by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners approved an agenda item on Thursday, May 16 to authorize the county’s Central Dispatch Board to pay up to $5,000 to Yeo & Yeo for additional analysis related to an independent audit the firm is conducting of Central Dispatch’s 911 MERS Fund.
The commissioners initially authorized up to $20,000, in August 2018, for the Central Dispatch audit and an additional $8,500 in February 2019. It was discovered in early 2018 that, due to a restructuring of employee groups in the county’s MERS retirement payment plan, Central Dispatch’s monthly MERS payment had jumped from $14,000 or $15,000 to approximately $90,000. The dramatic increase is the result of the MERS payments for active and retired Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office employees being mistakenly added to Central Dispatch’s MERS payment schedule.
While the board immediately approved Central Dispatch’s funding request last August and has emphasized the importance of getting to the bottom of this large accounting mistake, several commissioners expressed their displeasure with Yeo & Yeo, which submitted the lowest bid in 2018 to complete the audit.
“The problem I have is that this wasn’t caused by anything we’ve done. We’ve provided all the information needed, that state 9-1-1 lady was satisfied with the information we provided, so I don’t know why they (Yeo & Yeo) need more money,” stated board chair Jeremy Root. “I mean, you got the bid because you were the lowest, and then the cost exceeds the agreed upon amount. I don’t think it’s anything on our board’s behalf or our 9-1-1 people, because they did the work. This is on Yeo & Yeo.”
“I can tell you right now, although I’m going to vote ‘yes,’ it will be difficult for me to ever do business with this company again as long as I’m a commissioner,” shared Commissioner Brandon Marks. “It feels like we did all the work that we needed to do, and now they’ve come to us at the 11th hour and told us, ‘In order for us to give you your report, it’s going to be another $5,000.’ It feels like they are holding us hostage and I don’t like that.”
County Coordinator Mike Herendeen clarified, however, that the original audit was to review Central Dispatch’s financial records from 2016, 2017 and 2018, but that the state later requested that financial records from 2013, 2014 and 2015 also be added to the audit, which increased the cost of the services provided by Yeo & Yeo.
Commissioner Marlene Webster added, “Sure, we could go back and wish we had picked somebody else, but with the nature of this, I don’t think it looks very transparent to not finish what the auditors are asking for.”
The board approved the request for additional funding, by a 4 to 3 vote, with commissioners Cindy Garber, Gary Holzhausen and Jeremy Root casting the three “no” votes.