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    The Shiawassee Board of Commissioners voted themselves a combined total of $65,000 in COVID-19 relief fund “hazard pay” during the Thursday, July 15 meeting in Corunna, agreeing that the rest of the federal money would be distributed to county employees. Commissioners Cindy Garber (R-Dist. 6) moved and Marlene Webster (R-Dist-1) seconded, approving the proposed American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. It passed 6 to 0 with Commissioner Greg Brodeur (R-Dist. 2), sworn in last January, previously excused from the meeting to attend a funeral.

   The vote took place following an executive session (closed from the public) when the commissioners reconvened in open meeting. The item was not posted on the meeting agenda for the public/media. According to Shiawassee County Coordinator Dr. Brian Boggs, the item was intended as part of the executive session part of the meeting.

   According to Webster, at the time of the vote, a breakdown of employee distribution of funds was not available. She stated she did not have reason to believe she or any of the commissioners – as elected officials – were factoring themselves into receiving portions of the federal funding. Her stance is that they already are paid for their services to the county, plus they receive stipends for attending associated meetings.

   Commissioners’ salaries are $10,000 each. Vice chair Brandon Marks receives $10,500 and Root, as chairman, earns $11,000. They receive additional pay for meetings.

   Upon discovering she had received a portion of funds earlier this week, Webster went public with her constituents to let them know she would give the money she was awarded back, though she has shared she is not certain how that process works in reverse. She believes keeping the money would be unethical as she thought the majority of the funding should go to front-line, essential county employees and not those elected to office.

      According to information provided by Webster on Tuesday, July 20, Chairman Jeremy Root (R-Dist. 5) was to receive $25,000 and commissioners John Plowman (R-Dist. 7) and Brandon Marks (R-Dist. 4) were to receive $10,000 each. The remaining four commissioners, including Webster, Greg Brodeur, Cindy Garber (R-Dist. 6) and Gary Holzhausen (R-Dist. 2) were each to receive $5,000 – for a total of 65,000.

   County Coordinator Brian Boggs has since defended the “hazard pay” decision. Boggs explained how the county is set to receive $13.3 million in federal funding in total. The rest of the sum will come next year. The county has initially received $557,000 in COVID-19 relief funds. He said discussion on this initial funding was held during the executive session because there were several items requiring attention related to the money distribution. He believes the executive session was legitimate, disagreeing with Webster on that part of the meeting.

   Boggs explained that the commissioners, according to how the ARPA is set up at the federal level, were not required to give any of the money to employees and that many employees had already received separate funding amounts earlier.

   The breakdown of funding to county employees shows that top-level administrators will receive $25,000 each, department heads will receive $12,500 each with middle management receiving $5,000 each. Chief deputies, the health department and all attorneys will receive $2,500 each. Cleaning staff will get $2,000 each and all other county employees will get $1,000 each.

   What many constituents are likely not aware of, Boggs explained, is that the ARPA funding allows for additional pay up to $13 per hour for all work, though it can’t exceed $25,000 per person. It also can’t reduce or substitute normal earnings, though retroactive pay is permitted.

   The top-level administrators receiving $25,000 include Sheriff Brian BeGole, Health Director Larry Johnson, Finance Director Tracy Bublitz, Buildings/Grounds Supervisor Tim Hill and Boggs. Other county officials received differing amounts.

   A brief Google search will show that various counties receiving ARPA funding have been confused on how to correctly allocate the money. The $1.9 trillion plan was signed into law in March and includes over $65 billion to go directly to counties, including Shiawassee.

   Boggs shared the commissioners based distribution on “band” or county position and skillset.

   “I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Boggs said. “Giving out this money was intended as an added bonus. It wasn’t in any way, shape or form, a slight.”

County Commissioners “Hazard Pay” Vote Causes Confusion, Raises Questions was last modified: July 28th, 2021 by Karen Elford