A Community News Organ

Parks & Rec Cites Improper Transfer of Funds by Village President Pro Tem

In Gov't Watch, Politics, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on June 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

By Emily Votruba

At their June 12 regular meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted to submit a letter to Council reprimanding president pro tempore Robin Rommell for improper transfer of funds. (Full disclosure: I am one of the signatories of that letter.)

A statement obtained by P&R secretary Jennifer Wilkins from State Savings Bank on June 12 (see below) shows a transfer of $20,000 from the P&R/Solstice account on May 22 to another Village account. The sum reappears in the P&R/Solstice account on June 10.

Wilkins and clerk Mary Kalbach discovered that the P&R/Solstice account was $20K down on June 10, as they were preparing to send out checks to pay expenses for the Solstice Festival, which takes place this Saturday. When they discovered the missing funds, which would have resulted in the bouncing of these and other checks, Kalbach alerted Linda Manville, and Rommell transferred the money back into the P&R/Solstice account.

In an email to me, Rommell stated: “It was a mistake. Instead of transferring money out of the deposit account into the checking account, we mixed up the numbers and pulled it from the wrong account. When we realized our mistake, we transferred it back.”

Mary Kalbach, acting treasurer Toni Flynn, and trustee Linda Manville, who has been helping out in the office in budget and other matters, all say they were not aware Rommell had transferred that sum. The transaction was not logged in the General Ledger accounting program.

Kalbach told me she alerted Rommell in May that the Village had about $18K in checks out to BLUA and that money needed to be transferred from another account in order to cover those checks. She says she did not specify an amount. She says Rommell later told her she had transferred money, but did not mention the amount or account of origin.

Kalbach says it’s been customary to draw from the Streets account or from the Tax account when money is needed for general expenses. A “cheat-sheet” listing each account number and its corresponding fund name is in the Village office and copies were made available to everyone involved in transferring funds.

In the letter of reprimand, the P&R Commission states that the transfer was a violation of the Interfund Borrowing Policy Council adopted in March. They request

  1. “That a review of all village bank accounts be conducted and checked against the journal entries to find, and remedy, any other unauthorized transactions that may have been made,
  2. That Ms. Rommell be censured with an official reprimand to be entered into the Village record, and
  3. That Ms. Rommell be removed as a signatory from all village accounts and that all Village financial access passwords be changed and withheld from her.”

The Interfund Borrowing Policy (see below) specifies “the Treasurer may utilize short-term interfund borrowing to satisfy Village cash flow needs, provided that the loaning fund is repaid by the borrowing fund within 90 days. … If a short-term interfund loan is necessary, then that condition shall be disclosed, in writing, to the Council by the Treasurer.”

Because of the cut in hours at the office and personnel turnover, both Robin Rommell and, less frequently, Linda Manville, have been performing financial transactions that would normally be performed not by the Village president or pro tem but by the Village clerk and treasurer.

In an email to me, Linda Manville explained the current system in the office: “The process regarding bill paying has settled in, for now, to coding and authorizing by staff and BFA [Budget, Finance, and Audit Committee] members. Once bills are coded, Mary [Kalbach] will total them and go online to bank and check balance in checking account. Depending on balance she will call Robin. If money needs to be transferred to the checking account, Robin will tell Mary how much to take from specific accounts and move to checking.”

According to Kalbach, some checks have bounced and some payments have been returned or charged late fees because payments were sent in without stubs and the receiving institution did not know where to apply the payment. Some other loose ends may remain: According to Wilkins, Village bank account cards issued to former employees Sharyn Bower and Laura Manville have still not been deactivated.

The Parks & Recreation letter further states: “The Village can ill afford to suffer additional financial harm, trigger additional audits, or be found to be in direct violation of the recently enacted Corrective Action Plan and ordinances. As residents and friends of the Village of Elberta we have the gravest concern that Ms. Rommell has shown poor judgment and a blatant disregard for the rules and regulations that she has sworn to uphold.”

Last Thursday, P&R secretary Jennifer Wilkins asked that the issue be added to the agenda for the meeting tonight. According to Wilkins the agenda, which was compiled by Robin Rommell, does not show that item or any of the other items Wilkins requested.


Departure Letter from Interim Treasurer Toni Flynn

In Community Alert, Gov't Watch, Village Money Situation on June 18, 2014 at 6:23 pm

June 18, 2014

To the Elberta Village Council and to the Lovely People of the Town,

After three months of working in the Village office, helping where I was able, I feel it is in the best interest of all for me to take my leave and allow someone with more available time to step into the treasurer position. With the limited time I have available, I am filling a position that requires many more hours than I can give in a week.

Many heartfelt thanks to Village clerk Mary Kalbach for her bookkeeping skills and her “never give up” attitude. To Linda Manville, for her many hours of unrewarded work, her kind ear and soft words. To Jen Wilkins for her die-hard endless energy and all the work she does to benefit her town and its people. To Cathy Anderson, for her endless depths of knowledge and care of the Village parks and dunes. To Ken Bonney, for staying with the Village despite all the adversity he has faced in this job. To Joyce Gatrell, Ken Holmes, Diane Jenks, Robin Rommell and the rest of the active council for voting to allow the treasurer’s position to be by appointment rather than by election, thus affording me the opportunity to come into the office and offer what help I was able. Lastly, to Teri McGregor, for her experience with the fund balance software, her bright smile, professional persona, and her willingness to help out at the office.

I look forward to continuing the friendships that have formed during this time. Thank you, Elberta, for letting me be a part of your town for this short while.

With warm regards,

Toni Flynn

Toni Flynn on her last day in the treasurer role, June 17, 2014

Toni Flynn on her last day in the treasurer role, June 17, 2014

Elberta Summer Solstice Festival no. 12: Wilder Than Ever

In Calendar, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, GOOD NEWS, Kid Stuff, Open Season, Water on June 12, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Elberta Solstice Festival_Poster_2014WITHLOGOSmaller

The Elberta Solstice Festival is back for its 12th year, Saturday June 21! Join the teeming masses of music and food buffs descending on our magical Village amid the dune bluffs of Lake Michigan for live music, local food, beer, games, Michigan’s best beach, and other attractions to amaze and astound you, all capped off with one of the premier fireworks displays in the region.

Benzie County’s number one music festival is family friendly, quirky, cutting-edge, and eco-conscious, with some of the best bands, craft beverages and artisanal food around. Up until this year, admission to Solstice has been totally free, with guests paying as they go for food and beer. This year, because of the Village’s dire deficit situation, a fee of $5 will be charged for entrance to the beer tent, starting at 8 pm. It’s still possible to hear and even see the bands from outside the beer tent (but you can’t buy beer outside the beer tent). The Solstice Committee and P&R regret the change but hope everyone will still crowd the beer tent and help the Village get back on its feet.

Our Solstice Queen Jennifer Wilkins and other volunteers from Parks and Recreation and the Solstice Committee have prepared some special new treats this year. Coming all the way from Detroit are Magician Keith Stickley, Wood-E the Clown, and Animal Encounters with the infamous “Ghetto Gators”—large and scary scaly creatures recovering from shady servitude in the Motor City. While your reptile brain is turned on, stuff a bunch of food in you, from TuGo’s Egg Roll Co., Elberto’s Taqueria, Conundrum Café, The Lions, Cabbage Shed, Frankfort Takeout, Louie’s Burgers, Why Knot pretzels, and A.Papanos Pizza, plus bebidas from St. Ambrose, Acoustic Mead, and your favorite beers in the beer tent. You’ll be glad to know that this year, for the first time, you can catch a free Benzie Bus shuttle between our Waterfront Park Pavilion and the Antique Car Show and Art Fair in Frankfort. Call or text 231-930-8100 for pickup at one of the stops (see photo below).

Oh, you want to know about the *bands*? But of course: THE ACCIDENTALS, ALFREDO, MEDICINAL GROOVE, E MINOR, THE STANDING HAMPTONS, BLAKE ELLIOTT & THE ROBINSON AFFAIR, K. JONES & THE BENZIE PLAYBOYS, BLUE DIRT, SOUL PATCH, and late at night after Wolverine’s fireworks display, G SNACKS.

Don’t miss this northern Michigan hometown extravaganza on the wild side of Betsie Bay! 12 noon to 2 am, Saturday June 21st, at Elberta’s Historic Waterfront Park on old M-168.

(The Parks and Recreation Commission and the Solstice Committee would also like to us to mention that the Benzie County Sheriff Department is planning extra patrols the night of Solstice, including on the beach. They’d like to remind everyone that fireworks and camping on the beach are unlawful activities. Let’s all have a safe and hassle-free Solstice Fest.)




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