Confusion remains regarding $35,000 received by Grant County in reimbursement for COVID-19 count court labor expenditures.
Grant County officials appear to have requested reimbursement for 12 weeks of county court wages for the 11-week reimbursement period while also requesting reimbursement for the county judge’s full 40 hours per week, even though he only logged 46.5 hours of COVID-19-related hours in the 11-week period.
The Eagle submitted a public records request for documentation related to the county court labor reimbursement on July 16. As of press time, no documentation has been provided.
Grant County requested reimbursement through the CARES Act for $35,268 in county court COVID-19 labor costs from March 1 to May 15, but that number does not match the hours for which the commissioners said they were being reimbursed.
Witt O’Brien’s — the company the county contracted with to submit reimbursement documents — removed the entire county court labor cost entry from an updated version of a summary of final costs.
In the original “Summary of Costs” document provided by Witt O’Brien’s on July 14, county court labor costs are listed as $35,268 — an explanatory document stating, “Figure provided by (former COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center finance employee) Jodi Cook, no backup.”
In an updated version of the document provided by Witt O’Brien’s on Sept. 1, the county court’s labor costs were omitted under labor and payroll fees, and the total is $35,268 less than the original.
County Commissioner Jim Hamsher, the court’s EOC liaison, and Cook both said documents the EOC submitted for county court labor costs included documentation, however.
“There is no missing documentation,” Cook said. “The incompetence displayed after the core team left should not reflect on the impeccable work we did while there.”
Cook said she had not seen the original nor the updated versions of the cost summary but said it was a mistake. She said Grant County Treasurer Julie Ellison provided the county court payroll information the EOC used to submit the reimbursement request.
Ellison said the only thing she provided was monthly payroll figures so the EOC’s finance team could use it to calculate a dollar amount to submit for reimbursement. She told the Eagle last week the figures submitted for county court reimbursement didn’t make sense.
“You’ve probably tried to add it up, and it doesn’t,” she said. “If we get audited, then somehow they’re going to have to substantiate that $35,000.”
On Tuesday, Ellison said she determined that three months of the two county commissioners and the county judge’s gross wages would equal the $35,268 requested for reimbursement.
While Hamsher and County Commissioner Sam Palmer, each regularly paid for 13.3 hours per week, said they spent all of their county-paid hours on COVID-19 and volunteered extra time, County Judge Scott Myers said he tracked his COVID-19 time by the hour and only accrued 46.5 hours over the 11-week period.
“If I were sitting in on conference calls with the health department or somebody like that, I would add that to my daily log,” Myers said. “I would just mark ‘COVID-19, two hours’ or ‘COVID-19, an hour and a half,’ or whatever. When they asked me for that, I went back and looked, and I totaled them all up on a handwritten sheet with each day written on a single page.”
Another change between the original and updated “Summary of Costs” is a line item under materials and equipment, which changed from “Grant County EOC PPE” to “Grant County Sheriff’s Office.” The total changed from $5,076 to $4,926.
Hamsher said he has reached out to Witt O’Brien’s for more information.
Palmer, the EOC public information officer, said he would need to go to the courthouse and look at Witt O’Brien’s financial summary with Ellison.
“I haven’t dealt with any of the financial side of this stuff,” Palmer told the Eagle on Friday. “I pretty much stayed in the health side of it and turned my hours in when they asked me to turn my hours in.”
Ellison said the county received the entire $335,199 requested for reimbursement in June, but she has only distributed funds from that reimbursement to expenditures with documentation. She said she has copies of every invoice for the funds she has distributed.
Ellison said she could not independently send the money back to the state unless the county court directs her to do so.
Myers said he does not know what the county is going to do.
“We don’t know if all of a sudden the CARES Act is going to contact us and say, ‘We have some inconsistency. Please return such and such,’ and then we take that as it comes,” he said. “We deal with that, give them everything that we possibly can. If we still fall short, we fall short.”
He said there is a “large sum” of the original $335,000 reimbursement that the county has not dispersed.
Myers said the county would “balance it all out somehow.” He said the county court is “ultimately accountable” for the discrepancy.
“The county court passed those documents, approved those documents and I signed those documents,” he said.