Shiawassee County commissioners keep a share of COVID-19 relief money

Board chairman got $25,000 while other commissioners received around $5,000 apiece
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:59 PM EDT
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SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - Shiawassee County is receiving $13.3 million in federal COVID-19 relief money and some went straight into the personal bank accounts of county commissioners.

That money was meant to help businesses and local governments deal with the effects of COVID-19. Instead, one Shiawassee County commissioner received $25,000 and the others received lesser but still quite substantial amounts of money.

Some commissioners applauded the payments while at least one is appalled.

Last Thursday, the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners discussed how the county was going to spend some of their $13.3 million from the American Rescue Plan. The commissioners voted 6-0 to give all 250 county employees a one-time payment.

The average payment for each employee was around $2,100 with some receiving more and some receiving less.

District 1 Commissioner Marlene Webster did not ask for a breakdown of what every employee would receive. She was under the impression this would not include payments to commissioners.

Her bank account showed otherwise Monday morning.

“I checked my bank account balance and I had had a $3,500 deposit from the county,” Webster said. “I was appalled and still am. I withdrew the funds immediately and have a cashier’s check ready to take back to the Treasurer’s Office.”

She later learned all commissioners received some level of payment. According to Webster, board Chairman Jeremy Root received $25,000, two commissioners got $10,000 and most other commissioners received around $5,000.

District 6 Commissioner Cindy Garber said employees and elected officials like herself deserve the payments.

“Personally I feel I earned every penny of that money and I am going to use it for the intended purpose to stimulate the economy,” she said.

Root issued a statement Tuesday saying that these funds had specific allowable uses that included what are called premium payments. Those allowed the county to pay employees and elected officials anywhere between $1,000 and $25,000, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Root said factors that played into how much a person received included seniority, how much someone worked during the coronavirus pandemic, specific achievements. Regardless, he said commissioners wanted to do something nice for all the county employees’ hard work.

Root did not comment on why he received the $25,000 payment while all others received substantially less.

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