Gill: I’m not involved
“It’s just so ludicrous.”
That was the response of now-retired Leelanau County administrator David Gill when asked to comment about an allegation made by the now-resigned head of the county Commission on Aging that he instructed her to inflate the mileage of homemakers helping senior citizens.
Rosie Steffens, who was placed on administrative leave before resigning, has alleged to a reporter from another newspaper that she was told by Gill several years ago to have homemakers stray from county mileage reimbursement policy as a way to better compensate them. Gill was not reached to comment.
In a more recent development, CoA administrative assistant Madonna Jackson on Tuesday was placed on paid administrative leave by county administrator Chet Janik, who expects to hold a hearing today to determine Jackson’s employment status with the county. Janik released the information Tuesday evening at the monthly meeting of the Board of Commissioners along with an update on the status of the CoA.
Steffens has not returned calls from the Enterprise to comment. She did not speak of being told to deviate from county policy during the open session portion of a county commission committee meeting held July 30, when the issue first surfaced. Steffens then met behind closed doors with commissioners, as is allowed in such instances.
Gill was upset that his name — and reputation — had been dragged into the controversy.
“It’s just not true. I wrote that policy in 2001. I understood it. The last thing I’d do would be to cook up some scheme to violate it or break the law,” he said.
Steffens told commissioners: “I don’t remember the year. It was after the millage had started because we were in the Binsfeld building And when the gas started going up to 4 a gallon, there was a lot of questions from the homemakers themselves as to if could they get any more money for mileage, wages, or whatever. I went to the county administrator at that time and asked him, what could we do, if anything, because these people only work 20 hours a week ...”
Gill picked apart Steffens’ version of events. “In one voice, she’s saying I wouldn’t give them a raise, which isn’t true because they got a raise just about every year,” he said. “When you look at what’s been said, that makes the case. I wouldn’t give them a raise, but I cooked up a scheme to abuse the travel policy? My job was to do just the opposite, to protect the county, to protect the budget, and that’s what I thought I did.”
Janik said Jackson was placed on leave after further review of time sheets showed that she was involved in changing the work dates of county-employed housekeepers to allow them to increase their mileage checks.
“There is a pattern here that appears to be at least four years old,” Janik told the County Board Tuesday at its monthly meeting. “It appears there have been either errors, or deceptions, or irregularities done since 2008.”
Janik said that Steffens told him she was not involved in the switches. Steffens had said she told homemakers working at senior homes to charge mileage to and from the workplaces; county policy allows for only one-way reimbursement.
Janik does not expect criminal charges to be filed, as no evidence has surfaced to indicate that Steffens or Jackson benefitted personally from their actions. However, a county auditing firm is reviewing documentation to determine whether and how much in back taxes will be owed by the housekeepers and the county. That report is due by the end of the week.
“We are trying to be as open as we can with this process. If any member of the public wants to look through the documents we have, please give me a call,” Janik said.
He has already hired Gregory Piaskowski, retired head of the Area Agency on Aging, to review county Commission on Aging programs and policies. Piaskowski is in the process of surveying county residents to learn of their expectations from the CoA.
A special County Board meeting is being planned for Tuesday, Sept. 11, at which several issues are expected to be addressed:
• A new job description and timeline to hire a new CoA director, as prepared by Janik;
• Implications of the audit report;
• And Gill is expected to attend to refute Steffens’ allegation that he was involved in the mileage scheme. “He wants to clear his name,” Janik told commissioners.