Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Recent Hit Parade

The following articles along with date of publication are
listed in the order of most recent interest:

Ne Nantium Necare 9/14/2008

Harbingers of Our Future 8/28/2011

The Ordinary Audit Is Not Good Enough 9/2/2014

Without A Tax Limitation 9/2/2-14

A Civics Catechism - Lesson First 5/1/2014

Over the longer term, it seems to me that the Harbingers
article has received the most readers, and probably has
the largest international readership as well. It is a bit of a
surprise to me that older articles are the most popular,
let alone to international readers.

Bill Vajk

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Ordinary Audit Is Not Good Enough

Every Michigan municipality must be audited annually
by an independent auditor. But what we've found
should make the hairs on your neck stand up. The
audits fail to address the legitimacy of what local
governments must do with and about money to be
remain in accord with the laws.

For the first example, the City of Iron River spent
$150,000 of water system funds to pay down the
employee pensions that are supposed to be paid
out of taxes. If the reader chooses, you can find
the event memorialized in the minutes of the city
council meetings. The City Attorney, Tousignant,
referred the matter to the independent (are they
really? Really???) auditor who said there was
nothing wrong with it.

Technically, so far as the local ordinances and state
statutes are concerned, nothing speaks out against
the commingling of funds that way. And she's right,
so far as making excuses goes. But there are legal
considerations that will be addressed later in this
publication, after the Michigan Supreme Court
decides the issues that your humble correspondent
has placed before it that was delivered to the Court
this morning.

There is, however, another bee in my bonnet that
should aggravate everyone in Iron County. It
starts with late payments for water/sewer/garbage
bills. Under Iron River ordinances 52.70, 51.10,
and 50.077 they can be converted to taxes and
attached to your property tax bill, along with a
10% per month compounded (some 214%
annualized.) The ordinances each say that the
amount must be certified as part of that process.

You can find the Iron River ordinances on the

State law, in MCL 141.121(3) says in part:

"The time and manner of certification and other details 
in respect to the collection of the charges and the 
enforcement of the lien shall be prescribed by the 
ordinance adopted by the governing body of the 
public corporation."

None of the three ordinances, let alone any of the
Iron River ordinances, complies with the MCL
quoted verbatim above.

But it doesn't stop there.....

take a look at:

When I first asked Iron River for a copy of the
certification I first received the page marked "A".
Some time later, I pressed the issue and received "B",
"C", and "D". I had earlier acquired a copy of "D"
from the County Treasurer.

If you look at the notes in the margin of "A" and "B"
you'll notice they are identical, although in the copying
process a bit of the scribbling has vanished on "B."
What that means is that "A" is the physical parent of
"B" and that when I first received "A", in February of
2014 (when I went in and paid my property taxes) the
signature and date that later appeared on "B" weren't
actually there. Given that when first approached on the
topic, city employees maintained that certification was
not required, only the transfer to taxes per the
ordinances. Either they didn't know or didn't care, and
it doesn't much matter which is true, the outcome is the

When pressed, the City Manager produced the pages
for "B", "C", and "D". I already had a copy of "D"
that I got from the Iron County Treasurer in February.

A signature might pass for a certification if the state
statute had been obeyed and the ordinance described a
signature alone as being a valid certification, AND if the
copy I received in February had that certification on it.

But it didn't.

Then the situation got even worse.

MCL 211.10(d)(7) requires that the tax roll be certified:

"Every lawful assessment roll shall have a certificate 
attached signed by the certified assessor who prepared or 
supervised the preparation of the roll. The certificate shall 
be in the form prescribed by the state tax commission. If 
after completing the assessment roll the certified assessor 
for the local assessing district dies or otherwise becomes 
incapable of certifying the assessment roll, the county 
equalization director or the state tax commission shall 
certify the completed assessment roll at no cost to the local 
assessing district."

And as the reader can clearly see, the tax roll in "D"
is not certified, and is therefore unlawful. But Iron 
County treasurer collected anyway, and took those who
didn't pay up to the Circuit Court and foreclosed those

Look at all the opportunities they missed to get the 
document signed as required by law. Perhaps no one
else would sign it? There are cover ups within cover ups,
who knows how long that queue is? The ordinary audit
of  Iron River and Iron County doesn't turn up such
illegal performance by two of our municipalities.

What should be done to prevent a repeat anywhere else? 
Our local governments are now embarrassed, and so 
long as I'm alive I'll be checking these, and any other
items I can think of. But what of the rest of this state?

As you might suspect, the "noxious weeds" bills, for 
mowing by the City of Iron River whenever they don't
like the look of your grass, that people don't pay in a
timely fashion are also converted to property taxes.
There too, the bills must be certified, actually "sworn
to" in this case, and that wasn't done either.

We need a committee of some sort to go through
every governmental function and to compare those
activities to state laws regulating them along with

Is it a shock that Iron River can't comply with state
laws even in how the ordinances are written? Someone
needs to hold our elected representatives collective feet
to the fire!

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