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Posted on Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:50 p.m.

Independent review of Washtenaw County commissioner expenses to cost $2,000-plus

By Ryan J. Stanton

Washtenaw County Administrator Verna McDaniel has asked for an independent review of per diem payments and mileage reimbursements for all 11 county commissioners.

McDaniel said today the review is independent of County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum's recent analysis that showed more than $26,000 in payments to commissioners between 2005 and 2009 that were deemed either ineligible or questionable.


Verna McDaniel

McDaniel said the review will be completed by Casey Zaski, senior auditor from the Rehmann Robson public accounting firm, and it will begin immediately.

The review is expected to cost the county between $2,000 and $2,500, McDaniel said. The estimated timeline for completion isn't yet known, she said.

In addition to the review, McDaniel said she plans to present a revised process for submitting per diems and mileage reimbursements to the county board for consideration.

The question of commissioner per diems and mileage first surfaced last month when the Washtenaw County Democratic Party publicly alleged Republican Commissioner Mark Ouimet, who is running for the 52nd District state House seat against Democrat Christine Green, had habitually billed the county for meetings ineligible under country rules.

Kestenbaum's office conducted a review in light of the allegations, determining that more than $16,600 — or about 51 percent — of Ouimet’s total payments of $32,805 from 2005 to 2009 were deemed either ineligible or questionable. And more than $4,800 — or about 43 percent — of Republican Commissioner Jessica Ping's total payments of $11,389 from 2007 to 2009 were deemed either ineligible or questionable.

The two Republican commissioners accounted for the majority of the payments in question, which led Ouimet to question whether partisan politics played a role in the Democratic county clerk's report. Ouimet called for an independent review and said he'd repay the county if such an analysis found he owed any money.

McDaniel said she took the liberty under her authority as county controller to complete an independent review with the aim of seeking closure to the issue.

Other commissioners who owe significantly smaller sums of money have pledged to repay — or already have repaid — the county for their own payments in question.

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


Bob Needham

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 10:17 a.m.

(off topic comment removed)

David Briegel

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 9:53 a.m.

jondhall, have you been paying attentio? Endorsed Snyder, Ouimet. Huge mistake but that is what they did. You should be thrilled! Quit whining!


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

Nice article on election eve, imagine that. Why not just fly a banner over the old Ann Arbor News building? Slanted one sided, dirt throwing, liberal paper! Get some of your liberal professors to comment, remember "liberals did not make this coutry what it was, they are making it what it is, nothing". Time's a changing. Tommorrow morning is a "new day".


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 8:43 a.m.

I do hope that the results of this independent audit are published. The sad part is that we have accountants employed by the County no doubt and we pay them to do this type of work.....but due to partisanship we can't "trust" them to do an honest audit. Restore the Sanity

David Briegel

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 8:25 a.m.

Bob, did you read the article and the posts. Honor System! The Commissioners are the boss. They make the rules, and enforce the rules. The employees are their clerks. You can wonder all you want! That is how it was and you found out just how "honorable" some were or weren't!! KeepingItReal, I had a similar experience with an employer who wanted me to travel, network, learn, recharge batteries etc. He knew he benefitted far more than the cost of the trips. Far More! Again, Please at least pretend you can be "fiscal conservative" when it comes to one of your own. Please. If you do you will vote for Christine Green as I did!


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 8:24 a.m.

Do not taunt happy fun ball very sensitive name, I will try not to taunt So I bit, and looked a little but this site has a fair amount of information on it much of which is still unsubstantiated, but it may certainly be true. As I read it C. Judge was able to bring this prescription drug discount card to residents at no cost. But you say there is a nefarious undertone and maybe you are right. If so lets question that and possibly say, no thank you to it. Thanks for raising the concern. Oh, and there is another similar concern that has been substantiated by our county clerk. Mr. Ouimet has been showing up to meetings that he has not been appointed to just to say he did so and then charge the county for it (this is the subject of this thread). I am not guessing at this BTW, I was at one where he showed to everyones surprise, introduced himself, said hi, gave 30 seconds on what he stands for (politically) and left. He was not in the room for more than 5 minutes.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 6:25 a.m.

see search google, I did.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 6:19 a.m.

Fun Ball, Also, does Ann allow candidates to run attack ads for free under the comments section? Wow,a lot of candidates could have saved a lot of money this fall!


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 6:16 a.m.

Fun Ball, any research would include a valid source....otherwise it is only conjecture.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 6:08 a.m.

So her is my researched attack ad against Judge - Judge & CVS Caremark Sells Consumer Information to Drug Manufacturers, Others. Big Pharama and Kristine Judge want to sell your private health information to make Billions using the CVS prescription drug card. Sad but true, CVS is selling private patient information collected on discount cards and prescriptions to Multi-National Pharmaceutical companies to make huge profits. Judge continues the scam bringing the card to Washtenaw county and it's senior citizens -- but an investigation found... "While CVS Caremark claims to save health plans money, pharmaceutical manufacturers are paying it to promote expensive drugs." CVS Caremark 'does not' highlight to its Washtenaw customers that it sells consumer information to drug manufacturers and other third parties. However, these practices are often allowed under its contracts with plans, such as this contract with the Maryland Montgomery County Public Schools Prescription Benefit Services Agreement with Caremark! Kristen Judge and Big Pharama - Washtenaw county does not need that kind of medicine.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 5:21 a.m.

@David Briegel: While Commissioner is to be commended for her command of the working of the board, is that really the role of a commisssioner. It seems that Commissionenr Judge takes every opportunity to travel justifying her actions by reporting how much money she saves taxpayers or how much money she generates for her communtiy. My point is show me the money not the rhetoric. Perhaps its important to you that Judge provides facts about the working of the board, but I'm more interested in whether her attendnace at these meetings are really that necessary. Many of the fund she talks about can be obtain by simply getting access to the funders' website. This whole episode sounds awfully political to me and design to win votes for Christine Green. For this simple reason alone, I will not vote for Christine Green.


Tue, Nov 2, 2010 : 5:08 a.m.

Part of my job is reviewing all reimbursements before they are submitted for payment. My signature on the request means that I am approving the reimbursement. Inappropriate reimbursement requests or reimbursement requests that are filled out inappropriately are denied or returned so they can be filled out correctly.. If there are any questions, they come to me. I can't help but wonder: 1. Somebody is responsible for approving all these reimbursements. Who is this and why isn't this level of administration even mentioned in the article - sure seems like an obvious detail a competent reporter would look for. 2. McDaniel couldn't wait 48 hours so there would be no appearance of a political agenda? The timing of this is beyond suspicious.

Tom Wieder

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 11 p.m.

@ gettin old Certainly no reason not to look at all commissioners for any period chosen. The six years does make sense, however, since it is the period for the general civil statute of limitations under Michigan law. That's not how the focus started at 6 years (that was because of the focus on Ouimet), but, coincidentally, it does make some sense independent of that.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 9:56 p.m.

gettin old, this story has been told before. I left the BOC at the end of 2004. During the last three or four years I was there, we went through a similar exercise twice. All the expense records (not the conference travel records) of commissioners were produced at the request of one of the Republican commissioners. A couple of the Dem commissioners had high numbers but with only a few questionables, and one of the Republican commissioners had very high numbers but were mostly according to the rules. There have been a couple of times then and since when credit card and travel to conference records were FOIAed by members of the public but little notice was taken of that. As the county clerk, Larry Kestenbaum, has tried to explain several times, it is very hard for county staff to tell commissioners what to do. Though commissioners are treated as employees for the purpose of compensation and benefits, they are actually the bosses. Verna McDaniel has shown a good deal of strength in moving to put it all on a neutral professional basis. I think this series of embarrassments will perhaps have a good overall effect of firming up the procedures. Until the next time.

gettin old

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 9:18 p.m.

I will ask again... what about the commissioners who served during this time period and are no longer in office. Why only go back to 2005? Will we only be looking at the time period in which Mr. Ouimet served in office?

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

I think that this discussion would be helped by a link to the actual rules: Please see item VIII A. It lists the permissible meetings for which a commissioner may claim a per diem and mileage. If I read one of the succeeding paragraphs properly, it appears that members of other boards and commissions no longer receive meeting payments. I hope that is correct. I believe that Ms. McDaniel took exactly the correct action in order to restore the public confidence in an orderly conduct of business at the county. I hope that it will be followed by a vote for Cmr. Gunn's resolution to halt such payments in the future.

Larry Kestenbaum

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 8:22 p.m.

Several of y'all seem to be under the impression that Commissioner Ouimet's per diems are being singled out for attention. That is not correct. The report prepared by my office covered per diems and mileage for ALL eleven commissioners. The auditor's report will do exactly the same thing. I'm confident that the auditor's independent report will show the same results as our report.

Tom Wieder

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 7:40 p.m.

@Happy Fun Ball - "Tell me if the rules state a County Commissioner gets a $25 per diem for each meeting they attend? Is/was that the rule??" No! No! No! That isn't and never was the rule. The per diems may be collected only for attending meetings of certain committees and subcommittees of the Board of Commissioners, itself, and for attending meetings of other specified, official County boards, committees and commissions, if, and only if, the Commissioner had been appointed to serve on that body by the Board or its Chair. Ouimet claimed and received per diems for attending nearly 100 township board meetings. He was not "appointed" to those boards - how could he be? - and had no official role there. He was free to stop by, but he wasn't free to charge the taxpayers $25, plus mileage, for doing so. He charged for "meeting" with County employees - there's nothing in the rules allowing that; it's part of the job for which he gets a salary. He certainly wasn't appointed to The Ann Arbor News and, but he charged for "meeting" with them. Ouimet is either corrupt or dumb. If he took money for meetings that he knew didn't qualify, he's corrupt. If he honestly couldn't figure out that hundreds of the things he claimed fees for couldn't possibly be covered by the rules, he's dumb. @George Houchens - "My question is why was this commisioner (and probably others) reimbursed if the claimed expenses were illegitimate?" First of all, the vast majority of the money Ouimet received, $25,925, was not "expenses." It was compensation, fees, money he could spend however he liked. It was not reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses. He was able to collect these without getting caught, because the Board of Commissioners has no "superior" in the county government. They are at the top. It was, until changed this year, an "honor system." Whatever each Commissioner submitted was paid. Largely in response to Ouimet's excesses, that was changed at the start of 2010. Now, the County Clerk checks the submissions for compliance with the rules. As a result, Ouimet's fees and mileage plummeted to a small fraction of what they had been.

David Briegel

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 7:33 p.m.

gorc, where have you been? There was an honor system. Nobody checked, nobody approved. Each Commissioner was assumed to be honorable. How did that work? At least we found out who was More or Less honorable!


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 7:13 p.m.

While the county is at it - should check county employees using county cars to go home and who mostly reside outside the county...what a waste for taxpayers money.

Basic Bob

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 6:56 p.m.

Fiscal responsibility does not mean spending other people's money on unnecessary programs like the county cyber coalition. I'm not seeing the goals or purpose of this committee at all.


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 6:43 p.m.

When I submitted an expense reimbursement to my employer, my direct supervisor reviews it for accuracy and then he/she approves it. Then the expense report is submitted to accounts payable. Someone help me understand the process that county uses (if any). Is it safe for me to assume no one reviews the expenses or approves them prior to payment? If some one does review them prior to being submitted...shouldn't that person have a level of accountability if something was improperly submitted? Please educate me on the counties accounting/reimbursement processes.

David Briegel

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 6:36 p.m.

Does anyone here besides me notice how Kristin Judge always produces facts? Do any of you notice how Sean Gray, DonBee, Geo Houchens, David Parker produce rhetoric? KeepingItReal, you might want to keep it real and read how Kris has provided more documentation about the workings of the County Board than any other single person. You might also wish to consider the Silence of Mr Ouimet! But then, that would really be "keepin' It Real" now, wouldn't it?!!! Do ANY of you have Mr Ouimet's cell phone number?? That just might give you a small hint to the truth!! I trust Verna McDaniel to do the right thing! You will all be embarrassed! Fiscal Conservative has become an oxymoron in Washtenaw County!!


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 6:13 p.m.

"Independent review of Washtenaw County commissioner expenses to cost $2000-plus"...and the need to publish this article the night before the election makes sense HOW? I wish that could have called a moratorium on any articles that are just bound to bring the other players out to squabble (Ms. Judge, Mr. Gray- that means you).

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 5:10 p.m.

Wow good for her! That is a lot of money missing, and I hope they all repay as they should.


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 5:09 p.m.

@KeepingItReal: Good point. These types of trips are ridiculous. Where's the proof that these trips bring back anything at ALL, except for the person that traveled. How about taking a trip on your OWN dime and get reimbursed if it results in anything substantial? Bet THAT would slow down these "trips".


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 4:58 p.m.

@Kristin Judge: Please provide documentation as to the thousands of dollars that your travels have resulted in savings for residents using the prescription drug discount card. Too often, county officials like to think their travel to out of town conferences result in good things for us the taxpayers but you never provide any proof. Many of these things you take credit will happen anyway whether the commissioners attend these conferences or not. Maybe I'm being cynical but it appears that you are positioning yourself for a higher political office.


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

@ Sean Gray "make Commissioners think first before spending our money like they're entitled to it and then arrogantly tell us it's for our own good."... I think you are right on target here. Something is very wrong with the "per diems" and I think an audit is required. Many of these Washtenaw County Commissioners seem to think they are free to raise taxes without giving any thought to what the people of Wasthenaw County want. And to spend our tax dollars on their fav. organizations. Mark Ouimet was one of those Commissioners that raised our taxes without allowing us to vote on the tax increase. Remember Act 88? If you want higher taxes vote for Mark Ouimet. I tend to be a Republican, but I will NOT be voting for Mark Ouimet. We should note that Kristin Judge was one of 2 Commissioners I believe to vote against the Act 88 tax increase. Judge earned my respect that day. (No, I'm not in Judge's camp. As I said I tend to be a Republican, but I appreciate that Judge stood up for what is right. We I get the chance I just may vote for her.)


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 4:45 p.m.

This article could have waited for poll closing tomorrow. Then it would not seem to have a political spin. But, it does. Too bad.


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 4:39 p.m.

larry kramer You stalking me boy? Why bring me into this? Just so you know my postition on this is fire anyone with wrong doings, and bring charges against anyone who broke the law. I don't see either side doing this, this is politics at it's worst.

George Houchens

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 4:27 p.m.

If the accusers of Mr. Oimet were really interested in doing what is right, they would order an investigation of ALL Commissioner expense reports for the past 10 years or so. My question is why was this commisioner (and probably others) reimbursed if the claimed expenses were illegitimate? Who should have been policing this function? Maybe it was the lady who is now asking for an investigation?????? More CYA?

Kristin Judge

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 4:05 p.m.

@Sean Gray Your comment unfortunately shows your lack of knowledge about the county budget and your hope to win a campaign by using half-truths. "This is a good thing. It will show that Commissioner Judge was the only Commissioner to travel to vacation-type destinations like Reno, Chicago and Boyne using county money; a little late to hold her accountable during this election... but still a good thing nonetheless." First of all, the audit will NOT look at commissioner travel to conferences and conventions. That has never been in question, because all travel I have done has been done by the rules. As a member of the National Association of Counties and Michigan Association of Counties Justice and Public Safety Committees I have attended their conferences. Our committees help write legislation that directly impacts funding for counties. Since $100 million of our budget comes from state and federal mandates, I think it is important that we are at the table when the legislation is being discussed/drafted. My "trips" have resulted in thousands of savings for residents with the NACo Prescription Drug Discount Card and a $5,000 grant for our Cyber Coalition. That has more than paid for my expenses. The audit is only looking at per diem and milage expenses from Before Commissioner Smith and I brought the flex accounts to the board as a measure to cap commissioner spending. Prior to the flex accounts, the per diem and milage line items of the commissioner budget had no limits. Commissioner spending was $72,000 in 2008 and $67,000 in 2009. After the flex accounts were put into place commissioner spending was capped at $39,050. To see the commissioner spending from 2005-2010, please visit my website at: In addition to putting a cap on spending, the flex accounts also tied a name to every dollar just as you suggested we do. The transparency initiative is also something I brought back from a conference I attended. Now all commissioner spending including any travel expenses can be found on the Open Book ewashtenaw site at: No resident will need to FOIA future commissioner spending. It will all be online. The checkbook is there also, and salaries and credit cards will be up after the first of the year. If anyone has any questions about the work I have done for the residents of Washtenaw County, they are free to call me anytime at 734-646-2088 or email me at


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.

@happy fun ball: accusing this media company of being far left is pretty funny. They did endorse Bush -- twice!

larry kramer

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 3:56 p.m.

isn't cinnabar some kind of rock? figures!

David Briegel

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 3:40 p.m.

I have never, ever seen either political party defend expense account padding and resume padding to this extent. If Republicans had any shame, they would applly those fiscal conservative principles that they want us to believe they stand for. They can only do that for Dems and not The Bridge To Nowhere Crowd! Hypocrisy is not a value!

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 3:28 p.m.

There really is no charge here, just another desperate measure by a far left organization and their hacks in the press. Tell me if the rules state a County Commissioner gets a $25 per diem for each meeting they attend? Is/was that the rule?? If so, Mark has been to over a 1,000 meetings in his extensively large 300+ square mile district over the past decade. 1000 x $25 = $25,000. or is that wrong somehow. Include mileage paid at about.30-.40/mile and you get 1000+ meeting x guessing 20 miles driven x about.35 cents/mile = about $7,000 in mileage refunds. Is this about right? Is this why the AA News has written breathlessly about Mark O. and his reimbursements? I wish all my representatives worked as hard. It is a Republican Landslide tomorrow of historic proportions - write about that!


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 3:02 p.m.

@david parker, the timing of the allegations may be political, but that doesn't take away from their validity.

Tom Wieder

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 3 p.m.

@Boots- The point of an "escrow" is that an independent third party is given control of the funds. For this to work, the County would need to know where the escrowed funds are, who controls them, and what the rules are for disbursing them. Ouimet putting them into another account at his own bank, that he controls (the account, not the bank) is not an escrow at all. If Ouimet wants "credit" for "doing the right things" (putting the money in escrow), he should be publicly showing that he has actually completed a proper escrow arrangement. He hasn't shown that he's done anything.

David Parker

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:56 p.m.

independent audit good. Innocent until proven guilty. Timing of allegations obviously political season.


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:51 p.m.

and Mr Tom Wieder you know this HOW. You following Ouimet around, or do you work in Mark's bank, or have blabber mouth friends that do?


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:50 p.m.

and Mr Tom Wieder you know this HOW. You following Ouimet around, or do you work in Mark's bank?

Sean Gray

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:49 p.m.

This is a good thing. It will show that Commissioner Judge was the only Commissioner to travel to vacation-type destinations like Reno, Chicago and Boyne using county money; a little late to hold her accountable during this election... but still a good thing nonetheless. I think the better idea for travel expenses is: 1. Get rid of the flex account, it's a nearly bottomless cash system 2. Any travel should be paid for first by the Commissioner and then if the Board and one outside official approves, reimburse the Commissioner. This would make Commissioners think first before spending our money like they're entitled to it and then arrogantly tell us it's for our own good. Sean Gray Candidate for Washtenaw County Commissioner Pittsfield Township

gettin old

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:47 p.m.

Will they invertigate all of the commissioners who served during that time and are no longer on the board? Will they go back past 2005, seems as though current practices have been in place long before Mr. Ouimet submitted his first reimbursement form. Go back 10 years? 20 years? Wonder what they will dig up


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:45 p.m.

Good for Ms. McDaniel! The independent audit was long overdue. Maybe that way, this whole thing can get put to rest, one way or the other. The reimbursement process badly needs some policy and procedures to ensure that it is being administered properly. I hope that she can come up with a process that the board will approve and follow.

Tom Wieder

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:41 p.m.

Ouimet said at the October 20th Commissioners meeting that he was going to put the disputed funds "into escrow." Well, it's the day before the election, and he hasn't done it. One more dishonest statement and ploy, piled on top of taking the money in the first place.


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:38 p.m.

Only if all the commissioners are investigated fairly. That means both the Republicans and Democrats and then they become financially diligent and pay it back as Mark Ouimet has said he would. With accounts of this on Ann I sincerely doubt that he is the first or last public official that may or may not have padded expense accounts. Good Griff his time is valuable. Just as yours is.

rusty shackelford

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:34 p.m.

What a surprise that the hypocrites always talking about the government wasting money to prevent poor people from starving just use government funds for their own recreation.


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

Oh, gee. Since the people behaving badly are Republican, and a Democrat brings it up, it has to be partisan politicking. I would bet not once did either of these commissioners think to follow the rules when no one was watching...


Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 2:05 p.m.

This is Quimet's fiscal responsibility? "I don't like the results of the internal investigation, lets spend $2000 to do the same thing again in hopes that it doesn't make me look so bad."

Bob Martel

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 1:58 p.m.

Good thing to do!