October 21, 2014

State performing audit on public guardian office

By John Fischer|Staff Writer
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ARENAC COUNTY — In the July 7 Arenac County Board of Commissioners (ACBC) meeting, the board voted to approve an audit of the public guardian office as part of an investigation into the activities of suspended employee Sherilyn Jones.

According to ACBC Chairman Raymond Daniels, the Michigan State Treasury Department is performing the audit along with West Branch State Police Detective-Sergeant David Rivard.

“We (ACBC) approved 80 hours at $88 per hour at first,” Daniels said. “But that went pretty quickly and more time was needed. So at the last meeting we approved another 120 hours at the same rate.”

He added the audit is approaching the $20,000 mark — pertaining to county expenses — and a few auditors have been switched around since it began.

“There were two girls from the Treasury Department at first, but one had to leave to fulfill previous engagements,” he said. “Then the detective came in, but he has court for another case all week.

“This whole ordeal could stretch out for a long time.”

Daniels says he’s keeping up with the findings and he met with the auditor and state police on July 16. However, the investigation remains unclear as to whether or not there was any criminal activity.

“It could be just bad bookkeeping,” the chairman said. He added the board doesn’t have any direction in mind as far as the next step is concerned.

“Until we know what we’re looking at, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Daniels also says since the suspension of Sherilyn Jones, he’s caught grief for the move, saying the public believes the board has already made a foregone conclusion of her guilt.

“People have to understand just because we suspended her without pay doesn’t mean we think there was criminal activity,” he said. “We saw some stuff that wasn’t proper. You don’t need criminal activity to fire someone. They could just be doing a bad job.”

Daniels says he’s also keeping in touch with union representatives on the matter, although it could be weeks if not months before anything is determined.

“We have to wait for the auditor to be done, then it’s turned over to the detective,” he said. “If there does happen to be criminal activity, it’ll be turned over to the county prosecutor, then to the Attorney General’s office because the local prosecutor won’t want to hear this case.

“I hope it doesn’t but this could stretch out for a long time.”

Daniels withheld comment as to how the irregularities in the Public Guardian office came to attention in the first place.

The Independent originally reported that at a special personnel meeting on June 9, the Arenac County Board of Commissioners voted to suspend Sherilyn Jones, the county’s public guardian, without pay while an investigation into her office is performed, which didn’t stem from allegations by clients of illegal activity.

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