COMMISSIONER GREG BRODEUR is sworn-in as the new chair by Caroline Wilson, county clerk.

   In a phone conversation on Tuesday, Aug. 3, Brodeur shared he plans to explore what his working relationship will be with Boggs. He believes the commissioners should be a “policy making board,” not needing to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the county. “I want a clear delineation of what each of our positions as commissioners are.”

   “My hope is we never make international news again,” he shared.

   Brodeur will be acting chair until at least January 2022 when another organizational meeting will be held.

(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)

 

   Shiawassee County Commissioner Jeremy Root (R-Dist. 5) submitted a letter of resignation as board chair prior to the Sunday, Aug. 1 Special Meeting held in the Corunna Community Center. The Special Meeting was held following the board’s decision to pay themselves $65,000 in bonuses on July 15 from federal COVID-19 funding and because of a possible Open Meetings Act (OPA) violation at the same July meeting. A questionable closed session was followed by a vote giving themselves hazard pay from the initial $557,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Root was slated to receive $25,000, with commissioners Brandon Marks (R-Dist. 4) and John Plowman (R-Dist. 7) each receiving $10,000. The other four commissioners were to get $5,000 each. Commissioners already receive $10,000 annually, plus stipends and mileage for attending meetings. The chairman receives $11,000 per year plus stipends and mileage.

   Other top-level administrators slated to receive $25,000 included Sheriff Brian BeGole, Health Director Larry Johnson, Finance Director Tracy Bublitz, Buildings/Grounds Supervisor Tim Hill and Shiawassee County Coordinator Dr. Brian Boggs.

   After the large fallout from the July 15 meeting, with the story even reaching international news outlets, four commissioners, including Marlene Webster (R-Dist. 1) who had called attention to the hazard pay/OMA issue from early on, arranged the Special Meeting held Sunday evening.

   Approximately 250 residents attended the meeting, calling to consider board reorganization – possibly removing Root as chair. Out of seven commissioners on the board, commissioners Webster, Greg Brodeur (R-Dist. 2), Brandon Marks (R-Dist. 4) and John Plowman were the only ones to attend. Root and commissioner Cindy Garber (R-Dist. 6) were absent. Commissioner Gary Holzhausen (R-Dist. 3) was excused. Other county officials in attendance included Dr. Boggs, county coordinator, along with corporate counsel Ryan Painter and Shiawassee County Clerk Caroline Wilson.

   Upon request, Root’s letter of resignation as chairman was read to the crowd, with many people jeering when it was stated he plans on staying on as a commissioner. The commissioners in attendance moved to accept Root’s letter. Webster explained to the crowd that the meeting could not call for removing Root as commissioner.

   Over 25 residents addressed the board, vocalizing various opinions and frustrations related to the controversial hazard pay vote. Many residents expressed anger at the board for the decision, describing it as “good old boys club” politics – a reference often used to describe Shiawassee County level government.

   Owosso city council member Dan Law, himself an elected official, told the board they were not only an embarrassment to the county, but to the nation, as well. Law stated he is hoping for county government reform.

   “It is absolutely 100-percent impossible for this to have happened in Owosso city,” Law said. “It is impossible for this to happen. You thought it was okay to go into closed session?” He continued a bit later with, “Integrity on this board is gone. There is no way to return it with these people involved, still sitting there.”

   Patrick O’Connor, who serves on the Durand City Council, told the board, “You all should resign. I know you won’t, but I have to tell you that.” O’Connor suggested removing Boggs, also a member of the Durand City Council, from his county position as Shiawassee County Coordinator, also bringing the federal money the commissioners slated for Ryan Painter and SEDP President/CEO Justin Horvath into the discussion.

   Robert Doran-Brockway of Owosso approached the board with, “First, I want to thank Marlene. Marlene has been treated like garbage by this board for the past two and a half years. Same with Caroline Wilson. They have treated Caroline Wilson and Marlene like garbage.” Doran-Brockway elaborated on his frustration with the multi-year county audit problem, calling out Marks and Plowman for following Root and Garber and making a “mockery of public government.”

   “You should be ashamed of yourselves,” he stated, calling for a forensic audit of the county and labeling the board as incompetent regarding tax money spending.

   “We need from the bottom up to change what is going on here,” Doran-Brockway added, “and I hope this is just the tip of the iceberg here and that everyone here stands up and demands that these people do the right thing.”

   The commissioners appointed Gregory Brodeur, excused from the controversial July 15 meeting to attend a funeral, as the new chairman. Brodeur was sworn-in as a commissioner just last January. The vote was unanimously decided between commissioners in attendance.

   “Under ordinary circumstances, I would never consider being chair of this board,” Brodeur said, “but these are very extraordinary circumstances, as you know. I have only been on the board for seven months. I am in no way the best candidate to chair this board, given my experience.”

   Brodeur has lived with his family in Owosso since 1993 and been involved in the community as an Owosso School Board member.

   “It will be my goal that this board will no longer run based on personalities. This board will run on professionalism, where all commissioners will get the same information and the public, as much as possible, is informed of things,” he said.

   Since the hazard pay distribution occurred, it was announced last week that all elected officials in the county either already have or will return the money to the county. Shiawassee County Prosecutor Scott Koerner announced he was going to return the funding he received, too. Koerner had concluded the payments violated the state constitution.

   On Monday, July 26, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Mark Latchana ordered a freeze on the payments, granting a preliminary injunction to pull payments back until the board meets on Aug. 12. The decision was made, reflective of Nichole Ruggiero’s lawsuit against the county. Ruggiero had filed the lawsuit on Thursday, July 22 on behalf of county residents. She was in attendance for the Sunday Special Meeting and was one of many to address the board.

   Shiawassee Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart had recused himself from the hearing.

New Shiawassee County Commissioner Chair Elected Following Hazard Pay was last modified: August 9th, 2021 by Karen Elford