follow the rules, such as paying premium pay to workers who did not have to be physically present to do their work, we would expect them to repay the federal government.”

Word the money might have to go back to Washington came after a judge ordered the county to take it back from the employees because of a possible violation of the state’s open meetings act.

The issue is that the commissioners voted to give the bonuses following a closed session during their July 15 meeting. Marlene Webster is one of the Shiawassee County Commissioners who received a bonus.

“It’s a horrible feeling as an elected official to have voted for something and then have what I voted for not be what was enacted,” Webster said.

Webster claims she didn’t know everyone, including the commissioners, would be getting bonuses.

Ellison is the lawyer for a man suing the board over it suggested in court today that there was a plan by some of the commissioners to make sure they got paid without being open about it.

Another board member, Greg Brodeur, told News 10 in a written statement that he was not at the meeting where the decision was made.

“While I was not present at the July 15th Shiawassee Board of Commissioners meeting due to attending my brother’s funeral, facts which have come to light since are deeply disturbing,” Brodeur wrote. “Board Chair Jeremy Root’s decision to withhold information regarding his own egregious $25,000 bonus and the outsized amounts he awarded others is inexcusable and has destroyed his ability to effectively lead our county board.”

Brodeur emphasized that he and some of the other commissioners, including Webster, were not given details on the scope and nature of the bonuses which were granted to them.

“I therefore am calling on Commissioner Root to resign his position as both Chairman and County Commissioner immediately given the disrepute his actions have brought upon himself, our community and the office he holds,” Brodeur wrote. “This action is an important step in the long road toward restored integrity for the Shiawassee board of commissioners.”

Ellison said, “I questioned whether this was done as an intentional bait and switch by a couple of individuals in county government who essentially bamboozled commissioner Webster as well as the public.”

Shiawassee County can redistribute the money during its next meeting. Right now that’s scheduled for August 12.

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