BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR & CHRIS FAULKNOR, PUBLISHER
What began with accusations over the Village of Boyne Falls Clerk Debra Taylor’s use of taxpayer resources for personal use has several board members asking about questionable accounting practices.
Blank checks, dubious payment methods, and audit concerns were raised during the Tuesday March 13 Village of Boyne Falls Council meeting.
The issue was broached when trustee Mike Kondrat Sr. initially refused to approve the previous meeting’s minutes due to what he identified as discrepancies relating to the gravel issue.
“If it (gravel) was paid for and went into a fund, it’s not showing where and when,” said Kondrat.
Village of Boyne Falls Board President Bill Carson said, “All that was given to the deputy…. There was a detective that wanted to see the receipts and stuff to see where it (money) was put in, and I gave it to him. The detective called me and wanted to know if it was paid for and I said yes.”
Kondrat said the cost was paid nearly seven months after Taylor took the gravel and that she did not pay what the gravel was actually worth.
When asked by another board member for copies of the receipt and bank slip, Taylor said it would take some time to locate and she asked a reporter from the Boyne City Gazette in the audience if he had brought copies of the documents with him. He had not.
The minutes were ultimately approved with Kondrat’s support.
Kondrat had asked a police officer to attend the meeting out of concern that things may get out of hand, as the gravel issue has caused some heated conversations in the recent past.
However, no issues requiring law enforcement arose during the meeting.
“In our last meeting, we did talk a lot about treasurers and how we have a system set up where we have a second-party signer on the checks,” said board trustee Greg Fosler.
He said he didn’t understand the process and asked how it worked.
Carson said Taylor signs them and he mails them.
Fosler asked Trustee Gladys Bell about the process.
“Let’s put it this way,” Bell said. “I don’t approve of the way I do it because, say Deb she embezzled, I would be in on it because my name’s on it… Sometimes she gives me 50 checks at a time right here when I’m sitting here at this table and I sign them.”
She added, “So, I have absolutely no idea what those checks are made out to or what their done [sic] just going by this. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong but I’m saying that’s the way—I mean, she (Taylor) used to come to my house on Monday and she would bring it and I would look them over and I’d see what I was signing.”
Bell said it became an inconvenience and they stopped doing it that way.
Carson said he keeps all the audits and the auditor hasn’t shown any issues with the village’s bookkeeping methods.
Kondrat differed in his opinion, saying, “Well, while you’re on that subject, I talked to the auditor today. He is very unaware that you’re (Bell) signing a stack of blank checks, he’s unaware of checks being written to people that didn’t do no service in Boyne Falls—he’s unaware of a lot of things that he’s not told.”
Kondrat also alleged a person on unemployment was contracted to do work for the village but the person’s spouse was paid for the work so the income would not negatively affect their unemployment payments.
“The lawyer said we could do that,” said Carson.
Kondrat said the lawyer told him he has no knowledge of such a deal.
He added, “No. I talked to the lawyer and the accountant today—they’re unaware of any of this.”
Kondrat asked Taylor if anyone has been paid for work they did not complete.
Carson said he spoke to the village attorney and was told the village could make out a check to anyone the contracted worker wanted it made out to.
Carson also said it wasn’t Taylor’s doing but his.
“Let me tell you another thing about the audit,” Carson said… “Every time when this audit’s done, they call me, and I ask them if there’s any malfeasance or any embezzlement, any signs of that, and they say ‘no.’”
Attendee Bill Cousineau, who is on the Boyne Falls Public School Board of Education, asked why the audit isn’t being presented to the full board as it is in most municipal bodies.
“That might be the way they do it at the school, but they haven’t done it like that here in a long time,” said Carson.
Cousineau said, “No. They come to the school board every year… That’s the way it should be done.”
Fosler also said the audit should be presented to the full board.
“I’m going to lay this down here, too: nobody’s to be calling the attorney except me,” said Carson.
Kondrat said after the lies Taylor has told in meetings and to the press, he doesn’t feel she should be serving as the clerk and treasurer.
Carson countered Kondrat by saying he has seen newspaper articles that “stretch the truth.”
It should be noted the Boyne City Gazette has audio recordings, official documents, and extensive notes of every conversation and meeting relating to this issue.
A discussion then ensued over how the village might find a new treasurer.
“It sounds like we’re all starting to agree we need a separate treasurer,” said Fosler.
Carson said the village can’t afford to pay much for a treasurer.
It was agreed, by board consensus, to begin looking for a treasurer.
Taylor is currently being investigated by the Charlevoix County Sheriff Office for having taken an estimated $300 worth of Afton stone (gravel) to use in her home driveway.
She claims to have paid roughly $90 for the material nearly seven months after she took it.