By Brandon Hall
(Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com)
Calhoun County Clerk Anne Norlander planned a pay raise for herself and two top staffers by targeting gun owners and other taxpayers for fee increases specifically designed to line her pockets, documents obtained by WMP show.
In a series of emails, Norlander lays out how the plan will work, targeting gun owners applying for CPL's, as well as taxpayers needing documents related to births, marriages, and deaths, hitting them at times that can hurt the most...
Documents obtained by WMP also show other possible trouble areas for the controversial clerk. Norlander apparently gave staff members gift cards multiple times and sought reimbursements for items some say taxpayers shouldn't fit the bill for, the same type of expenses she once campaigned against.
Subsequently, WMP has learned that multiple people Norlander claims are endorsing her are no longer doing so as calls for an investigation into her office are growing...
According to testimony from concerned local realtor Matthew Davis at a 2015 County Commission meeting:
"Good evening Commissioners.
I have a number of questions regarding the Clerk and Register of Deeds Anne Norlander and reimbursement payments made to her by Calhoun County in 2013 and 2014.
First, why was she reimbursed $200 in March of 2013, for transporting a brass table, 8 brass chairs, one cabinet, and 2 faux trees to Kalamazoo? Does Calhoun County maintain any offices or conduct any activities in Kalamazoo County? Why are there no records regarding the purchase by the County or sale by the County of these items? Why does the County have no other records regarding the disposition of those items which taxpayer money was used to transport to Kalamazoo?
Second, why was the Clerk reimbursed for purchasing gift cards for her employees in a payment voucher dated 12/19/14 and in regard to which the payment voucher states: “reimbursement for transition for 2015”?
Third, why was the clerk reimbursed $250.00 for gift cards for her employees on 12/18/13, in an Expense Voucher titled: “Circuit Court Clerks Staff Training and Clerk and Register of Deeds Staff training?
Fourth and finally, why was the Clerk reimbursed for $500 in January of 2014 from the Register of Deeds Automation fund for services she obtained from William Schroer related to her application for a WK Kellogg Foundation fellowship?
Was she awarded the fellowship? How would that fellowship have contributed to the automation of the office of the register of deeds? Why doesn’t the clerk have a copy of the fellowship application referenced in that invoice? Why doesn’t the clerk have a copy of the proposal referenced in Mr. Schroer’s invoice?
These are taxpayer dollars and the answers to each of these questions should be: “these were appropriate governmental expenditures for an allowable governmental purpose. Short and sweet. I ask each of you, Can that be said about these expenditures by the Clerk?
I have prepared a packet for each of the Commissioners containing these documents, all obtained through FOIA requests to Calhoun County. I have also prepared a packet for Prosecutor Gilbert. I would urge that the County request the assistance of the State Police and the Michigan Attorney General in investigating these expenditures."
Davis also raised issues with the commission previously regarding Norlander and corruption allegations.
"I’d like an update on the status of my request to investigate, via a forensic audit, to budgets of the Clerk and Register of Deeds Automation and general fund budget? I know you don’t have to respond directly to me at a meeting or at all, but since I have not heard from anyone regarding this request, I will continue to ask you during public time about it.
I would like to inform you of a lack of transparency, best practices and general management in County ClerkNorlander’s office purchasing policies. This misfeasance has cost the county taxpayers countless thousands, if not hundred of thousands of dollars in lost savings due to the Clerk not, in any way following County policy--or any policy--related to the purchasing of services and supplies. Basically, the Clerk is bypassing board approval of high dollar contract by signing them herself and then concurrently, taking PAC funding from those very same vendors for her re-election campaign. Tonight I will focus on Cherry Lan/Deketo;
Cherry Lan/Deketo, a vendor in Traverse City, provides software and web services to the Clerk’s office via a series of no bid contracts coupled with large campaign contributions over the years, continuing to her current campaign this year. In response to one of my Foia’s, Mrs. Norlander through the County Foia coordinator states that her office has no purchasing process.
As you know County Board Purchasing Policy, #405, applies to all annual purchases over $20,000.00 and requires a sealed bid process and BOC approval.
In June of 2004 the CC BOC approved a (3) year service agreement between Cherry LAN Systems, Inc. and Clerk/Register at the rate of $17,700 per year to be funded from Tech (Automation) fund. This was not bid, it was just an “agreement from the Clerk’s office…” and no records show any sealed bid process used
At the end of that initial agreement, the BOC was cut out of the decision making process, as was the County’s purchasing department.
On 1/1/07 Clerk Norlander, Not the board chair at the time as required by policy 405, signs “Cherry LAN Software License/Enhancements Agreement. This agreement is perpetual/forever and renews automatically until one or the other parties give 90 day notice. The board never approved this further expenditure, nor its never ending status.
In 2008 –that contract increased to $3000/ Month to Cherry LAN for “Lic Enhancement.” – and has continued ever since $36,000 per year, again no BOC approval.
In April of 08 – In addition to the monthly fee, a Payment of $9,600 was made to Cherry Lan for “Credit Card module” – no bid process, no board approval, and furthermore there are other large one time expenditures that of unknown purpose like this during this time. All done in the dark of County oversight.
3-4-09 – George Delamater contributes $3,400.00 to Anne Norlander’s Secretary of State Campaign.
12-31-09 – Susan Nelson contributes $2,000 to Anne Norlander’s Secretary of State Campaign. Employer listed as “Executive – Cherry LAN Systems.”
2-16-11 – Clerk signs a Letter of Understanding with Cherry LAN Systems, Inc. regarding Michigan Court Connect Web. Not a contract, and Not approved by BOC. It is user fee based only, but for some reason there is a $3400 expenditure to Cherry Lan for this software during that time period. Unfortunately, without a Circuit Court searchable database, victims are not able to use to find Circuit Court cases, because the software does not work and hasn’t for well over a year.
6-8-11 – Clerk signs a Software License and Maintenance Agreement between Deketo, LLC and “Calhoun County Register of Deeds” which indicates that as of 4-13-11 Gregory Nelson, Paul DeCoeur and George F. DeLaMater formally divided Cherry LAN Systems into two companies, Cherry LAN and Deketo. Deketo constitutes the former “Register of Deeds and Clerk Vital Records” branch of CLS. Not approved by County Board. Signed by George DeLaMater
8-3-11 – George DeLamater contributes $500 to Clerk’s reelection campaign (page 2 of 36 2011 Annual statement) 9-30-15 – George DeLamater contributes $1,000 to Clerk’s reelection campaign (page 34 of 36 of 10-26-15 quarterly report
I repeat my calls for an investigation, and forensic audit of the Clerk’s office finances and budget and furthermore feel this should be expanded to a review of the Clerk’s office policies and procedures that clearly do not follow the County’s BOC’s own passed policies.
I know none of you believe this is good government and as such I ask, and will continue to ask, that you push back against this crony capitalism and the use of the Clerk’s office for partisan and private gain. Please strive toward what the residents of calhoun county deserve-- county services that are efficient, use best practices and are done with high stewardship of the public's trust at the forefront. Thank you."
>>>View Docs HERE:
Packet 1: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2zBLQ9ExTjFX21IT01RLVp5Q2xVRGtSd1RxQVJ1WWJNWF9z
Packet 2: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2zBLQ9ExTjFYktfcVl3Sy1jTHhaNXl4ckdVc1ZMZmp6T0pR
Packet 3: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2zBLQ9ExTjFTnU2U2FKR0l5Smg3aFNfMDdhQnk0TDBUV2Fr
Packet 4: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2zBLQ9ExTjFMnJsYVFVSU0yRUsxOG0tc1F6a2piY3FoZ0t3
Packet 5: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2zBLQ9ExTjFaVFVSWVCRTdXbndXTG5TRFowXzFhQzlWRmpV
Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.
>>>Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com
|Photo By Darlene Dowling Thompson|