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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T. J. Clark Indicted

[UPDATE]  I should receive a copy of my FOIA’d credit card statement on Friday 3/20.  Check back often I will post ASAP.

[Update 2] Per the clerk, there’s been a slight delay.  I should have it on Monday.

Mlive Media Group reports that T. J. Clark, the former county administrator has been indicted on felony embezzlement charges after he was fired in 2014.

Jeff Harkness, a former Sheriff’s Department Sergeant was also fired last year for embezzlement.

Credit card statements given to me by an anonymous reader appear to show that on multiple occasions another county official has purchased show tickets using a county credit card.

For the record, I don’t know T. J. Clark, and do not support him or anyone else who steals from our County.  What I find interesting about this situation is that one of the defenses brought up was that “everyone else did it”.  While I sincerely hope that this is not the case, I feel obligated to find out.  Yesterday evening I filed a FOIA request with the county requesting any/all detailed credit card statements from 2014.  I’ll keep you posted on what happens.

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McLaren and Plowman fail again

Except that the commissioners aren't begging...just taking...

Except that the commissioners aren’t begging…just taking…

Check out the article that ran in the Durand Independent this weekend.  What you’ll see are two career politicians trying to keep their welfare checks:

MotionsDieOnTie

Let’s look at a few quotes in the article:

Commissioner Aue says the following:

I don’t understand how part-time employees deserve full-time benefits

We are public servants.  I think this is a good faith effort to show the community that we are willing to share in the sacrifices to move forward”

Thank you commissioner Aue!  This is EXACTLY correct.  Folks-this is one of the four commissioners who are working to fix this mess.  The others are Holzhausen, Root, and Schneider.

Now, let’s look at a quote from commissioner Plowman:

Though people consider this to be a part time job, this job is every day

I think elected official works better.

Commissioner Plowman.  On behalf of the people of Shiawassee county I would have to ask you, as an elected official what makes you feel that you are entitled to ANYTHING?  If that’s why you’re running for office, and I think we all suspect that it is, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons!

As as citizen/taxpayer of Shiawassee County, do you know what I feel entitled to?  PUBLIC SAFETY!  Yet you’ve chosen to prioritize your pension and healthcare over that fundamental government obligation.  That is inexcusable.

The best thing that you could do at this point is to make this as part time of a position as possible.  Stop interfering with those who are trying to fix this county!

Moving on to former commissioner Bob McLaren’s comment:

During citizens comments, a past county commissioner, Bob McLaren of Shiawassee Township, strongly disagreed with the move, saying elimination of the commissioners from the county pension program as of 2017, will save the county about $100 a month.

Here’s what the 2015 approved budget (page 21)  has to say about that:

retirement

Let’s see here.  $3033 /  12 months in a year = $253/month.

So Mr. McLaren’s number was only off by 253%.  On the bright side at least we weren’t relying on him for anything important in 2014-like approving our county budget!  Mr. McLaren voted to eliminate our road patrol along with Plowman, Bartz, Nordbeck, and Horvath.

This is exactly the type of misinformation that the people of Shiawassee County received in 2014.  It will happen no more.  Every time that you lie, I will be here to correct it.  Even better yet, when election time rolls around I will be here to make sure that you face each one of those lies.

Mr. McLaren let me tell you that it is completely obvious to everyone reading this article that you are trying to preserve this entitlement in the hopes that you will be collect it after next election.  Good luck with that!

While we’re on the topic of “it’s just $100/month”, let me ask the following:  “When a county can’t manage to put cops on the road unlike almost every other county in the state, is $100/month too much?”  I would say yes!  Every dime that this county can muster should be saved to get cops back on the road!  How many “just a $100/months” are tucked into our current budget?  It seems that Montcalm County can run public safety and courts for 2.6 million dollars less per year that we can.  The big difference-they actually have a road patrol!

Since we’re on the topic of numbers, let’s dig a bit deeper the commissioners pay and benefits:

According to the 2015 budget Health, Dental, and Vision insurance costs the citizens of this county  $40583/year, or $3381/month!  (There’s a half of cop!)

According to the 2015 budget Commissioner Pay, including Per Diem, Other Meeting, Base Pay, and Social Security consume $60,096/year, or $5008/month!

All told the total amount of money spent on commissioners adds up to $112,358 per year!  That’s a little more than $16,000/commissioner…all for a part time job.  Time for that to change.

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The Naughty List [Updated]

NaughtyList

As I start this article I want you to know that we now have 4 very good commissioners who are fighting everyday to try to fix the issues within our county and get cops back on the road.  Unfortunately, they seem to face constant obstruction from a few other commissioners and elected officials.  Everything that you are about to read has been posted at some point or another on this site.  I’ve just compiled it in one place for the first time!

I’ve been fighting hard to save our road patrol for more than 4 months now, and have been slowly forming opinions about each individual commissioner.  Whenever possible I’ve tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that they prove me right.  Instead the three folks below have, in my opinion, done everything that they can to obstruct our efforts to get cops back on the road.  This week, the three of them voted to keep their pensions, even though we can’t afford to put cops on the road.  Let’s meet them, shall we…

John Plowman

Plowman

Represents: Perry and Woodhull Townships and Perry City

Phone Number: 517-625-4545

Accomplishments:

Jeff Bartz

Bartz

Represents: Bennington, Owosso Pct. III, Sciota Townships, City of Laingsburg and City of Owosso Pct. 6-1

Phone Number: 517-625-5554

Accomplishments:

John Horvath

Horvath

To be honest John almost didn’t make this list-Until he voted to keep his pension.

Represents: City of Owosso

Phone: 989-627-1962

Accomplishments:

As you can see, if you’d like to run for county commission, I’ve just written your “why you should vote for me instead of him” speech.  Now I ask all of you to spread the word, tell your friends what their commissioners are doing.  Encourage anyone that you know in these areas to run for county commission!  We have a year and a half to do this, so let’s start now!

If you are a commissioner that’s made the Naughty List-it’s not to late to change!  Give up your pension, open up the budget and get cops on the road.  If you do that, I’ll be happy to remove you from the naughty list.  Remember-even the Grinch can grow a heart!

Grinch

If your commissioner isn’t on this list, please know that they are doing a good job representing you and trying to fix the dysfunction that has overtaken this county.  To everyone reading this: I need your help-ignoring the issues going on in the county will only lead to more cuts to services and higher taxes for you!  To quote Dr. Seuss one more time:

dr-seuss-someone-like-you-cares-a-whole-awful-lot-nothing-get-better1

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An Anonymous Reader Writes [Updated]

I received a message from a reader of this site, and thought it was worth sharing.  I’ve added a few comments throughout.

Former Commissioner Robert McClaren and a few Township Supervisors (DeCaire-Caledonia & Grinnell-Perry) continue to beat the drums that the millage was defeated because of Mayor Ben Frederick and the other mayors in the county who wrote a letter asking questions about the millage extortion attempt.
It seems the plan of the “old-guard” attempting to continue to run this county into the ground.  Their plan: make us pay more so that they can continue their extravagant ways.  After all, without that money, who will pay for their pensions and healthcare?
Their activities are encouraged by Bartz, Plowman & Braidwood. They like to twist facts and time-lines. Example…. they repeatedly state that the mayors confused the voters with the 8M in the tax fund. A review of the timeline would show that this was not referenced in the letter the mayor’s wrote…… and was not even mentioned until after the November election. This is just one example. This group wants to blame the county budget demise on “others”….. with whatever lies are necessary to do so. Interesting to me that they claim that the County Voters blindly followed Mayor Frederick in voting no on the county millage……. yet Mayor Frederick’s endorsement on the Owosso School Bond did not push that across the goal line. The fact is…. Ben did not cost the Commissioners their millage…… but rather the incompetence of the BOC cost the Owosso Schools their millage, and likely any other entity in Shiawassee County who dare ask for anything.
This is a theme that I continue to hear: those who offer solutions are vilified while this county continues to spiral downhill.
Needless to say, McClaren wants back on the board, and Bartz and Plowman want to retain their pensions and health insurance benefits.
That’s true-so true in fact that Bartz, Plowman, and Horvath just voted for it.  Can’t afford to put cops on the road, but can afford pensions and healthcare for their part time jobs.  This is disgusting: they should be ashamed, but unfortunately to be ashamed one must posses the ability to be shamed.
Why has no-one has been able to get an answer from the county on Ben’s research that turned up that the county cut their court cost revenues by several hundred thousand dollars, when the law was changed to restore these revenues? They have also been stalling on the 2015 property tax estimate… I thought when we eliminated the personal property tax on businesses, the state was going to hold local municipalities harmless from losses? Did the state fail on this promise, or did the county “forget” to create a line item for this replacement revenue? When does the county get their annual insurance refund that they did not budget?
Several great points here:
  1. Property Values-My SEV went up, and I bet yours did too.  The county drastically underestimated increases in property taxes for this year.
  2. Insurance refund-I’ve also heard this from multiple reliable sources.  The county didn’t budget for their insurance refund.
  3. Court costs-Here’s what they are talking about:
    1. Last year the supreme court had a ruling that dramatically reduced the amount of money that courts could charge for court costs.  This article covers it in detail. http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2014/07/van_buren_county_out_710000_af.html
    2. The county allegedly adjusted their budget to compensate for this, resulting in a pretty big loss.
    3. The state passed PA352 of 2014 to fix this.
    4. The county never re-adjusted the budget to fix this.
With the millions of dollars the BOC allowed the med care facility to amass by over-taxation, and the double taxation for veteran’s services….. the BOC has plenty of room to reduce those millages as a show of good faith against their real needs. Just because the voters approve an operational millage amount does not mean the entities should be wasteful with spending, nor should they horde money. The BOC has been reckless in these areas…. as it is their job to levy only the amount needed to provide services, and not to simply levy the “max”. That is why may objected to the obnoxious 2.5M request. Even though they had only a 750k shortfall (per the Headlee request), they would have spent every dime of the 2.5M, while still over-taxing for vet and med care services.
I’ve also heard about the Medical care facility from other sources.  Same story-huge pile of cash.
What ever happened with the former county administrator deal? Are other county employees going to be held responsible for their questionable spending. Some of this was revealed on the same statements that were released questioning the administrator’s charges. Are judges above the law?
Update: The same anonymous reader sent me the Credit Card Statement!  Click HERE to view it.  I was a bit shocked to see what it allegedly shows.  I suspect that I would be wise to FOIA all of last years credit card statements.  This will allow me to both validate that this is “authentic”, and see what our officials have decided to spend our tax dollars on.
Another Q in their budget…… Why have the Venice Park payments been so substantially reduced over the past several years? Who is benefiting from this, and are their commissioners who have conflicts? Are we the only county in the state where no hazardous materials collections are offered?
Has the state EVER published the time of submission for ballot language??? A review may show that this time is never published, as it was/is set by a law from something like the 1950’s….. common knowledge in the clerk circles…..
Is anyone going to address the GROSS mis-management occurring in the sheriff’s dept???? When the county/court offices close for a holiday, why do all the security and court personnel under control of the sheriff get to play cards and collect OT pay? How many administrative positions do we now have setting idle in the Sheriff office who could be on the road?
Could go on and on…..
Please do-keep going on and on.  Tell your friends and neighbors what our tax dollars are buying in this county…
Get your friends to run for commission!  Make sure that Plowman, Bartz, and Horvath don’t get re-elected. We’re going to have to take this county back on our own!

Will commissioners put their Pensions ahead of our Safety?

Except that the commissioners aren't begging...just taking...

Except that the commissioners aren’t begging-just taking…

This week the Shiawassee County Commissioners will consider a resolution that will end their pensions and benefits.  In accordance with state law this will take effect after the next election.

The commission will be forced to decide whether or not their pensions are more important than our safety.

If you can make it to any commission meetings this week, please do!!  You will be able to see for yourself who is in this for a paycheck, and who is here to make this county a better place!!!!

FYI-at least one commissioner is currently not accepting benefits and donating his pay to local charities.  If we could just get the rest to follow his lead we would be fine.

Rest assured that I’ll make it my life goal to end the political careers of anyone who votes to keep their pension.  Your free ride ends now!

WatchingYou

What the Owosso Bond Issue Means for Our Commission

A school district within a highly supportive community.  A private foundation offering to throw in a Million dollars if it passes.

It sounded like a no brainer, but it was rejected by a landslide.  So why bring this up on this site?  Simple-the Owosso bond is a clear sign to our commission that there is no support in the community for higher taxes.

The commission is now faced with a choice, either:

  • Try for a tax increase that is destined to fail…or
  • Get real.  

Our commission needs to open the budget, make responsible cuts, take money from the DTRF, and get some cops on the road.  We are paying way more than we need to for courts and public safety yet we’re getting no road patrol!!!  Why don’t our tax dollars buy us the same basic government services that other counties enjoy?

In the Argus Press, and Durand Independent I‘ve asked the commissioners to re-open the budget and find money now.  The meeting is next Thursday…let’s see if they will….