SHIAWASSEE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS listened to a variety of organizations and nonprofit groups during a special meeting in the Surbeck Building on Wednesday. The meeting was to gather public input about American Rescue Plan Funding disbursement.

   Shown are current chair Greg Brodeur (R-Dist 2), Brandon Marks (R-Dist. 4), Cindy Garber (R-Dist. 6) and John Plowman (R-Dist. 7). Gary Holzhausen (R-Dist. 3) and Marlene Webster (R-Dist. 1) were also in attendance. Previous chair Jeremy Root (R-Dist. 5) did not attend any Wednesday meetings.

   The county has received roughly $6.6 million this year. The other half, another $6.6 million, will come into the county in 2022.

   Just prior to the special meeting, Garber, Holzhausen and Plowman were served with lawsuit papers from Civil Attorney Philip Ellison on behalf of Nichole Ruggiero.

   The special meeting was live streamed and is available on YouTube.

(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)


  The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting in Corunna on Wednesday, Sept. 22, following the recent controversy related to the July 15 meeting where they voted to give themselves money from the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) Funding and due to accusations in connection to a possible open meetings act violation. The Wednesday special meeting was to offer a community discussion to start the process of determining how the county should spend the federal money to better the county as a whole.

   During the special meeting, commissioners listened to various organizations and local nonprofits on proposals for ARPA funding. Some of the speakers included Guy Hubbard, representing county firefighters, retired Judge Gerald Lostracco on the Corunna Courthouse restoration, Casey Glass of Burns Twp., Perry Mayor Sue Hammond, Mark Fulks of Perry Twp., Jeff Reed of Byron, Laura Archer of the Shiawassee Family YMCA, Tom Cook of Cook Family Foundation and Carrie Baretta of the Shiawassee Humane Society.

The county humane society has a partnership with the county due to the closure of the animal control building several years ago. The humane society regularly houses dogs, cats and even farm animals on behalf of the county.

   One of the other speakers was Anthony Karhoff of Bancroft, who suggested forming a neutral committee of citizens to gather ARPA information from various county groups and then make suggestions based on those proposals to the commissioners. Karhoff believes a neutral committee would help achieve transparency – an ongoing issue many residents regularly call the commissioners out on with claims of backroom politics – and help eliminate any further wrongdoings by the commissioners.

   Ahead of the special meeting, Civil Attorney Philip Ellison, responsible for filing an earlier open meetings act lawsuit on behalf of Nichole Ruggiero, served related lawsuit papers to commissioners Cindy Garber (R-Dist. 6), Gary Holzhausen (R-Dist. 3) and John Plowman (R-Dist. 7). Former chairman Jeremy Root (R-Dist. 5), still retaining a commissioner seat, has been included in this lawsuit, but was not in attendance for any meetings that evening.

   The suit extends from the July 15 vote when commissioners, as elected officials, voted to pay themselves from the ARPA funding with Root, chairman at the time, receiving a total of $25,000. The commissioners also awarded county employees from the funds, some receiving more or less depending on position. The news story from the questionable July 15 vote and possible open meetings act violation during that meeting then escalated to international news scale with newspapers in Britain and beyond publishing related content on the commissioners and their decision.

   Shiawassee County prosecutor Scott Koerner then concluded the commissioner payments were unconstitutional after the July 15 vote. A Genesee County judge, considering the Ruggiero lawsuit, later called for the money – any amount of $5,000 or more – to be returned to permit the board to decide on a different path of disbursement.

   More on the Ruggiero lawsuit will follow.

   The special meeting allotted for just under an hour of public input, prior to the committee of the whole meeting. More public meetings on ARPA are planned.

County Listens to ARPA Funding Proposals in Special Meeting was last modified: September 28th, 2021 by Karen Elford