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Shiawassee County board to discuss leadership changes after COVID-19 bonuses

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 11:17 AM EDT
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SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - The controversy over hefty COVID-19 bonuses paid to Shiawassee County officials could result in big changes for the Board of Commissioners.

Four of the seven commissioners signed a request for a special meeting, which was filed with the County Clerk’s Office. The meeting is scheduled for Sunday with “Reconsideration of Board Organization” as the only agenda item.

”The goal of the meeting is we’re going to reconsider our board organization,” said Commissioner Marlene Webster.

Commissioner Greg Brodeur and Webster signed the special meeting request along with Commissioners John Plowman and Brandon Marks. The meeting at 5 p.m. Sunday will be open to the public.

“There will be a public comment portion and people can have up to three minutes,” Webster said.

The request comes a day after Brodeur and Webster called for Board Chairman Jeremy Root to resign his leadership post and his position as a commissioner. They say Root’s actions with the bonuses undermine his ability to lead the board.

Plowman and Marks have not commented on whether they want to see Root replaced as chairman.

“I plan to make a motion at that meeting to remove Jeremy as the chair and to elect a new chair,” Webster said.

She expects a large crowd at Sunday’s meeting was asking to have it moved to a larger venue that can seat about 300 people. But as of Wednesday, the meeting was scheduled to take place in the commissioner board room at the Surbeck Building.

Shiawassee County commissioners discussed the bonuses in closed session on July 15 before approving the measure. Webster said she never received a list how much each person would receive -- only an average of $2,148 per person with some getting more and some getting less.

The bonuses came from Shiawassee County’s $13.3 million share of federal COVID-19 relief money.

Webster said she was not aware that commissioners, other elected officials and top county management would be receiving bonuses. She was surprised to find a $3,500 payment show up in her bank account days later.

Her bonus was far less than the $25,000 paid to Root, Sheriff Brian BeGole and other top officials. Two other commissioners, the clerk, the treasurer, the prosecutor and others received $10,000.

The remaining commissioners and other key employees received $5,000. Most of the county’s 257 rank-and-file employees received $1,000 to $2,500.

Brodeur, who was not present at the July 15 meeting, believes Root hid the amount of bonuses for himself and others from the entire board. He called Root on Monday to request his resignation, but he said Root was very combative during the call.

After a resident filed a lawsuit challenging whether the process of awarding the bonuses violated the Open Meetings Act, a Genesee County judge ordered the county to halt the bonuses on Monday and gave commissioners another chance to reconsider the amounts.

Everyone who received over $5,000 will be required to give back the money, which doesn’t include most of the county’s frontline workers. Most county department heads like the prosecutor and sheriff already made arrangements to give back their bonuses.

Root has not said whether he gave back his money yet. He has not returned messages seeking comment about the bonuses since the controversy erupted a week ago and nobody responded when ABC12 News knocked at his door Wednesday.

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