The former director of Livingston County Veterans’ Services is speaking out following news of a Michigan State Police investigation into the department.

It was learned Tuesday that Michigan State Police had launched a criminal investigation into the department. Detective 1st Lieutenant Tom DeClercq with the 1st District Special Investigations Section told WHMI it was requested they conduct a criminal investigation, which they are initiating and hope to have wrapped up in about two or three weeks. It stems from an allegation from a woman who was unable to obtain a donation receipt for a $400 check she wrote to Livingston County, with a committee member listed in the memo line. In August, the committee voted to fire former director Adam Smiddy, which was not long after he learned of the check and complaint. He served a little over one year in the role. Smiddy told WHMI he felt he was terminated, in part, because committee members knew he would see it through and not play the “buddy, buddy game” to make sure they were maintaining a degree of public trust in the work they were doing. He cited big conflicts with the committee because he was unwilling to play “good ole boys club” when it came time to delivering services. He noted instances of particular mechanics and contractors always being used but were not necessarily better for the funds being spent or the outcome they were getting. Smiddy ultimately said he hopes the Board of Commissioners will take a second look at the committee participants and their willingness to support the veterans’ millage, which was approved by voters in 2016. Additionally, local Democrats have raised questions about how the committee is spending funds from a county-wide veterans millage approved in 2016. To date, no one from the committee or county has disputed the budget numbers provided by Democrats in a press release posted on our website. Smiddy says numbers provided by Democrats are accurate and affirmed that the committee regularly resisted attempts to implement new programs and services. As part of his job, Smiddy said on average he would present new programs every three months but those also required funding for personnel, which was further needed due to other employees leaving.

Red flags were first raised for Party Chairwoman Judy Daubenmier when Committee Chair Hansel Keene stated during a meeting that there was only $80,000 in available funds but records show close to one million dollars. Daubenmier says the Board of Commissioners is the oversight body and should have known that wasn’t true since they haven’t approved any new programs in the two years since the millage passed. She says meeting minutes show how the committee has stood in the way of getting services approved over and over again, including dragging out requests for months and refusing to replace benefit counselors who have quit – and the list goes on and on. Daubenmier says meeting minutes clearly reflect a divide between the committee and Smiddy. She says the committee was resisting any sort of effort to expand services all the time and there’s no excuse because that’s why the millage was passed.

Daubenmier reaffirmed that the Board of Commissioners is the oversight body and appoints committee members so they need to be digging into this, rather than pretending everything is fine. She says they have the power to remove members and should do so immediately but also initiate an audit and make sure proper procedures are being followed. Daubenmier says there needs to be some tough questions asked about what the vision supposedly is for the committee in spending the money taxpayers were promised would go to veterans. She says the money shouldn’t being sitting there idle waiting for some rainy day that may never come. She says veterans need help now, the committee needs to provide it and commissioners need to clean house. At Monday night’s board meeting, committee members talked about how much members care about veterans and how they volunteer but Daubenmier says the proof is in what they do and they’ve done far less than what was promised with the money.

Daubenmier says somebody needs to step up and take care of this, and that’s the responsibility of commissioners. She says they hand out a lot of plaques and pats on the back but when it comes time to making sure veterans get the relief and services they need, they’re not there for them. Finally, Daubenmier says Democrats have been accused of only caring about veterans because the election is close. She maintains the party has proven its concern for veterans year in and year out, through multiple fundraisers and including two years ago when they stood up to endorse the millage and asked people to support it.

To date, no committee members responded to any requests for comment by WHMI. Commission Chair Don Parker had no comment on the criminal investigation. (JM)