By Jessica Mathews /

The Genoa Township Board is moving toward hiring an independent third party to investigate a request for legal fees by Clerk Polly Skolarus, along with other allegations of misconduct.

A request was placed on Monday night’s meeting agenda by Skolarus for reimbursement of $5,000 in legal fees after a not-guilty verdict was reached in April in a criminal case against her. She had faced a misdemeanor election law charge after allegations she used unapproved ballot containers in the November 2020 election.

Treasurer Robin Hunt raised various concerns and didn’t feel there was enough information to make a decision related to the request but also other issues that have come up. Hunt stated she was very concerned with the request as the board was never given any updates on the case until it insisted and even then all they received were court date changes.

Hunt stated not only is the clerk now asking to reimburse attorney fees but they have a lot of issues with claims that she was underpaid in 2016 and the board has been made aware of allegations of the clerk’s alleged mistreatment of employees. Hunt said most recently, she’s also very concerned about the Clerk’s potential violations of the Open Meetings Act, related to an Election Commission meeting.

Hunt ultimately made a motion for an item to be placed on the board’s June 6th meeting agenda to consider the hiring of independent legal counsel to investigate the clerk’s request for reimbursement of attorney fees and costs; past compensation for alleged mistreatment of employees; potential open meeting act violations, and any other matters of impropriety or misconduct by the clerk be looked into and that a report and recommendations be made to the board.

The motion also stipulated that the Clerk’s request be postponed until the investigation report and recommendations are completed. It was approved with Skolarus abstaining. Trustee Jim Mortenson was absent.

Trustee Diana Lowe stated she felt the attorney fee request should be kept separate, saying a mistake was made, which was admitted. Lowe added she felt “we need to look out for our own” and thought it was “important to forgive” for the incident.

Hunt agreed, saying everyone makes mistakes as human beings but stressed it’s about how those mistakes are handled.

Information that came out during Skolarus’ trial was referred to during the meeting.

Supervisor Bill Rogers questioned if that was the case, then why wasn’t it made known from day one and said it was frustrating that it took a year before any of it came out. He said comments from the Clerk from when discoveries were made were somewhat contrary to what she was saying at last night’s meeting, which is “what is so frustrating” and that they are only getting bits and pieces of things and now there are other issues. He said a third party would be able to look into everything so they can get everything finished and fixed.

Rogers added that if the actions were wrong or illegal or whatever the case may be, the bags were inappropriate and everyone can make mistakes like that but it was dragged out for the better part of a year.

Skolarus stressed that she told the board right from the beginning that she was not guilty. She stated that no one ever contacted them from the Livingston County Clerk’s or Prosecutor’s Office to find out what happened and they were instructed to not speak with police.

As for the request for legal fees, Skolarus said “if you don’t want to pay for it, then don’t pay for it”.

Skolarus further questioned why the board just didn’t approve a motion to hire independent counsel at Monday’s meeting, instead of waiting until June 6th and wasting time dealing with delays and potential costs.

It was stated the item was not on the agenda and further discussion ceased as the motion was already on the table.