Genesee County Clerk files suit against Board of Commissioners over misappropriation of tech fund

FLINT — Genesee County Clerk John Gleason has filed a lawsuit against the Genesee County Board of Commissioners for alleged illegal spending out of the tech fund for bonuses to ASFME Local 496 01 and AFSME Local 916 in the amount of $500 per employee.

The spending is the latest in an ongoing dispute between Gleason and the Board of Commissioners over the technology fund.

The clerk/register of deeds said the Board of Commissioners has misappropriated funds since 2003, which the claim cites as totaling around $6.5 million. The Michigan Association of Register of Deeds (MARD) agreed on a onetime expenditure of $5,000 to Genesee County toward the lawsuit.

Gleason said the Board of Commissioners all have a hand because “they’re the ones that vote to spend the money,” and the Board uses it as “slush fund” because it is high-revenue generating.

Last year, he hired Gabridge and Company to do a one-year audit if the fund, which concluded more than $170,000 has been misspent on employee salaries.

At the Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, County Commissioners Jamie Curtis (District 3) and Mike Lynch (District 7) were both formerly served on behalf of the Board.

“John Gleason is out of line,” said Curtis. “This is a frivolous lawsuit.”

Curtis said Gabridge and Company could not substantiate its findings after having them refuted by the controller and auditing firm Plante Moran. The Board, he said, can only approve or deny requests from for the tech fund from the Register of Deeds and relies on the Genesee County Corporation Counsel for advice on legal matters.

Curtis pointed out only one remaining member exists on the Board from 2003, and Gleason has taken issue with tech fund spending long before he took office.

“We owed [the unions] that payment,” said Curtis.

Gleason believes Lynch and Curtis are engaging in political posturing before the election to win votes, adding it makes little sense to hand out bonuses in the middle of the year, except as an easy way to make surpluses.

“The timing of it is ironic,” said Larry Mitchell, a former deputy clerk in Oakland County, who sat in with Gleason during a press conference.

The letter of agreement for the onetime $500 employee lump sum states the all employees who are employed by the County in the bargaining unit on July 1, and all employees in the County bargaining unit on the date of ratification of the 2015 to 2018 Collective Bargaining Agreement shall receive the payment.

“You can’t get any more evidence that what’s happening is illegal,” said Gleason.

The Register of Deeds office wants the fund reserved for updating technology in the office, which Gleason said is dated and difficult to use. Roberta Sacharski, chief deputy register of deeds, said approximately 20 percent of the phone calls to the office are regarding outmoded software.

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