Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 16, 2013

Accounting error feeds discontent

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A simple, but rather large and easily corrected accounting error continues to divide Acme Township officials.

A township treasurer’s report presented in October showed a general fund balance about $700,000 below expectations. Acme Treasurer Connie Collett said the error was easily resolved and should have been caught by the township’s bookkeeper before she presented the report to the board.

Instead, the problem festered for two more meetings of heated discussions that Collett missed because of a medical leave.

“This wasn’t an unfortunate incident; this was a manufactured incident,” Collett said.

She alleged other members of the board are attempting to use the error against her to usurp her authority, citing two proposed policy changes introduced at the Dec. 3 township board meeting. The policies were tabled at the township attorney’s request.

Both Supervisor Jay Zollinger and Clerk Cathy Dye met with the bookkeeper and could have resolved the board’s concerns at an Oct. 22 special meeting called to address the discrepancy, Collett said.

“Jay Zollinger has painted me as someone who lost $700,000,” Collett said on Dec. 3. “I think that’s shameful.”

Zollinger said he never suggested the money was lost or that he blamed Collett. The bookkeeper, Dennis Drennan, explained some, but not all of the issues prior to the special meeting, he said.

“I’ve always taken the position (that) without all the facts it’s hard to comment,” Zollinger said. “It was the treasurer’s report, we needed the treasurer there to report it.”

Drennen and Collett have different explanations about the errors and what caused them, but Drennan agrees they were “blown out of proportion.” He also took responsibility for not reviewing Collett’s report more thoroughly.

“I was angry at myself for my unprofessional review of that report which became the focal point of your last board meeting ...,” Drennan wrote in an email to Collett.

Drennan had told Collett the report “looks great” before she presented it. He later apologized for not reading Collett’s entire email in which she commented about the township’s low fund balance.

Collett said she will not step down and will try to work with Dye and Zollinger. She said has spoken with Dye to try to begin to resolve their differences.

Zollinger said he’ll work with Collett and hasn’t suggested she step down.

“I have a job to serve the township, and I have a job to work with my peers who will work with me,” he said.