Accusations fly over trip

Discussion over an official’s trip became heated at the Robinson Township Board meeting Wednesday night.
Alex Doty
Apr 17, 2014

It centered around a trip by Township Supervisor Tracy Mulligan to the Michigan Township Association’s conference in the Traverse City area in January.

“It was approved for $550, and it came to $708.34,” Mulligan said of the trip expense. “It was an overage of $158.34.”

The Township Board approved the excess expense by a 4-1 vote, with Trustee Bernice Berens voting against it.

“It was a great conference and I wish the whole board would go next year,” Mulligan said, noting that nearly all of Spring Lake Township’s leadership attended the event.

The discussion over the issue was especially tense when township resident Matthew Pelt brought up concerns over mileage expenses and what went on during the conference.

Pelt passed around a letter to the board that questioned things such as why Mulligan’s mileage was more than what a trip to Traverse City should be, what she learned at the conference, why there were no meal receipts, why she didn’t bring back any information, and if she used the trip for personal leisure.

“I find it very inappropriate for any Township Board members to act unprofessional when on a trip paid for by taxpayers of Robinson Township,” Pelt wrote in his letter. “All the members of Robinson Township are employees of the taxpayers of Robinson Township and will act professional at all times when representing the taxpayers.”

Mulligan responded to the accusations, noting partially that meals were included in the conference price, that she attended just three of the four days of the conference, and that she had shared information she learned with others.

“I have all kinds of information here, and it is floating around my office,” she said.

Mulligan also took offense to accusations made by Pelt that she was on the trip for personal leisure, attending casinos or going to other places.

“These are bogus statements that are absolutely not true,” she said. “It’s not like I took a trip to Traverse City. I turned in all of my legitimate expense and I didn’t eat any meals out.”

Township Treasurer Bonnie Hayward noted that, because the trip was booked in December 2013, the township should have been better at estimating the total cost of the trip, including mileage.

“We should have been a little more accurate — hindsight is 50/50,” Hayward said.

The expenditure was included in the township’s annual budget.
 

Comments

Barry Soetoro

Don't you just hate getting caught padding mileage expenses? It's not like you can simply go online to your favorite map website and get an accurate distance between cities. Can't wait til the details of inappropriate/unprofessional behavior come out. Hopefully she got to take the Old Mission Winery Tour during the conference. At only seventy dollars that would be a worthwhile expense to the Robinson taxpayers.

http://www.michigantownships.org...

lady1983

I LOVED the winery tour I took while vacationing for my last wedding anniversary. Our entire weekend of eating out, hotel cost, and enjoying the many tourist attractions cost about $800.00.... Oh... yeah I see what you're saying....

km8

I don't live in Robinson Twp. nor do I have any idea what the receipts turned in showed but I DO know someone who went to this conference. He mentioned the lack of rooms available at the actual conference location and that he ended up having to stay some distance away. If that was the case here, that may speak to additional mileage. So maybe it was padded, maybe not. Too bad they didn't discuss the additional $150 in detail so it could be dissected further.

Robinson Reader

I can't comment on the facts since I haven't seen figures but I think it's great that the people are playing their part in oversight on these types of things.

Everyone knows that these types of conferences are light on information and heavy on leisure and enjoyment. I am absolutely sure that whatever was learned could be learned via a different method. The value in these types of events is making personal connections with those doing the same or similar job.

That being said I don't know if the benefit to the taxpayers outweighs the cost. And if a certain amount if budgeted then stick to the budget and pay the extra on your own.

Wolverine49457

Most anyone who has worked in the corporate world knows if you travel on business you track everything, meals, mileage, car washes, dry cleaning, tips and entertainment...there can be no such thing as too many receipts, this is your bad Tracy, perhaps the TWP should make it clear future expenses in the gray area with no receipt might demand payment from the card holder. I don’t know if she overspent or made inappropriate purchases with a TWP credit card based on TWP travel policy by accident or willfully, if it is a grey area it should not be; it should be clear and spelled out in writing every TWP employee must read and sign prior to travel or using a TWP communal card.
The article doesn’t sound like she was attempting to hide spending money but what she spent it on and what amounts, if there is a dispute first review policy, if it is within policy and there is a question if taxpayer money was used for wine tours or sightseeing at a conference where only to and from travel is allowed it should be spelled out in policy like everything else.
Perhaps the entire office needs to review policy and procedures regarding expenses during travel and if personal purchases on company plastic are allowed, in what amount and with a payback schedule that avoids accrued interest charges.

TooMuch

She submitted the extra costs with receipts. The Board could choose if they were legitimate or not based on those receipts and apparently they were. The need for whether the conference was necessary or not was decided long before. It can now be decided again for next year. Sounds like no. I wouldn't blame Tracy for going to a conference other municipalities also attended. She is an upstanding person and simply would pay what was not approved. I don't think this has been Tracy's history with the township and any doubt should go in her favor.

Wolverine49457

I agree, it sounded as though not all are on the same page when it comes to expenditures, policies and procedures. Robinson TWP is facing a major transformation in the coming months and years with the M231 project at hand. I agree someone in the office needs to figure out how to bloom once we are a not as Rural as we used to be. It does not sound like she did anything wrong other than the article hints at meal receipts were missing, why would they ask for that at a conference with provided meals?

theQuin

I agree that Ms. Mulligan is upstanding. Area governments should, however, closely oversee such expenses. Michigan Municipal League seminars, for example, are very expensive, and I wonder how a democratic government can be a member of a lobbying organization. Citizens should demand accountability - which I know Ms. Mulligan can deliver. Not so sure about some other politicians , however!

Miss Jane

Mountain over a mole hill.

Barry Soetoro

Let's wager on the over/under in dollars on Miss Jane's property tax bill for 2013. I'll start......Zero???

SpellCheck

"'We should have been a little more accurate — hindsight is 50/50,' Hayward said."

50/50? She must be using new math.

Tri-cities realist

Good catch. Kind of like being 360 degrees out of phase.

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