County Employees to Get Bonus

ABC 12 reports that Shiawassee County has an $800,000 budget surplus this year.  As a result they will be paying their employees a one time bonus of $500 for full time employees, and $150 for part time employees.  Read more here.

Let’s hope that things continue to improve and that we see our Road patrol restored back to its previous state.

[Updated] Opinion-Just Vote No

[Update-The county was required to either seek a renewal on our current operating millage (approved in 1996 for 20 years), or create a committee to determine our new operating millage.  This is required by law under MCL 211.]

A couple of interesting things have happened in Shiawassee County:

  1. Hartmann Aue was re-elected to chair the county commission.  In my opinion this is a good thing, however this time he was elected by the bad guys who voted to eliminate our road patrol.
  2. Hartmann appointed John Plowman, the same man who designed the budget that eliminated our road patrol, to once again chair the finance committee!  Plowman has a history of stating things as fact which end up being either false, or severely exaggerated.  (Some people might call that a lie, and Plowman a liar.)   You can see some of his previous handy work herehere, here, and here.
  3. The commission hastily created a committee whose only job was to determine how much they should try to raise our taxes this year.  Why?  Because that way the commission didn’t raise your taxes, these (scapegoats) folks did.  Do I think this committee was given access to the detailed records that they needed to make their recommendations-No.  Do I think they were provided the “whole truth” about how our county spends our tax dollars-No.  Do I think they were rushed to make this decision so it could make it on the ballot-Absolutely!  Did someone like me step up and tell them that the CATLC would need “unobstructed visibility into the counties finances” to make an informed decision-Yup.  (on 11/23).
  4. The commission decided that they need to raise our phone bills by around $1.40 per phone per month to pay for 911 equipment upgrades.  Where did this number come from?  Nobody knows.  What if it doesn’t pass?  Again…nobody knows.  Who monitors the spending of the 911 budget?  From my past research I can tell you that basically nobody does.  As long as there’s money, they’ll spend it and unless it’s on fitness gear nobody is going to stop them.

There is an easy way to deal with the level of misinformation that we’re receiving from the county.  Just Vote NO!

VoteNo

Vote No on the 911 Millage!

Vote No on the Operating Millage!

Vote No to the folks on this list and send them packing!  

Run for office and make our county a better place!

As long as Plowman is running the finance committee the answer is, and will always be No.

Plowman tries to use “facts” again

9In this weeks independent John Plowman tried to use “facts” to explain why he would like to raise your phone bill by more than $14.64/phone/year.  (Seriously-he really want’s to do this!)    Here is the article:BOCArticleLet’s look at a few of Mr. Plowman’s “facts”:

John Plowman further explained the need for the increase, which would raise the county’s 9-1-1 surcharge from $1.22 per month per phone line to $2.65 per month per telephone line.  He said the combination of diminished use of land lines, the counties decreasing population, and increased operating and and equipment expenses have forced this move.

Let’s take these “facts” one at a time:

This is caused by diminished land line use.  FALSE!  This has NOTHING to do with diminished use as it applies to ALL phones including all of your cell phones.  According to the CTIA, the Cellular Trade Industry Association:

  • 90% of American homes have cell phones.
  • 39% are wireless only.
  • 16% are wireless mostly.
  • As of 2011 there are more cell phones than people in this country.

Ask yourself.  Do you have more phones, or less than you did 20 years ago?  This definitely isn’t caused by less phones. Trying to blame landlines is a lame excuse.

This is caused by the counties decreasing population.  Mostly FALSE!  According to US Census Bureau the County’s population decreased by 2.4% between 2010 and 2014.  By this logic our bills should be increasing by around 2.4 percent, right?  WRONG!  Plowman wants to increase it by Two Hundred and Seventeen Percent!!!

Increased operating and and equipment expenses have forced this move.  TRUE!  They totally just want to spend more of our money.

Everything that Mr. Plowman says may sound like a fact, but just remember the old adage:

Know how to tell politicians are lying?

Their lips are moving.

Until transparency is provided regarding:

  • How current money is being spent
  • How future money is going to be spent
  • Who is going to monitor and audit this spending
  • How the heck they can justify raising the your phone bill by more then $14 per phone

Just VOTE NO!

 

One Down.

[Updated] On Friday, former Shiawassee County Administrator, T. J. Clark checked into the Lapeer County Jail where he will serve 30 days for “using public money for personal use, contrary to state law.”

The question is, will those who were in charge of his spending be held accountable?  Has the county made changes to how they regulate the spending of “Special Revenue” funds to prevent appointed officials from writing blank checks for whatever they’d like?  Has the County made any efforts to spending from these funds more transparent?  I think you’ll find that the answer to all of these questions is “no”.

There are funds missing from this years budget that we voted to approve last year.  The county is looking to more than double what we are paying for E911 charges on our cell phone bills, and yet all accounting of what these funds are being used for are hidden from residents.  Look at page 18 (special revenue funds) of the 2016 adopted budget budget (page 21 of the pdf), then ask your commissioner these questions:

  • Who approves how this money is spent?
  • Are the same people who write the checks, also approving the spending?
  • Who audits this spending?
  • How can I see how my money is being spent?
  • Are you taking taking back the county’s current contribution to these services and using it for something else?
  • Who makes sure that my money is being spent wisely?
  • What is the treasurers role in ensuring that our tax dollars are spent wisely?  (Hint: He doesn’t have one.)

I don’t think you’re going to like the answers.  When I asked last year, I didn’t like the answers.

I believe that T. J. is just the tip of the iceburg, and hope that our county makes changes to these special revenue funds to encourage transparency and checks and balances.  Unfortunately doing this would open them up to a lot of well deserved scrutiny.  As taxpayers we should know what every cent of our money is being spent on regardless of which fund it comes from.

I’ve contacted Hartmann Aue asking him for more visibility/transparency into these funds as well as for information on the “missing millage” and will update this post when I hear back.

Victory!

The Board of Commissioners voted to take 6 officers who are currently working in court security and put them back on the road!!!  This is a great day!  Shiawassee County will once again have a road patrol!  Thank to all of the commissioners who worked hard to make this happen!!!

Here’s what the Argus press posted earlier today, prior to the vote.

I’ll post more information (and correct errors) as I learn of them!

[Update 5/21-

I’ve learned that unbeknownst to the public we were on track to exceed the courthouse security budget by around $180,000 this year.  The additional money for this was being provided “out of the sheriff’s budget”.  Just to be clear this happened because union contracts are written in such a way that when layoffs occur the employees with the lowest seniority (and usually pay) are laid off first.  My intent here is not to complain about the union, but rather the county officials who ignored this reality.

My questions/issues are as follows:

  1. Why wouldn’t the budget, posted on the county website, be amended/updated to reflect this.   My opinion-Because the public would completely freak out a about cutting the road patrol while increasing courtroom security spending by $180k/year.  Please note that the actual security budget showed a cut from $144,627 to $52,642.  Based on what I’ve been reading it sounds like spending was increased to around $232,000.
  2. Who in their right mind would actually allow this to happen?  In other words, why wasn’t privatizing security considered BEFORE cutting the road patrol?  My opinion-Because they wanted to pay more to maintain the status quo first.  For the record, I’m against privatization, but would favor it over cutting our road patrol.  What elected official would actually choose this option?
  3. How does the Sheriff have all this extra money to throw around for courthouse security?  I kind of hoped that the priority would be getting cops on the road.  Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.

Please remember the following as you read through these questions-Last years budget was devised by one or two commissioners and approved by a majority that no longer exists.  Click here to see who voted to eliminate your road patrol, and Click here to see who though their healthcare benefits were more important than your public safety.  If they’re not on one of these lists, they’re working hard to make things better.

The other thing that I learned is that almost all of the laid off deputies have found jobs elsewhere.  Thank god for that.

]

An Anonymous Letter Arrived Today

I received an anonymous letter in the mail today.  No return address, sent from a post office several counties away…

[Update 5/14 @ 8:43 – I received an email from the author of this letter asking me to take it down.  I told her that I would be happy to do so, and thanked her for her efforts to hold our elected officials accountable.]

Commissioners Healthcare goes away!

kid-superhero

The Durand Independent and Argus press report that Shiawassee County ended one form of welfare this week when our commissioners voted to eliminate their own healthcare!  This brings us one step closer to getting folks into office who are there for the right reasons!

Three people voted to keep their healthcare: Jeff Bartz, John Plowman, and John Horvath.  Commissioner Bartz was quite offended by this and said the following:

By passing this, three people are going to take a cut.

Furthermore Bartz stated that:

Mr Schneider, Mr. Holzhausen, this isn’t going to affect you at all; you’re losing nothing with this deal.  This is just a vendetta to take away from some of the other commissioners.

This sounds oddly familiar, doesn’t it.  I stood before the entire commission and asked them how they could justify cutting FOUR times more from the sheriff’s budget than anyone else’s.  Seems like the shoe has landed on the other foot, doesn’t it Mr. Bartz?

I should point out that Gary Holzhausen does not accept county insurance and instead choose to pay for his healthcare out of his own pocket.  Thanks Gary!  Hartmann Aue does not accept any benefits and donates his pay to local organizations.  Thanks Hartmann!

To be clear, I believe that Bartz, Plowman, and Horvath are far worse than welfare recipients.  They truly believe that they DESERVE these benefits while we decide that we don’t deserve public safety.  They are the wrong people for the job, and are here for the wrong reasons.  If they’re not wise enough to realize that their free ride is over, we will show them when elections roll around in 2017.

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A Great Infographic

Hartmann Aue, the new chairman of the board for Shiawassee County posted this on both his facebook and twitter site:

image1

Brought to you by board chair Harmann Aue.

This week the Board of Commissioners will once again take up the issue of eliminating pensions and healthcare for themselves.  Last time this came up, the following commissioners choose greed instead of common sense, voting against it:

  • John Plowman
  • Jeff Bartz
  • John Horvath

These three honestly seem to think that they deserve our money more than we deserve police protection.

In addition former commissioner Bob McLaren came to their defense stating that this would only save about $100/month.  He was either WAY off, or lying.  You be the judge.  Let’s make sure that former commissioner McLaren remains a former commissioner for a long, long time!  The free ride is over!

I think my letter to the editor that appeared in the Argus-Press sums it up best:

Last week, commissioners Plowman, Bartz, and Horvath voted
against eliminating their own pensions and healthcare benefits.
Currently these commissioners receive pensions, healthcare,
dental, vision, mileage, and a monthly salary for their part time
jobs.  I find it disturbing that the same three commissioners
who voted to eliminate our road patrol because they “couldn’t
afford it” feel entitled to pensions and benefits.  The
commissioners health, dental, and vision benefits are budgeted
to cost the taxpayers of this county $40,583 this year.  Mr.
Plowman feels that he deserves these benefits because “this job
is every day” and that we should consider him more of an
“elected official” than “part-time”.   I would respond to Mr.
Plowman by saying that many citizens in this county work every
day for part time pay and no benefits whatsoever.  He deserves
nothing from the people of this county, and should only be in
office because he wants to make Shiawassee County a better
place.  Mr. Plowman: As as citizen/taxpayer of Shiawassee
County, do you know what I feel entitled to?  PUBLIC SAFETY!
Unfortunately you’ve chosen to prioritize your pension and
healthcare over that fundamental government obligation.  That
is inexcusable, and has made it obvious to the voters of this
county that commissioner Plowman, Horvath, and Bartz are not
here for the right reasons.  If you would like benefits, please do
the taxpayers of this county a favor and get a real job.

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Sheriff files complaint against clerk?

As you probably know, on February 10th, the county missed their deadline to submit a public safety millage.  The county clerk, Lauri Braid, took responsibility for this issue and apologized.

I have not yet been able to confirm this, but my sources now tell me that the Sheriff has filed a complaint with the Michigan Attorney Generals office on the issue.  

None of this really makes sense to me:

  • Why would the clerk want to sabotage a millage attempt?  She is a full time elected official who probably wants to keep her job.  Also, her job would be easier if the millage passed as she wouldn’t have to deal with folks like me.
  • What is the point of the alleged complaint?  What will it accomplish?
  • Perhaps my FOIA requests are starting to make folks nervous?

I’ll update this post as I learn more.  Meanwhile if you know something, feel free to share.  I’ll make sure that you remain anonymous.

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The 2014 Credit Card Statements Have Arrived!

burning-money

As you know, I submitted a FOIA request for any/all county issued credit card statements for 2014.  Here’s what I found out:

  1. The county has many credit cards:
    1. Most of the county uses Chase issued credit cards for their purchases
    2. The Sheriff’s department uses Chemical Bank cards.
    3. They have gas cards, office supply cards, etc.
  2. The county was happy to share the Chase statements with me as they already had them on scanned and all the important numbers blacked out.  (redacted.)
  3. The clerked wanted to charge me for the others as they have not yet been gathered, copied, redacted, and scanned.  She did however offer to allow me to view the Chemical Bank statements, so I’ll be taking her up on this shorty.  If I see anything suspicious I will FOIA those documents.
  4. Judge Tom Dignan claims that his purchases were accidental.  Click here to read the letter that he sent the county about them.  Based on the rest of the credit card statements, I believe him.

Feel free to check out the complete 2014 Chase credit card statements with in many cases receipts/justifications:

Click Here to download the Complete 2014 credit card statements.

Here’s a few of the things that I noticed on it.  Please look through the statements and let me know what you notice.

Here’s my summary of what you’re going to see:

  • The biggest spender in this set of credit card statements was, by far, was T. J. Clark.  As the head of the Emergency Management department he spent money like it was going out of style purchasing high end computer gear, TV’s, and everything else that he wanted on the taxpayers dime.  This money was more than likely federal emergency management funds, not county funds.  (Which is great, except that it’s still your money.)
  • The county hired T. J. as the administrator and the spending continued.  This time it was just on the counties dime. The folks on the finance committee should have been more closely regulating this spending.  They approve paying the bills!
  • The county made T. J. pay back most of these purchases.  Copies of the checks are included in the statements.
  • The county pays for a lot of food and lodging which I would claim is unnecessary.  For example, why is it necessary to put up county employees in hotel rooms in Owosso, Lapeer, or Lansing?

A few suggestions for the county:

  • Join a purchasing group-There are a lot of things like toner and batteries that you could save money on.  Perhaps Memorial Healthcare would let you into theirs.
  • Take back the credit cards-There is no reason to have so many out there.
  • Implement and enforce a lodging policy-If it’s within 40 miles, you drive.
  • Implement a meal reimbursement policy:
    • $12.00 max per person for lunch.
    • $15.00 max per person for dinner.
  • Get rid of your HP printers-They cost too much to operate.
  • Eliminate travel for the 2015 budget year-If we can’t have cops, you can’t have seminars.

I’ll let you know when I get a chance to examine the Chemical Bank statements.

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