CORUNNA, Mich. (AP) — Elected officials in a Michigan county gave themselves $65,000 in bonuses with federal relief money related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The money, described as “hazard pay,” included $25,000 for Jeremy Root, chairman of the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners.
The mostly rural county, between Lansing and Flint, has a population of 68,000.
Commissioners — all Republicans — last week voted to award money to county employees. It ranged from $25,000 for administrators to $2,000 for cleaning staff. All workers got at least $1,000.
Commissioners are paid $10,000 a year for their part-time job, plus a stipend for meetings.
Besides Root, commissioners John Plowman and Brandon Marks each received $10,000 in extra cash, and the other four commissioners got $5,000 each, MLive.com said.
“I think that I earned it,” Commissioner Cindy Garber said. “I work really hard at this job. I was here in-person all through this crazy year.”
Commissioner Marlene Webster said she was “mortified” when money appeared in her bank account. She said she didn’t know she voted to reward herself.
“I’m giving the money back,” Webster told WILX-TV. “I think one commissioner is giving it to a nonprofit so those actions indicate that we truly did not know this money was coming to us.”
A message seeking comment from Root wasn’t immediately returned Thursday.
Garber said the large payment for Root was justified because he “bears the burden of all emergency orders.”
Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, or MAC, said the group works closely with counties about how to spend federal virus-related cash.
“We are not aware of any other counties considering payments to elected officials, and MAC has not provided any guidance or advice to do so. ... Decisions, however, ultimately rest with the county’s board of commissioners in each county,” Currie told MLive.com.