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Posted on Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 6:05 a.m.

Emotions flare at Washtenaw County board meeting in response to attacks on Mark Ouimet

By Ryan J. Stanton


County Commissioner Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, listens during Wednesday's county board meeting. Members of the Washtenaw County Republican Committee rose to his defense, saying the Democrats have no room to talk when it comes to expenses.

Ryan J. Stanton |

It was high drama at Wednesday night's meeting of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners as members of the Washtenaw County Republican Committee rose in defense of Republican Commissioner Mark Ouimet.

"This is politics at its worst," said GOP Chairman Mark Boonstra, scolding the Democrat-controlled board. "These unfounded attacks have slandered the good name of a good man who has served this county well. So I call upon all of you county commissioners to put aside partisan politics, as Mark so often has, and to denounce these Democratic attacks."

Ouimet's expense record has been in question for the past two weeks, with the Washtenaw County Democratic Party calling for an investigation into $35,000 in per diem payments and mileage reimbursements Ouimet has collected for attending meetings as a commissioner.

County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum released findings on Wednesday of an analysis conducted by his office, showing more than $10,000 of the per diem and mileage payments Ouimet received from 2005 to 2009 don't appear to be eligible under county board rules.

But Ouimet isn't the only commissioner whose expenses are in question now. The clerk's report shed light on the fact that seven other commissioners on the 11-member board have billed the county for attendance at meetings that don't appear to be eligible for payment.

That includes $4,226 by Jessica Ping, $980 by Barbara Levin Bergman, $446 by Ken Schwartz, $349 by Wesley Prater, $109 by Conan Smith, $30.82 by Rolland Sizemore, and $30.50 by Kristin Judge. Three came out mostly clean: Ronnie Peterson, Jeff Irwin and Leah Gunn, though Gunn and Irwin had some expenses flagged "uncertain."

In fact, the report from Kestenbaum's office shows more than $10,000 in per diem and mileage payments that are flagged "uncertain," meaning they may or may not have been eligible. More than $6,000 of those payments were billed by Ouimet.

In all, more than $26,000 in payments remain in question now — the overwhelming majority of which belong to Ouimet and Ping, the two Republicans on the board.

Commissioners made no decisions Wednesday night on what to do about the report. However, some are questioning the findings, saying it appears some mistakes were made.

Bergman, for example, said several of the meetings red-flagged on her portion of the report should be eligible. She said it appears there was a lack of awareness on the part of the clerk's office that one of the committees she was assigned to had been renamed.


Kristin Judge, the only commissioner to publicly allege any wrongdoing by Ouimet, said it's a simple matter of right and wrong, and Ouimet repeatedly violated county rules.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Kestenbaum stepped up to the podium during Wednesday's meeting to explain to commissioners that the report was done in response to a request by county administration.

"I consider all of you around this table to be my friends," he said. "I consider all of you to be great public servants, every one of you, Democrats and Republicans. The report that came from my office was never intended as any kind of attack on anyone. As far as I'm concerned, every per diem that was submitted and paid has been in good faith."

Kestenbaum said, in his opinion, it wasn't entirely clear up until this year — when the board put new rules in place — which meetings were and weren't eligible for payment.

Commissioner Judge, a Democrat, noted the only parts of the board rules that changed this year were related to internal financial controls. The authorized meetings for which commissioners are allowed to claim per diems haven't changed, she said.

Kestenbaum, whose office signs off on the expenses, said: "Not everyone reads the board rules. I can't tell you what's exactly in the board rules myself."

Judge, the only commissioner to publicly allege any wrongdoing by Ouimet, said it's a simple matter of right and wrong, and Ouimet repeatedly violated county rules.

"I believe elected officials have the responsibility to read the rules and abide by them," she said, suggesting the board rules related to per diems "are not difficult sentences to read."

Ping read a statement at the start of Wednesday's meeting on behalf of Bridgewater Township Supervisor Jolea Mull, who defended Ouimet's meeting expenses.

"Commissioner Mark Ouimet should be commended, not condemned, for his efforts," it read. "Mark's visits to our local townships and regional meetings have served the interests we all value. We have benefitted from his advocacy as a part of the police services steering committee and we have gleaned economic insight from his leadership on Ann Arbor SPARK."

Questioning Democratic travel expenses

GOP Vice Chairman Wyckham Seelig and Boonstra both gave speeches Wednesday night in which they characterized Ouimet as a victim of hurtful Democratic attacks.

Boonstra said Ouimet has been "pilloried by local Democrats." But he added it's ironic the Democrats have attacked Ouimet for billing the county for multiple meetings on some days when records show Democratic commissioners have done the same.

"For example, Commissioner Irwin: 71 times over the last six years," he said. "Commissioner Bergman: 73 times. Commissioner Schwartz: 53 times. Commissioner Prater: as many as seven times in one day, and Mark was pilloried for four."


GOP Chairman Mark Boonstra addresses the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Wednesday night.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Boonstra pointed out that Democratic sources mistakenly stated in reports released to the media that Ouimet had racked up more than $3,600 in out-of-county travel expenses last year. In fact, those travel expenses belonged to Prater, a Democrat.

"The fact is that County Commissioner Mark Ouimet has not charged the county for any out-of-county travel, while the Democrats on this board spend, on average, more than $8,000 per term in out-of-county travel," Boonstra said.

He also presented evidence to show Judge, in her first term in office, has spent more than $8,000 attending conferences around the country in locales as far as Reno, Nevada, while Prater and Smith each have spent nearly $12,000 on travel.

Boonstra specifically called out Judge, making reference to an e-mail she sent in July to Commissioner Bergman in which she "sought to divert extra travel dollars from other commissioners to her own use, and to do so in secrecy," Boonstra said. 

In the e-mail obtained by, Judge states: "I do not expect you to vote for me to increase my travel expenses, but I do hope that you will not make it a public issue."

Records show Bergman responded via e-mail: "If you ask for the funds, you must do it at a board meeting and your request and subsequent discussion will be a public issue. The rules require a vote by the Board of Commissioners. This transaction must be transparent."

Judge and Prater defended their travel expenses Wednesday night.

"I have followed the rules since I've been here," Judge said. "It's not a matter of whether I spent money to go to a convention. All of the conventions that I've attended, I brought back actual tangibles that are saving residents money, that are bringing in revenue to the county."

Prater said the trips he has taken to places like Florida and Hawaii have a proven return on investment and have helped bring new ideas back to Washtenaw County.

"I think it's important that you do get the opportunity to learn what is new and the opportunity to network, and it's something that we do with all of our employees," Prater said. "As long as it's budgeted and we don't go over budget, there's never been much of an issue."

Boonstra said the attacks singling out Ouimet seem to have originated from Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, whose communications director, John Tramontana, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for Ouimet's expenses back in May.

"And then he enlisted his minions here in Washtenaw County to carry those attacks out," Boonstra said. "But now that the Democrats have done this, all of the laundry must be aired, and I've brought it here, and the press has it now, too. And it will be up to the voters to decide whether any of that laundry is dirty, and whose it is, and you know whom to blame for this."

Prater said Boonstra was off-base in his remarks.


"I think this is Lansing politics being brought here," Commissioner Ken Schwartz said during Wednesday's meeting.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"For Mr. Boonstra to get up and make the statements that he's made, without having the facts, is simply incorrect," Prater said, drawing a look of disagreement from Boonstra, who again waved the stack of records in the air from his seat in the audience.

"Those documents speak for themselves, and I'm not going to sit here and tell you I never made a mistake," Prater said. "I may have, but I didn't do it intentionally, and I'm not accusing Mr. Ouimet of anything, and none of this board has accused Mr. Ouimet of anything."

Multiple Democratic commissioners took turns standing up for Ouimet and said they thought the GOP's criticisms were misdirected at the county board. Gunn said although she's a Democrat, she doesn't approve of everything her party does.

"So to accuse us who are elected officials here of some nefarious plot against Mark Ouimet is simply not fair," she said. "I've known Mark Ouimet for a very long time. In fact, he used to be my council member in the 4th Ward, so it's been probably over 20 years. And I have always found him to be a man of honor and upstanding and very gracious."

Commissioner Schwartz diagnosed the problem the way he sees it.

"I think this is Lansing politics being brought here," he said. "I agree with Leah Gunn that the Democratic Party may do things, but the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, the Democrats who sit here, we don't control that. We made Mark the vice chair of the board, and we made Jessica (Ping) the chair of the working session because we are bipartisan here."

Ouimet made few remarks Wednesday night, but said "the numbers are what they are." If any of his expenses are determined ineligible, he said, he'll repay the county, but he's still waiting for an independent, nonpartisan investigation of all commissioners' expenses first.

Ouimet said in an interview after the meeting that he attended a National Association of Counties conference in Hawaii during his first term as a commissioner — along with other commissioners — but he paid for the trip out of his own pocket. He said he didn't let the county pay then, and he hasn't let the county pay for any out-of-state travel since.

"I don't know what the other commissioners did, but I can tell you what I did: I paid for it personally," he said. "I just didn't feel that we should be charging outside travel to the county."

Ouimet, of Scio Township, is running for the 52nd District state House seat against Democrat Christine Green, whose supporters have been involved in the attacks on Ouimet.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sun, Oct 24, 2010 : 9:57 p.m.

It is time to consider a different approach to this problem. Why not keep a modified per diem and instead eliminate commissioner salaries? In difficult economic times salaried commissioners are a luxury that Washtenaw County can no longer afford. Pay commissioners for performance (with simple and clear rules) rather than for just holding an office. They all have day jobs anyway. The focus of commissioner compensation should be on defraying expenses incurred in the public service. Eliminating salaries would save more money than just eliminating the per diem.


Sat, Oct 23, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

Thieves one and all. Throw all the bums out!

Joe Hood

Sat, Oct 23, 2010 : 12:02 a.m.

@Kristin I really like Openbook!


Fri, Oct 22, 2010 : 9:45 p.m.

Conferences in Hawaii? You have got to be FREAKING kidding me. The joke's on us, people.

Kristin Judge

Fri, Oct 22, 2010 : 5:15 p.m.

Dear Gulo Gulo, If you would ever like to sit down with me to go over the budget, I would be more than happy to explain what I can. It is a complicated document, but I will try to answer your question here: "With all due respect Commissioner Judge, I don't think you understand the county's budget. According to the 2010/11 budget posted online, Washtenaw County anticipates receiving about $46M FY2010 and about $42M FY2011 in Federal, State & Local revenues, or about 22% of the total $213M budget. Your claim that Washtenaw County receives $100M from other levels of government doesn't seem to be supported by what is online. Page D-2" Pages D-2 and D-7 will give you a better view. The total revenue for the county is $213 million. On page D-7 you will see that the General Fund Revenue is $99 million. The difference between the numbers comes in from Federal and State grants and revenue sharing that you can see in the "other revenue and net transfers" categories. That is a very simple explanation that is probably inadequate for your interest. Feel free to call me and we can sit down with someone from the Finance Department to get more details. 734-646-2088

Gulo gulo

Fri, Oct 22, 2010 : 8:10 a.m.

"Thanks for asking. We get $100 million from State and Federal Government to run programs like the jail, court system, Head Start, care for the mentally ill, public health etc. Then we have a general fund budget that is approximately $95 million that comes from county property tax and fees charged by the county " With all due respect Commissioner Judge, I don't think you understand the county's budget. According to the 2010/11 budget posted online, Washtenaw County anticipates receiving about $46M FY2010 and about $42M FY2011 in Federal, State & Local revenues, or about 22% of the total $213M budget. Your claim that Washtenaw County receives $100M from other levels of government doesn't seem to be supported by what is online. Page D-2

Tom Wieder

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 9:54 p.m.

@do not taunt happy fun ball- The size of Ouimet's district is totally irrelevant. The Board rules do not provide for per diems or mileage to drive around the district attending whatever meetings the Commissioner might wish to attend. The only things the rules allow per diems and mileage for are 1) Meetings of committees or subcommittees of the Board itself; and 2) Meetings of certain County boards, commissions and committees,if, and only if, the Commissioner has been appointed to serve on that body. That's it. So, you may think Ouimet's attendance at township board meetings, etc. is a good thing, but there is no provision for paying him to go to them, and that's the problem. BTW, while Ouimet's district may be large, he lives just 5 miles or so from the County Building, where many of the eligible meetings take place. Six of the eleven Commissioner's live further away than he does, and never came close to matching Ouimet's mileage haul. The only mileage reimbursement Commissioners are entitled to is from their home to the site of an eligible meeting.

Kristin Judge

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 9:09 p.m.

Chase: Thanks for asking. We get $100 million from State and Federal Government to run programs like the jail, court system, Head Start, care for the mentally ill, public health etc. Then we have a general fund budget that is approximately $95 million that comes from county property tax and fees charged by the county for things like deeds and birth certificates. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me directly for a quicker answer. or 734-646-2088

David Briegel

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 7:49 p.m.

Chase, YOU may know a lot more about that subject than the rest of us! And I see NO evidence of national parties involvement. Maybe you could enlighten us?

David Briegel

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 7:46 p.m.

Mick, I agree with you but that is not the way it was. Those were not the rules the Commissioners established. Our elected representatives determined their own rules. I have no stance except that I expect better of my representatives! And that IS what happened with the hockey club. It matters not what you and I think today.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 6:36 p.m.

You can have meetings by computer now there is no need to travel anywhere.Saves wear and tear on vehicles and doesnt use as much fossil fuels.Plus you can save time and attend 3 or 4 a day. Government needs to get in the 21st century

Larry Kestenbaum

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 6:03 p.m.

@ MjC: The commissioners pay themselves out of their own budget. Prior to the beginning of the year, the "approval signature" on a per diem claim was that of the commissioner who submitted it. That changed last January. Now a deputy county clerk, in my office, reviews and accepts or rejects each claim, based on the rules. @ Speechless: When I was a commissioner in 2000-02, there were some intricate rules surrounding per diems, including how late you could be to a meeting, and how long you had to stay, to be able to claim a per diem. The more senior commissioners told me that each of these provisions was added in response to past per diem abuses by some specific, named, board member. At that time, my wife and I had a 2-year-old child (she's now in middle school). Child care issues sometimes required me to arrive a little late or leave early. One reason I abstained from per diems was the concern that I'd run afoul of those rules just in the course of parenthood. I'm sorry I said or implied that the per diem rules weren't clear about which outside meetings were eligible for per diems. Commissioner Judge is absolutely correct about that part of the rules. Prior to this year, commissioners routinely claimed per diems for any and all meetings involving county business. But they all should have known better than to claim meetings that did not qualify for per diems under the rules. I admit to being surprised at some of the meetings that turned up in this review. We did not examine the issue of more than one per diem being claimed in the same day, because the rules do not address this. But "per diem" is Latin for "per day", and it does not reflect well on the board members to gather multiple per diems for one day's work.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 5:51 p.m.

Ron - You have to look at Mark's District - it is huge. It covers the entire NW quadrant of the county - what must be some 300 square miles (my guess?) He has about 8 townships/towns to meet with regularly - Four county commissioners have only One entity to deal with - AA. Each township has there own brew-haha meetings to go to (8x) and Mark makes most of them.. He is "the Hardest working Commissioner" we have. 1000+ meetings - are you kidding me - 1,000+ meeting - which County Commission can say they have been to over 1,000 formal local meeting in the Commissioner career? Mark deserves a medal!

Ron Granger

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 3:59 p.m.

"County records show Ouimet has far outpaced other commissioners in billing the county for per diems. In 2009, all 11 commissioners combined to claim $18,650. Of that, $6,550 went to Ouimet, while the other 10 commissioners averaged $1,210 apiece. In 2008, the 11 commissioners combined to claim $15,325 in per diems. Ouimet accounted for $6,450 or about 42 percent of the total for the entire board that year." --- Those ratios are disturbing, and not partisan. I question the ethics of anyone who doesn't find those ratios unusual. Ouimet's suggestion that everyone else should be investigated is sad. I wonder what is claimed in those tax returns? Maybe the IRS will take a look. Of course there might be a flurry of re-filing.

Chase Ingersoll

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 3:43 p.m.

Kristin: Please confirm your statement "....Over $100 million of our county budget comes from State and Federal Mandated programs...." So basically the County Board and bureaucracy is just "overseers" for the State and Federal bureaucracy that writes $100 mil of their budget, rather than public servants with loyalty to the Country voters/taxpayers. So what we have are State/National parties attempting to influence a local election so that they will have their guy/gal up in Lansing. We're getting pimped by our own parties.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 3:11 p.m.

Okay David but your stance makes no sense. The hockey team incident occurred because of lack of oversight. There just is no justification to use an "honor" system in dealing with funds. I used to investigate frauds, embezzlements and misuse of money and it all boiled down to improper oversight. If you rely on something like that, this is what happens, and this would not have happened if the county had proper procedures in place. This is public money and it must be safeguarded with controls. It limits waste, which most of us do not want to see in govt.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

I find it hilarious that Kristin Judge has been cited for some inappropriate reimbursements. Can the pot call the kettle black, Kristin? Ronnie Peterson is completely clean, but he had some recent problems in federal court in an unrelated matter. Is the per diem mess why Jessica Ping did not run again, but deftly allowed her sister to file in her place at the last minute? Looks like Barbara Levin Bergman will also wind up with a bit of egg on her face. The Democratic Party insiders may be sorry they raised this matter.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 2:44 p.m.

It's pretty hard to take Ouimet's protestations (and those of his supporters) seriously when he isn't even being truthful about his endorsements (until he's called on it.) More here:

David Briegel

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 2:44 p.m.

Mick, they were responsible and the clerks office never challenged. The Commissioners were in charge. It was an honor system!! They wrote the rules and determined their enforcement. The hockey case is not comparable because the people that wrote the rules never checked, audited or enforced. Speechless has an excellent post.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 2:39 p.m.

After looking at the spreadsheet, it appears that there could be a lot of confusion as to what meeting gets paid, and what meeting does not. I think those approving the checks should should have been able disapprove expenses that were ineligible, making the official aware of the problem before they submit more expenses for ineligible items. I know I want to get paid by my employer for any meeting possible and for driving to/from it. Ouimet is a stand up guy with integrity (I have worked with him on several boards). I believe this was not an error done purposely to fill his pockets and it's terrible this is being played against his character.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

David. No, no, no. There is no such thing as an honor system when one is in charge of handling public funds. Private too. Perhaps you recall a recent story about a treasurer for a youth hockey club who embezzled almost a million dollars. That was an honor system too, right? The previous story on this included some information that the whole process was confusing. If so, how can this have anything to do with honor/dishonor? Its not an honor system anymore is it?


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 1:35 p.m.

As I wrote following an earlier article, Ouimet's past per diem habits strike me as odd, more than anything else. Given the income that's flowed through his household down the years, the per diems by comparison add up to pocket change. It shouldn't have been worth the hassle to file the same paperwork forms over and over and over again, as he didn't need these small cash sums. His endless pre diem claim-making, well out of proportion to that of other county commisioners, comes across mostly as compulsive. It would be less of a election issue, except that Republican candidates in general identify themselves so very closely to campaign code words such as "fiscal responsibility," which in practice refers to a GOP emphasis on cutting services that primarily benefit the lower middle class and the poor. By now, Ouimet has lost 'bragging rights' to these code words in the district contest. The Dems on the commission, for their part, seem less than thrilled to have their lesser use of per diems and their travel expenses receive this much coverage. Still, they've put on a strong show of outward neutrality, including the County Clerk's peculiar insistence that the per diem rules lack clarity. They prefer to stay publicly on the sidelines while the Washtenaw GOP and Democratic party organizations carry on a vigorous, pre-election food fight. So, in the final days of the fall campaign season, the tally in this contest may come down to district voters' evaluation of Mark Oumet's per diems from the county versus Christine Green's personal tax situation from 25 years ago.

Tom Harrison

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 1 p.m.

As a person who lives and works in the county and having followed this story closely, I have a couple of observations: In my opinion, if Ms. Green's motivation were genuine this should have come to light several months ago instead of waiting until this close to the election. It appears to be a purely political maneuver. Unfortunately, the same can be said of Ms. Judge. It appears she has no problem handing out indictments to others while she hopes her request for travel expenses won't be a public issue. She does hold a public office. Again, it appears to be a purely politcal maneuver. If Mr. Ouimet and others on the board, have submitted these expenses and been reimbursed for many years, this is a reflection on the policies and procedures of the county. The same is true in a business. When our employees travel, we expect them to submit their expenses. They are reviewed, approved and employees are reimbursed for those expenses. Any questionable expenses are discussed with the employee and may not get paid. Mr. Ouimet has called for an independent investigation of the expenses for all of the commissioners, which is exactly what needs to happen. If Mr. Ouimet needs to reimburse the county for some of those expenses, I am confident that he will. Mr. Ouimet is a person of integrity and has a well established reputation as an honest and dedicated public servant.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 12:53 p.m.

OMG!! Politicians engaged in politics as we near an election! I am shocked, shocked, do you hear!? repub vs dem, who is worse? Neither, of course. However, I find it interesting that repubs tend to run on "moral, Family Values, Biblical principles, etc" grounds. This sets them up for ridicule when something like this hits the fan. Akin to running ads lambasting Bankers, career politicians and corrupt govt officials, then backing a career pol that has a background in banking, with a reimbursement scandal looming. Back in The Day, we called it Flip Flopping. Not so much anymore.

David Briegel

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

Mick, you obviously missed the simple fact that it is an HONOR system. The individual is automatically assumed to have read AND followed the rules. Seriously, should we taxpayers pay for media interviews?


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 11:45 a.m.

Kristin Judge, Talk about over-inflating things. Oh my. Doesnt the county pay thousands each year to be a member of a county association to lobby for counties? Dont you pay still more for your own county lobbyist? Or are you contending that you are a necessity and that you are working in place of these costly expenses? Have you ever considered picking up the phone? It might work wonders and save the county money. But probably not as exciting as jet-setting. You were the only commissioner who brought up the idea of CVS card? I think not.

David Briegel

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 11:42 a.m.

Stephen, How can you jump from the family going to the county paying their way?? Not one person ever discussed the county paying the costs and expenses of family travel before YOU! How silly?


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 11:29 a.m.

Thank you for the info on the spending habits of the other commissioners. I propose that Mr. Ouimet's expenses may be due to being far more active than his fellow commissioners, most of whom are putting in unqualified chits. I also stand firm in my contention that the fault here is with county admin who allowed this to happen in the first place. Whoever is writing the checks is supposed to know the expense is authorized.

David Briegel

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 11:12 a.m.

Mrbuilder, attack me all you wish. You did not respond to the issues I raised here and elsewhere? How convenient. Who were you quoting when put quotation marks around the greedy, grafting nonsense? I know it wasn't me! Actually, I think Dems and Repubs are both human with different philosophies and positions on issues. How about you? Look at the open response of Kristin Judge. That is what I would expect from a leader! DonBee, I respect your approach and your posts. I think you should reconsider your conclusion. Maybe the independent counsel can rush his report!

Stephen Landes

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 10:58 a.m.

@David Briegel In all my years of working I have never had a company pay for travel for anyone but me. If I wanted to take my family on a business trip that cost was purely mine to bear. I can't imagine that the County policy is any different, so if any commissioner charged family travel expenses to the County that amount should be repaid.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 10:49 a.m.

I think there is one simple solution to this in the future. Require all commissioners, staff and committee members who travel to conferences or spend public funds attending meetings document the value of their attendance at these meetings for us the citizens and taxpayers. If they can't provide concrete proof, then they should be required to reimburse the taxpayer for the travel. I think that Kristin Judge account of her value at attending these meetings is overstated. These are not huge sums of money and she probably could have gotten those funds by applying directly to the source for them. Others claim they attend these meetings to "get ideas" which I doubt very seriously. There have been tremendous abuse of taxpayer funds for by county officials over the years for travel, yet no one has ever made a big deal out of it. Why now? It's interesting that three of the most effective commissioners used very little taxpayer funds for travel.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 10:17 a.m.

@Ryan. I know this is an issue that has to be reported on and good job on the reporting. How about hosting candidate debates and airing them on here live? A little off topic for this article, but relevant to a voter concerned about what these candidates will stand for in Lansing.

Kristin Judge

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 10:04 a.m.

@a2Huron - thanks for the compliment. "If Judge is the lead on this thing then it seems she has trouble working with her own side of the aisle let alone an inability to reach across to the other side of the aisle. No bipartisanship there at all." It has clearly been established that I am not the "lead" on anything except asking commissioners to follow their own rules. I did not do the FOIA, I did not present the concerns to the board, and I did not break the rules. I am proud that I don't think about working with just Democrats or make sure to work with just Republicans. I do not think that way. It is not about party. I believe the American people including the residents in Washtenaw want elected officials who are willing to stand up for the truth, follow the rules and be willing to take the heat for doing the right thing regardless of party affiliation. Your comment confirms for me that I am not much of a "politician". I am a public servant who works for the people, not to please the other elected officials. @sbbuilder - "Would any of you folks who are ready to cast stones be prepared to swear in court that the evidence you have is the Truth, so help you?" Absolutely I would swear in court that the evidence is the truth. I read the board rules in the public meeting last night (twice). To take it a step further, I have requested our administration to instruct our independent legal council to rule on which per diems were ineligible for funding. I expect the report to be completed next week, and I will be the first to write a check for $30.50 which is the amount I was incorrectly paid for attending a meeting of the Michigan Association of Counties. Then, I will call on all my colleagues to write a check for the amount determined to be an overpayment by our legal council. "He also presented evidence to show Judge, in her first term in office, has spent more than $8,000 attending conferences around the country in locales as far as Reno, Nevada." @Zoe - I have traveled out of county on county business to attend National Association of Counties, Michigan Association of Counties and other conferences. The Board of Commissioners pays dues to the National Association of Counties and Michigan Association of Counties. I am the only member of our board who is a committee member for both organizations. Our Justice and Public Safety Committee helps to write policy and advocate for passage in Lansing and D.C. Over $100 million of our county budget comes from State and Federal Mandated programs. If we are not at the table when the laws that effect our services are written, we are being negligent. All my travel was reimbursed according to county rules. I have explained the return on investment on my website at (I just updated if for you Zoe, all travel is now on there.) As a result of my travel, I have already saved taxpayers over $3,000 in the first month of the CVS/Caremark Prescription Discount Card. I have also brought in $5,000 in revenue into the sheriff's office, and I will be bringing in up to $40,000 in the next year to hire two part-time employees to manage the Washtenaw County Cyber Citizenship Coalition. Had I not attended these conferences, this money would not be coming into the county. The return on investment for the $8,000 spent so far has been approximately $8,000. By the end of the year, it will be well over $8,000 with a net gain to the county and residents. "Boonstra specifically called out Judge, making reference to an e-mail she sent in July to Commissioner Bergman in which she "sought to divert extra travel dollars from other commissioners to her own use, and to do so in secrecy," Boonstra said. In the e-mail obtained by, Judge states: 'I do not expect you to vote for me to increase my travel expenses, but I do hope that you will not make it a public issue.'" This email has been up on my website for a couple weeks now. The board rules are written in a way that require a commissioner to publicly come to the board for a vote on increasing their share of a limited fund for commissioner expense. (Everything was public) If you want to see the public discussion, visit the board meeting at: and a description of the meetings at: My reference in the email to Commissioner Bergman was to not make a public "spectacle" about the issue when I discussed it at the board meeting. There was nothing to hide. I had just hoped that she would respect the board rules and not make it personal. As I have said before, if any resident wants to contact me about any issue related to county government, all they need to do is call me on my personal cell phone (the number is on the county site). Remember, I turned in my county cell phone which has already saved the taxpayers over $1,000.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

Where there is smoke, there is usually fire. It kills me to see all the local business people meet up with this candidate to help support them and after they get elected, there is nothing in return. I've seen it first hand. Insanity is "repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results.". Don't vote kids.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 9:34 a.m.

Mr Briegel One would think by reading your posts that you must think all Dems not only wear white hats, but white robes as well, with matching sandals and halos. Isn't there a scintilla of questioning in you brain that says "Not every Repub is a greedy, grafting, big business evil person?" It makes me nervous when I see people having their minds completely made up before all the evidence is in. If you are OK with that, well fine. Probably the largest precient issue here is recognizing last minute political mud slinging when you see it. I for one refuse to take the bait. I don't care which side is being maligned. If it occurs moments before election, then you've got to understand that there are unsaid issues at stake.

David Briegel

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 9:04 a.m.

clownfish, I have asked repeatedly for someone to defend the "laundering" of taxpayer dollars by Mark to his charity for the resulting tax deduction. Not one taker! Do all you Republicans think it appropriate for Mark to be paid to go to an interview with the media for his campaign? Fiscal Conservatives, indeed! Good thing Mark wasn't an evil Liberal!! "The timing" was in response to County Administration! MjC, The "approval" was the honor system. Think how much time Mark must have spent filling out the forms and paperwork and keeping track of his mileage! DeeDee, they allege Dems are evil but Repubs all wear white hats! Mark Brewer is evil so maybe we can get that saintly, repudiated Mike Cox to come help us here? Zoe, are you really saying that families shouldn't travel together?


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 9:03 a.m.

@Zoe In my opinion, I believe Mark Ouimet did take advantage of the per diem and mileage reimbursement system for his personal gains. As did other WC members to a lesser extent. I also believe Kristin Judge did what she believed was right. She is the one that initiated and implemented the open financial disclosure rules so the residents of WC can look at the finances of our county government. A very good thing. HOWEVER, the timing to pursue this against Mark Quiment COULD NOT have been worse. This is an issue that was put forth by the WC Democratic Party for political reasons and Kristin Judge reacted. She probably felt what she was doing was right. Particularly for someone that promotes openness. If people are to blame, it should be Mark Ouiment and the Democratic Party leadership.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

As a lifelong Michigan resident, I have been trained that upon hearing hoofbeats it is prudent to look first for horses, not zebras. When one commissioner is responsible for what seems to be about 65-70 percent of questionable expenses, I don't need to look first at the rest of the commissioners. Having said that, I think we as alert taxpayers need to consider the ramifications of this whole zesty stew as it applies to the ongoing crisis so capably alerts us to, virtually on a daily basis. What are we to do about the roving bands of homeless SSI recipients, many of them card-carrying medical marijuana recipients, who are flocking to our sacred community secure in the knowledge that they will be mistaken for U-M students and allowed to pursue their godless agendas of mindless hedonism unmolested? I believe Commissioner Ouimet should commission a study of this issue involving travel by himself and Ms. Judge to another American community with similar problems, like Honolulu. Their problems with hospitality-abusing homeless SSI recipients stoned on marijuana are especially like ours in February, I understand.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 8:42 a.m.

electablog: "Timing? Who gives a hoot about the timing." Answer: Everyone who wants to get to the bottom of this as dispassionately as possible. The _ has hit the proverbial fan, and just about everyone in the room has been sprayed. These problems have a way of working themselves out, problem is, it takes time. In the end, all will be settled. But, you see, we don't have time, do we? The Dems knew about this months ago, by their own admission. They chose the timing of this because they knew 1) it would be a hot topic and 2) the chance for a real resolution before election would be slim. Answer me this: How many of the Commissioners, prior to all the hullabaloo, were in complete agreement as to the reimbursement rules? Hmmmmm? Even after? Would any of you folks who are ready to cast stones be prepared to swear in court that the evidence you have is the Truth, so help you? Well, there you have it. The Dems have one goal in mind here, and that is to cast a shadow of doubt. It seems they have accomplished as much. After the dust (or the _) settles, I hope this conversation is revisited. I'm just envisioning a number of you quietly dropping your stones and walking away.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 8:38 a.m.

What a can of worms. If Judge is the lead on this thing then it seems she has trouble working with her own side of the aisle let alone an inability to reach across to the other side of the aisle. No bipartisanship there at all. Can't say I have ever seen one person who can be so divisive and alienate so many people. A personality trait? Board members should be able to agree to disagree, but this goes way beyond that. Should be a fun year ahead of budget cutting. Let's lay off some more employees and cut benefits like employee health care but don't dare touch commissioner travel budgets. Not only does Judge want to form a county-wide police department and force all other county departments to disband but she also wants those are are doing just fine to pay more to subsidize others. Sweet deal for a select few. But hey "let's not make this a 'public' issue" right Ms. Judge? Let's keep it to ourselves.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

You can watch this board meeting and all others for yourself on the BOC site.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 8:27 a.m.

So... giving ill-gotten gains to charity forgives the initial ill-getting? Not sure that's how things work.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 8:22 a.m.

These are the type of actions of Mark Brewer and the Michigan Democratic Party. Lies, half truths, and innuendo. He is a cancer on Michigan politics.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 8:13 a.m.

maybe I am missing something and not as strident as I should be what stands out to me is that $100 here or $30 there and some marked as questionable standing in very stark contrast to *Ouimet's $35,000*...followed by Ping? who is responsible with the money? nobody is perfect but clearly there some of this spending is not like the others.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 8:11 a.m.

DeeDee, re-read your own entry. You use the word "apparently" but later say things like "the facts" and "the data is right there..." Next time I'm on trial as a witch I hope you are not on the jury. MjC, I think culpability is shared between the commissioners and the person signing the report. Finlly, the fact that we are squabbling about this small amount of money is embarrassing, but if some of it is recovered, I hope the county will give it to the city of Ann Arbor to enable them to plow the snow on my road once this winter.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 8:05 a.m.

Kristin Judge the one who tries to hold herself up on some pedestal as an honest public servant only doing the bidding of county residents is proven to have dirty hands in this whole mess??? Actually had the gall to try to cover her actions up by asking others to keep it a secret? I sure hope News investigates this further. If she has attempted or committed a scam she should immediately resign. County prosecutor should investigate it unless he is endorsing her campaign this year. Seems that transparency and open book doesnt apply to Kristin Judge. Only the little people. How on earth does one person spend over $8000 in public funds to travel in less than two years????? Seems like she forgot to tell her residents about the total amount on her website. Oops. Now Kristin Judge wants even more public $$$$ to travel? How much? $10000? $15000? At a time when the private sector is cutting back and forgoing travel she is doing the opposite. Kristin Judge must disclose why it was impossible to not pick up the phone or use internet to learn the same things that travel provided. Kristin Judge must disclose under oath if family traveled with her on any of these trips. Seems like nice vacations even with stale chicken. Such a sacrifice. Now is time that travel is eliminated from the county budget. Too much abuse. Guesses which person will vote against that?


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 7:49 a.m.

@DEEDEE, also note that the "small govt" republicans are also supporting a former banker (while they rail against TARP and bankers) and a career politician (while they rail against same)! Mr. Ouimet has been a pol for decades, and has been gunning for a rep/senate spot for years, but somehow he does not rise to the level of "career politician"? @electablog--I stood next to Mr Ouimet in Chelsea while a man was ranting about the "liberal fascists taking our freedoms", he was spewing nonsense. I expected Mr Ouimet to calm the man down and talk common sense, as Mark is a pretty sensible guy, but he just stood there and nodded, happy to have a vote. The other guy was spouting lies and falsehoods normally heard on the Glenn Beck and Rush shows, totally disconnected from reality. If a gentlemen like Mr ouimet is not going to correct Miss Information....where have the common sense moderates run off to? For those that are upset over "the timing", when would you have this information presented to you? after the election? What difference does it make if Ouimet gave the per diems to charity? If he did that, he must not need the reimbursements, so why put in for SO MUCH? That, IMHO, is taking tax payer money in order to transfer it to HIS chosen charity. I am wondering, If his opponent took per diems and gave the money to say... "build the Muslim Community Center Fund", would the GOP leave it alone? Methinks not. Methinks the outrage would be palpable, the robo-calls would be fast and furious and Ms Green would now be known as the Bill Ayers of Washtenaw County.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 7:19 a.m.

"The clerk's report shed light on the fact that seven other commissioners on the 11-member board have billed the county for attendance at meetings that don't appear to be eligible for payment." So whose approval signature is on these expense reports? I find it very hard to believe that Kestenbaum's office did not have clear policies about what can and can't be reimbursed. If a business expense report was submitted and approved then there shouldn't be a problem conducting an audit after the fact!


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 7:13 a.m.

So, it's hard to understand why everyone seems to be making excuses and screaming partisanship here, when we have two commissioners who have between them apparently got over $14,000 in unallowable expenses that they have charged for, and all the other five of them put together have less then $1000 of unallowable expenses. That's a huge difference. And, it's the "small government" "save the tax payer money" republicans who are doing it??? Why don't the facts matter to their supporters? The data is right there - you don't have to have a political view to wonder about it.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 7:09 a.m.

When is Christine Green's back tax problems going to be the top story for 3 straight days on Mark has probably attended the most meetings of all other commissioners combined. This is pure politics and this site is Christine Green's mouthpiece.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 6:57 a.m.

The common folk need to just shut up and pay their taxes. NM

mike wynn

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 6:32 a.m.

I have to say, I am disappointed in the slanted reporting on this story. You have to read very carefully, way past the headlines, to see that commissioner Ouimet: 1. Has donated all his reimbursements to charity 2. Has agreed to reimburse the county for any expenses deemed ineligable 3. Has paid for his own travel when travelling outside the county The part that disappoints me the most (about the reporting) is that comission Ouimet was wrongly accused by the Democratic party to have racked up thousands of dollars in out-of-county travel expenses, when these were actually atributed to a Democrat. Which you can find out if you read through the second half of the second article on this topic.

5c0++ H4d13y

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 6:23 a.m.

Insert outrage or support based on politics here.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 5:51 a.m.

"The timing of ALL of this was PURE politics. Shame, shame on all of you!" Timing? Who gives a hoot about the timing. This man is running for state Congress. If he's fiscally irresponsible, I, for one, don't want him representing me. And these slanderous attack robocalls from his party against Christine Green just show that he's a dirty-Republican-politics-as-usual candidate. If Ouimet can't stand up to his party running odious ads on his behalf, why would we ever expect he'll be able to stand up to his party chiefs when he gets to Lansing? Answer: he won't. He'll fall in line and be a "good Republican" just like they all do once they get into state government and beyond.


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 5:28 a.m.

This is a much more balanced report than the prior one. It shows a board that has to a large extent, all done things that one was accused of in yesterday's article and in the various other media. I am saddened by the level of political games that are being played. We as a state need real answers to our issues, not games and party politics. None of this helps get our jobs back and none of it helps bring business to the state, or county. The timing of ALL of this was PURE politics. Shame, shame on all of you!


Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 5:24 a.m.

Sickening! We have people losing their homes, unemployed, schools struggling to stay afloat and we have his kind of non-sense coming from our eleted representatives. I am starting to have some serious questions about Kristin Judge.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 : 5:22 a.m.

Well, all the commissioners should have read the Board rules. They are approved by the BOC at the beginning of each term. Mr. Kestenbaum read them when he was on the BOC, I'm sure.