BY CHRIS FAULKNOR, PUBLISHER & BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR
A discussion during last week’s Village of Boyne Falls Board of Trustees meeting over misuse of public resources included accusations of mismanagement and the desire for greater financial oversight.
Village trustee Mike Kondrat opened the discussion on Tuesday Feb. 13 by asking whether the village clerk had paid for several tons of gravel she took back in July 2017.
“$300 of Afton stone was taken from the village,” said Kondrat. “Where is the check for the gravel?”
Kondrat said he spoke with two officials who verified that 10 yards had been taken.
However, Village of Boyne Falls Clerk Debra Taylor, who used the material for her home driveway, said it was closer to 7.3 yards.
“You cannot take $300 of Afton stone,” Kondrat said, and repeatedly asked for proof of payment.
Taylor did not say during the meeting how much she paid or when she paid.
“You show me where the money went in, in a fund, in the road fund,” Kondrat said.
Kondrat also raised concerns about what he alleges are selective enforcement of local ordinances in Taylor’s favor, and the misuse of other taxpayer-funded resources such as snow removal.
Kondrat said the whole reason he got on the board of trustees was to make sure village officials were executing their duties in a proper and fair manner.
“After the meeting, I showed him the receipt,” Taylor said in an interview on Feb. 14.
Taylor said she got six yards of gravel and another smaller unspecified amount.
“I paid for 7.3 yards,” she said.
A yard of gravel is between 2,400 and 2,900 pounds of material.
After speaking with the village attorney, Taylor said she realized what she did was wrong.
“I will admit that I did make a mistake,” she told the Gazette, “because you are not supposed to sell Afton stone, salt, whatever, to the public … that was paid for by the village.”
She said she paid what the gravel company charged the township and that she paid the bill in July of 2017.
Taylor said Kondrat is just angry because he backed his truck into her garage while plowing and she made him pay for the damage.
Several village residents said they hoped to purchase gravel at the same discounted rate as Taylor paid but the village president said resale of village resources was not allowed.
“I just want to know where the money for the gravel went,” said Kondrat during the meeting. “I think I have a right to know as a board member.”
He added that he wanted the same amount of material taken to be replaced with new.
Boyne Falls Village President Bill Carson told Kondrat he could go look at “the books” after the meeting.
“No. Because, when I did ask you, you said Debbie put it in a petty cash jar,” said Kondrat.
Taylor said she put the money into the village’s Local Street Fund.
“Look, I talked to Debbie about this and she said it was wrong and I said you probably shouldn’t have done it,” said Carson.
Kondrat accused Carson of trying to “push it under the rug” but Carson said he wasn’t, and that people make mistakes, and that Taylor just had a few holes in her driveway that needed filling.
“The point is, as council members, we should be not using the village resources for our own personal projects,” said Boyne Falls Village Trustee Greg Fosler. “We should be extra careful, as council members.”
Kondrat said he wants to see the canceled check from July.
When the Boyne City Gazette asked Taylor the day after the meeting for a copy of the canceled check or a receipt for the gravel, she refused.
The Boyne City Gazette filed a Freedom of Information request on Feb. 15. The information had not been received by press time.
Kondrat said he was concerned that, if Taylor paid, it was a deeply discounted price for the gravel and that it is tantamount to embezzlement.
Carson told Kondrat to be careful about the words he uses.
“There should be a treasurer put in place here,” said Kondrat. “After talking to previous board members—there’s no accountability.”
Carson said he doesn’t like the accusations and that the village is audited and that Kondrat should read the audit.
It should be noted that municipal audits do not look for things like misuse of funds or taxpayer-funded resources. Audits are used to help ensure best accounting practices are followed.
Kondrat said, if he can’t trust someone not to use village gravel for personal use, he can’t trust their accounting practices.
“The rules are the rules and they have been broken,” Kondrat said.
A discussion later in the meeting centered on the need for a treasurer.
The village’s charter has been changed so that it no longer requires an elected treasurer so treasurers can now be appointed by the board.
In a discussion with Kondrat the day after meeting, he said Taylor showed him a piece of paper that had $90 written on it.
Both Taylor and Kondrat said a heated argument ensued, in private, following the meeting.
Kondrat said he’s been wanting to discuss the matter with Taylor but that other village officials have been hesitant to broach the matter because
Taylor has threatened to quit if it was brought up.
During the meeting, Taylor said her threatening to quit was over a different issue.
Also during the meeting, Carson lamented the difficulty the township has had in retaining board members and voiced concern about what the village would do if they lost the clerk.
Kondrat said he wants a treasurer to be hired because he has concerns that, with Taylor doing both the clerk and treasurer duties, there isn’t enough oversight.
Carson agreed the village needs a treasurer.
No formal action was taken by the board on this matter.