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.