Among the many that were allowed to use COVID-19 funds without much oversight was a conservative Michigan town where county commissioners used the allotted money to pay themselves bonuses.
According to The Guardian, called out Shiawassee County commissioners were told by prosecutors that the payments were illegal and that they had to be paid back. The Argus Press reported the incident to the local community, explaining that the Michigan state constitution doesn't allow such compensation "after services had already been rendered," prosecutor Scott Koerner explained.
It was July 15 when commissioners voted 6 to 0 to give themselves all $65,000 out of the $557,000 they voted to give to 250 county staffers as "hazard pay" during the COVID disaster.
"The smallest amounts for recipients were $1,000 to $2,000. But the chairman of the county board, Jeremy Root, got $25,000. Two commissioners received $10,000 each, while four received $5,000 each," said the report.
They gave money to elected officials, the prosecutor included a sheriff and the county clerk.
"Since these payments were made, confusion about the nature of these funds has run rampant," a statement said.
Michigan Live reported commissioner Marlene Webster being "mortified" and claimed that she had no idea that she voted to pay herself.
One commissioner, Marlene Webster, insisted she had no idea she had voted to pay herself. She returned the money last week.
"It's a sad day ... I feel badly," the Republican said. "It's a blow to county workers' morale at a time when it's difficult to keep good workers ... I think (it shows) a serious lack of acknowledgment of what people did (during the pandemic)."
She went on to claim that she would never have voted to give herself that much money, if at all.
Another report over the weekend revealed that the commissioners violated the Open Meetings Act as well, by doing the vote in a closed session. Webster also noted that she wasn't surprised by that because "it's not the first time Shiawassee County has been sued over this." Its not clear why the commissioners continue then to do closed sessions like these.