Official in Michigan county gives up post in COVID aid flap

CORUNNA, Mich. (AP) — An official resigned as chairman of a county board in Michigan, the latest fallout from his decision to give himself a $25,000 bonus with federal COVID-19 relief money and reward others in the community.

Jeremy Root will remain one of seven Shiawassee County commissioners but will no longer lead the board.

“This whole county government needs major reform. … The integrity of the board is gone. There is no way to return it,” Daniel Law of Owosso said during a rare Sunday meeting that attracted more than 200 residents.

Root did not attend the meeting, but his resignation letter was read to the public.

Republican county commissioners in July voted 6-0 to give themselves $65,000 in COVID-19 “hazard pay,” part of an effort to distribute more than $500,000 in federal aid to 250 county employees.

Root and fellow Commissioner Cindy Garber, who got $5,000, defended the bonuses. But at least one commissioner said she had no idea that she had voted to reward herself until money turned up in her bank account.

Commissioners reversed course on July 23 and said they would return the money. Separately, a judge last week ordered the county to recover any bonus that exceeded $5,000 after a lawsuit claimed commissioners violated open meetings law when the money was approved.

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