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Redding Township Tackling Backlog of Bad Housekeeping

Board at Odds Over Office Costs, Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Pay

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The 2016 general election saw only 188 of the 366 registered voters in Redding Township turn out to vote [51.37% of the electorate]. In that election, Marianne Borgula defeated incumbent supervisor Thomas Krchmar by a mere 14 votes. Also, trustee Marlene McGlashen was re-elected and Nancy Scarbrough, spouse of the current supervisor, was elected trustee.

That was the last time the voters elected a supervisor to office; current supervisor Bruce Scarbrough was appointed very recently. Redding Township Board members elected to office in 2018 were clerk Margaret Borgula and treasurer Brittany May, both of whom ran unopposed – and neither of whom completed even one year in office.

Trisha Martin stepped in to fill the clerk’s shoes, and at a special board meeting held June 24, the Redding Township Board voted unanimously to appoint Chris Martin, her husband, as township treasurer. Trisha Martin abstained from the vote.

With the departure of the clerk and treasurer, the majority inexperienced board has found itself swamped by paperwork, ledgers and financial records left in turmoil. Trustees Scarbrough and McGlashen made themselves available [for $12/hour] to inventory the township hall records closet in an effort to “help get things in order.”

A little house cleaning, however, is not enough when the new clerk and treasurer are faced with making sense of disorganized data and attempting to rectify checks written for amounts different than the amounts noted on the check stubs. Nor was it easy for the new treasurer to be immediately immersed in tax bills/payments which had to be scanned at a snail’s pace into the bookkeeping program using an inefficient process.

That is a bit of the background which led into the Aug. 21 monthly meeting of the Redding Township Board – a meeting that began with the supervisor saying that when he uses the term “Redding Township” he is referring to the people of the township. He next said he had been contacted by State Rep. Jason Wentworth’s and State Sen. Rick Outman’s offices, via the Treasury Department, and that they wanted to know where the township’s bankruptcy filing paperwork was.

“To the best of my knowledge, we are not in or even close to being in bankruptcy,” Scarbrough said. “I have put calls in to both offices trying to get a reply … why am I being questioned about bankruptcies?”

He said both caller IDs said “restricted.gov” so he had no number to call back – he said the treasurer and clerk conjectured it could have been a scam attempt.

Scarbrough said that currently the Redding Township budget is at near $200,000 – far from being bankrupt.

He also reported one of two burglars who had been breaking into buildings in the township had been caught, identified in part via the township’s security camera.

Speakers included Clare County Commissioner Dale Majewski, who updated attendees on the current county budgeting process, summing up with “We’re getting close.”

Clare County Clerk/Register of Deeds Lori Martin informed on her department’s improved collections of court fines and restitution. She also said the township’s next election will be held in March 2020 and ascertained that the Redding clerk would be attending QVF [qualified voter file] training in August and accreditation in October.

The township’s insurance representative offered information on how the township can access help on specific issues, and also touched on “commandeered property” along with a few other suggestions on ways the township better prepare for legal actions involving “quality of life” litigation.

Treasurer Chris Martin submitted his reports from June and July, using the ending balances from the previous treasurer’s report in May. He said that, based on available information, the reports are accurate.

“But I believe, based on review of the tax account, the totals would be half done and it will have to be adjusted by an auditor,” he said. “A $6,000 check was written on the tax account on March 29 to the General Fund without proper documentation on why it was being disbursed. The amount on the distribution check stub did not match the amount of the check.”

He further stated that a revenue sharing check in the amount of $6,952 was deposited in the tax checking account on May 4.

“Learning the tax system and developing a good bookkeeping system for receipting and disbursing of taxes with proper documentation has been my priority since I was appointed to do this work and the first tax payment was due,” Martin said. “With the help of more experienced treasurers, I am developing a spreadsheet for the 2018 tax year showing the disbursements by the categories to try to fully understand why the check stub amounts do not match the amounts of the checks.”

He said settlement sheets obtained from the county have helped him to tie out the figures, which he believes will help the auditor determine if money should be adjusted in the proper funds. He also explained the starting figure is issued by the chief warrant officer [who is the supervisor] and asked that the amount be read into the minutes. That balance was $178,000-plus.

“So, if ‘Mr. Outman’ calls again, I can tell him we’re not bankrupt,” Scarbrough said.

In New Business, the board moved to accept the township’s L-4029 form as prepared. Next discussed was an audit, regular or forensic, for BS&A and QuickBooks. Scarbrough affirmed the treasurer’s evaluation that the township’s books are in turmoil.

Martin said it is important the auditor look at both the treasurer and clerk bookwork and was adamant the township needs to upgrade to BS&A for a system and software that can handle the township’s needs – something he said QuickBooks is not handling. Scarbrough said he believed there had been no bookkeeping problems until the last couple years, and that it was not a software problem but a GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) problem. He said he would contact Shelley Browning of Weinlander Fitzhugh the next day to learn about doing an audit on both sides of the office, as well as whether she thinks a forensic audit is needed and if she has the ability to do one.

Scarbrough explained that a forensic audit is admissible in a court of law, and that if something is found in the process of doing a forensic audit, it is out of the township’s hands whether someone is prosecuted for wrongdoing; that is up to the forensic auditor and the prosecutor.

The supervisor also said that rather than BS&A, the township might need to look at the Excel spreadsheets which had been made by the previous treasurers and compare that to the QuickBooks and BS&A.

Then the board got into footing the costs of sending the deputy clerk for election training, as well as office training so the deputy could cover clerk duties if the clerk was absent.

 “The township hires one clerk,” trustee Scarbrough said. “It’s not going to pay two people to run the clerk’s department.”

That began a long discussion about the clerk or treasurer being responsible for paying deputies from their own salaries.

When the treasurer asked audience member Deb Hoyt, Hayes Township clerk, how other townships handle this situation, Hoyt explained that the deputy clerk has statutory duties.

“And the deputy is to be paid because she is an employee of the board of the township,” Hoyt said. “Therefore, she would collect payroll and be paid as an employee. It doesn’t come out of my wages.”

When the supervisor described having a deputy in the office 10 hours a week as being like having another clerk, Hoyt explained that having a deputy is required by law.

Scarbrough dug his feet in, saying the township may be required to have a deputy, but the township sets the wage and does not have to pay the deputy minimum wage. The clerk brought up the township resolution which designates deputies as township employees.

“Pending further investigation, I think we need to table that,” Scarbrough said.

Then, when the clerk requested the deputy clerk help go through the closet again to do retention, there was more discussion and the supervisor said the issue would be tabled for discussion at a later time.

“It’s something we’ll have to look up and find out,” Scarbrough said. “Just having two extra people willy-nilly coming into this township, especially when we had a bankruptcy scare and we don’t need another one …”

“You had a bankruptcy scare,” the treasurer said. He then suggested setting up a monthly limit on hours, rather than weekly, as a more practical and flexible approach for deputy pay. Martin said he needed to know that he can call Rick Jones to come in when available to help take in taxes, or whatever is needed. Again, the supervisor tabled the topic until he could learn more “legalese” about it and said that hopefully there would be more information by next month’s meeting.

“We, as a township, can’t afford to pay two clerks and two treasurers,” Scarbrough said.

He further described some of the basic parameters of deputy hours, training pay, and spoke of working on a resolution or policy to cover those things. He suggested 10 hours per month, not to last more than six months, and further suggested that anything special after that time period “would be on you two.”

Next was Approval of Bills for check Nos. 3871-3892 – which is when things got even more interesting. Questioned were the clerk’s purchase of a current Clerk’s Guide to FOIA without seeking board approval, a Quill 4-year protection plan, and office supplies. The clerk explained that using her scanner allows her to pull up invoices with the scanned check attached, and the treasurer [who had purchased a new hand scanner] said his scanned documents go directly into the BS&A software, complete with documentation, notes and payment.

The supervisor questioned equipment and office supplies purchases, along with the $30 four-year protection plan on the $80 scanner, adding that if the scanner doesn’t break, the township is out $30.

No matter how the clerk and treasurer justified the purchases and reminded that the items had been talked about at the previous meeting, they were met with the items not preapproved by the board. Basically, the two were rebuked for overspending their monthly budget by $50 when they were making purchases of items which would expedite bookkeeping procedures and ultimately cut work hours, which equals cutting costs.

 “It’s the job of this board to protect the money that’s in our accounts,” Scarbrough said. “And to willy-nilly just order stuff online and have it delivered… Before you order anything online, it needs to come to the board before it’s ordered.”

Trustee McGlashen then stated that, with the explanations given, she didn’t have a problem with the purchases.

Trustee Scarbrough next questioned the payroll account set up for the deputy treasurer, which was payment for three hours of closet retention work, labeling and dating contents. The treasurer said he presumed it was equal to the authorized work trustees had done with closet inventory.

The supervisor took issue with Jones’ work not being preauthorized by the board and said that check should be held/not be approved. At that point, Jones stood up and said: “I resign. Thank you.”

Scarbrough made a motion the check report be approved, with the exception of check No. 3888 [Jones’ payroll]. Jones then questioned what check No. 3871 was for. Scarbrough said it was for township phones, preapproved at meetings earlier; some batteries and a label maker that somebody needed because one was removed from the office.

When asked if that answered his question, Jones asked why the phones are not in the township’s name. The supervisor said the phones are Boost Mobile and are in the township’s name.

Scarbrough again moved to have the board accept the check report with the exception that No. 3888 not be paid. After the motion was seconded, a verbal vote was split and the supervisor called for a roll call vote. When the clerk began the vote by calling on the supervisor, he instructed her to start at the bottom of the list and work her way up to the supervisor, because in case of a tie, the supervisor would be the deciding vote as in Parliamentary Procedure – a position he likened to the vice president’s role in the U.S. Senate.

The clerk and treasurer both took issue with his statement of order, and Scarbrough replied that they didn’t want to argue with him “with all my legal notes in front of me.”

The clerk cited the MTA Guide for Clerks as stating she could order a roll call vote in any sequence she chooses.

“You probably can,” Scarbrough said. “But during this roll call vote, you will start at the bottom.”

The treasurer then asked if there were any supervisors in the audience, at which point Mike Haley, Hayes Township trustee, said he brought along the MTA book and that the clerk was correct.

“You’re not the tie breaker,” Haley said. “She can shuffle that any way she wants: alphabetically, she can change it week to week, month to month – it doesn’t matter.”

Scarbrough questioned: “What about Parliamentary Rules?”

Haley said that if Scarbrough looked through the supervisor’s guide, he would see several times that what the clerk was saying was “absolutely true.”

Scarbrough acceded his incorrectness and asked the clerk to take the roll call vote in any order she would like. The vote to approve checks while withholding check No. 3888 was defeated 3-to-2. Asked if he still wanted to resign, Jones said he did.

Chris Martin said he will be looking for a new deputy treasurer.

In final Public Comment, Deb Hoyt stood to say that each of the five is a board member.

“What I’m seeing tonight is some of the board members are tying the hands of the clerk and the treasurer to do their jobs sufficiently,” she said. “When they came into this position, the board was responsible to give them the tools they needed to do the job. You couldn’t give them beginning balances, hence, you need an audit. So, the board has not provided the clerk and the treasurer with the tools to do their job.”

[Scattered applause]

Scarbrough replied that Redding is not a million-dollar township, and the board has to make sure everything that goes in and out of the township’s budget is worth the money. He agreed an audit was needed, but that other things also need to be considered. He said the treasurer was able to give a balance that evening, and he would be getting an ending and beginning balance – and that now it is known there is money in the bank. That, he said, was better than the previous two meetings when the township’s financial status was unknown.

The supervisor then asked the treasurer if there was anything else he needed to do his job, adding: “I understand that I’m stopping you from doing your job. Is that part of the problem – you need an audit?”

“I need an audit,” the treasurer said.

Scarbrough replied: “We all need an audit.”

The treasurer said he had spent a great deal of time trying to get caught up and organized, so that things continue to move forward, especially because he is spending time training.

“If it wasn’t for Hayes Township and spending, like last night – 12:30 at night,” he said. “We need this to go through; we need good numbers. You guys need to know where you’re at. You want to squabble about a couple bucks on Quill … we need to get numbers. You want me to do this job? Get me numbers and be as transparent as possible. I can’t do this job, on either side, without those numbers.”

When Scarbrough questioned the “transparency” of the Quill order and paying the deputy treasurer without board preapproval, Martin said he was operating on the premise that office discussions had been authorization to get Jones in and trained.

“He’s an asset,” Martin said. “That guy knows more about this job than I think I ever will. And what we just let go…hmmm… that’s gonna hurt.”

Martin had one last item, a request that all board members have the passcode to the security cameras. Scarbrough said he would show Martin where it is kept.

With that, a very lengthy meeting was adjourned.

The Redding Township Board meets at 7 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month at Redding Township Hall, 8391 Temple Drive.

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