Genoa Board Denies Pay Raise To Clerk
March 17, 2021
By Jessica Mathews & Jon King / email@example.com
WHMI has learned that a misdemeanor criminal charge has been filed against Genoa Twp. Polly Skolarus. She’ll be arraigned on May 7th on a single charge of Election Law - Failure to Perform Duty. The charge was authorized by the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office following an investigation by Michigan State Police. Tune to WHMI on Thursday for additional details.
A salary increase has been denied for the Genoa Township clerk after allegations were made about various violations, abuse of office, and election issues.
At Monday night’s virtual meeting, the board discussed the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and approved 2% salary increases for all staff, planning commissioners, zoning board of appeals members and elected officials - with the exception of Clerk Polly Skolarus. Trustee Jean Ledford put forth an unexpected motion to withhold the proposed increase for Skolarus in the 2021 budget and deny all pay increases for the remainder of her term or the date of her resignation, whichever occurs first.
Ledford told the board her motion was made on the grounds of the clerk’s “irresponsible behavior, abuse of office, malfeasance and putting the integrity of the township at risk.” Ledford said while she doesn’t like to criticize or embarrass anyone - especially in front of board members – she felt the issues needed to be addressed. Ledford alleged there were times when Skolarus abused her position and responsibilities of the office and lacked ethical conduct in her position as clerk and thus was not deserving of the increase.
Ledford specifically accused Skolarus of violating township resources by writing advance checks, putting in the least amount of time in the office she can get away with, and not addressing matters related to her office to the point that certain duties under her responsibility were eventually assigned to others. These included payroll, Freedom of Information Act, special assessment districts, board packet preparation, oversight of payroll functions, utility billing, and the handling of human resources, which includes pension and personnel records.
Ledford also alleged Skolarus treats township staff in a rude manner, thereby creating personality conflicts and resentment within the office, and also composed "untrue" minutes from certain election committee meetings, of which Ledford is a member. Ledford alleged that most recently there was a mishandling of election ballots last November – which she described as a more serious matter that was brought to the attention of County Clerk Elizabeth Hundley. A look at the minutes of the county’s Canvassing Board determined that there was an issue in Genoa Township’s Absentee Voter Counting Board (AVCB) 2 in which a proposed re-tabulation of ballots could not be done after their chain of custody was called into question as “some of the Ballots were sealed into an unapproved and uncertified ballot container.” In the end, the canvassing board voted to accept the results as presented.
Ledford defended her motion denying the salary increase by noting that Skolarus was collecting a sizeable paycheck while other people were doing her work and not being compensated for it.
Skolarus, who has served as the township's clerk since 1986 and was re-elected to a four-year term this past November, responded to the allegations by telling the board that she has worked hard for the township for many years and prides herself on the elections that have been run with honesty and integrity – adding she was surprised and saddened by Ledford’s comments. Ledford stressed that she wasn’t making things up, to which Skolarus commented “sometimes you don’t have all the facts, Jean”.
The motion passed, although Trustees Jim Mortenson and Diana Lowe were opposed, with Lowe saying there was a better way to address these issues. Skolarus abstained from the vote. Treasurer Robin Hunt commented that it was a lot to take in. She said she supported the motion because the township expects employees to do their jobs well and put in their time to receive a pay increase- and the same should be expected of elected officials - including herself.
A request for comment to Skolarus has yet to be returned. When asked about the controversy, Township Supervisor Bill Rogers told WHMI that the motion speaks for itself.