Shiawassee County residents disapprove of hefty COVID-19 bonuses

Two commissioners hope to replace their chairman on Sunday
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - People living in Shiawassee County will have the chance to make their voices heard Sunday.

A special meeting is scheduled for residents to express how they feel about the board voting to give themselves tens of thousands of dollars in American Rescue Plan funding. Some, including the County Board of Commissioners chairman, got $25,000.

At least two commissioners now want to elect a new chairman to lead the board.

Many Shiawassee County residents also expressed disgust about the bonuses. Dave Theut didn’t sugar coat his opinion.

“They’re all crooks. Everyone knows that. Not all of them, but I’d say 80 percent of them,” he said.

Theut is not only person upset that commissioners helped themselves to a big pot of money totaling more than $500,000. He’s disappointed that he hasn’t seen any consequences for their actions.

“They all took the money home. Then they get caught, nothing happens to them. They return the money and, ‘Ahhh you’re OK,’” Theut said.

A lawsuit filed last week accuses the commissioners of violating the Open Meetings Act on July 15 by discussing the COVID-19 hazard bonuses for themselves and all county employees in closed session.

Commissioner Marlene Webster testified in court Monday that commissioners never discussed receiving hazard pay themselves. Chairman Jeremy Root received the highest amount at $25,000 while other commissioners received $10,000 or $5,000 payments.

Webster and Commissioner Greg Brodeur are hoping to appoint a new chairman to lead the Board of Commissioners.

Angela Thornton, who owns Byron Resale in downtown Byron, said the news not sitting well with her either.

“I do think it was certainly not a good use of the funds,” she said. “I also think that nobody gets punished for it. They did this, they gave the money back and now its over.”

That special public meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, but the venue hasn’t been selected. Webster is hoping to meet outside the Board of Commissioners room in the Surbeck Building and find a place capable of seating up to 300 people.

There will be a public comment period during the meeting with a three-minute limit for each speaker. After public comment, Webster said she will make a motion to remove Root as chairman.

However, commissioners cannot remove Root from the Board of Commissioners entirely. That can only happen by action of the governor, which is exceedingly rare in Michigan history, or through a recall election.

The deadline to organize a recall effort for the November 2021 general election has passed. The earliest date a recall vote could take place would be May 2022.

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