Returns COVID-19 Hazard Pay – Belies Payments were Not Constitutional

Press Release from the Shiawassee County Prosecutor, Friday, July 23

  At the regular meeting of the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners held on Thursday, July 15, the board of commissioners voted to approve a proposal for the use of a portion of grant funds provided to Shiawassee County as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The proposal included several items, one of which was the payout of COVID-19 hazard pay for county employees. As implemented, however, the payout also included county elected officers and may have included county contractors.

   Shiawassee County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Koerner was present at the meeting during which the various proposals regarding the ARPA expenditures were discussed, but he was not part of the conversation regarding COVID-19 hazard pay. According to Koerner, “I was at the board of commissioners meeting to discuss staffing levels at my office in light of a backlog of cases created by the COVID-19 pandemic. I knew hazard pay was going to be a topic of conversation for the board, but I wasn’t a party to that conversation.  The board never requested my legal opinion about COVID hazard pay and I didn’t provide them with one.”

   After the payouts occurred on Monday, July 19, Koerner began looking into the legality of the hazard payments. Because these payouts were as a premium for having worked through the COVID-19 pandemic, Koerner has come to conclude that the hazard payout to county elected officers, including himself, violated the Michigan constitution. Article 11, section 3 of the constitution prohibits “any political subdivision” of Michigan from paying out extra compensation for public officers and contractors after services had already been rendered.

   “Like any other hard working employee anywhere, I appreciate being considered for recognition of a job well done,” said Koerner, “but as an elected official I knew what my salary would be when I ran for office.  While COVID-19 certainly threw wrenches into all aspects of my job, it was part of my job to perform those duties and I did so willingly. Not only am I not entitled to this money because of the Michigan Constitution, but me giving the money back is just the right thing to do. I still hope that the hard-working frontline employees of the county continue to benefit from these moneys—they are the ones who deserve it.” On Friday, Koerner instructed Shiawassee County’s payroll department to reverse the payment to himself and withdraw the funds from his personal bank account.

   After discussions on Friday between Koerner, County Administrator Dr. Brian Boggs and County Attorney Ryan Painter, a request was made to all elected officials receiving COVID hazard pay to return it. As of Friday evening, all elected officials and Boggs have agreed to return their hazard payments.

Shiawassee County Prosecutor was last modified: August 2nd, 2021 by Karen Elford