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Posted: 07/10/13

Commissioners override
budget ordinance vetoes

Observer Staff Writer
      Macomb County government is butting heads with itself over the presentation of budget information.
       The Board of Commissioners unanimously decided on June 27 to override County Executive Mark Hackel's vetoes of ordinances demanding greater detail in the county budget.
       However, Hackel has indicated he will ignore the ordinances, which could lead to another court battle between the two entities.
       The ordinances, approved unanimously by the board on June 13, ask for specific details to be shown in the budget and quarterly reports.
       These details include salaries, fringe benefits and changes in personnel. The ordinances also require a list of capital improvement expenses costing $250,000 or more to be passed to the commissioners.
       Board of Commissioners Chairperson David Flynn said the board believes information regarding personnel should be broken down so the board can better review the budget for approval.
       "They were all rolled up into large line items called personnel, which could add up to tens of millions of dollars," Flynn said. "People from the public or board couldn't necessarily see where that money was being spent."
       Hackel chose to veto these ordinances, saying that legal counsel's opinion is that the board doesn't have the right to tell the county financial office how to prepare the budget.
       "The problem with it is, it's where they want the information," he said. "They want it in the budget in a particular location so that they can control it after it's appropriated."
       He said even if the board overrode the vetoes he would not adhere to the ordinances. He said it's not the responsibility of the board to both prepare and approve the budget with the charter form of government.
       "The ordinance is something that they created, and the corporation counsel that works for the people said they can't do that," he said.
       He said if the board believes this opinion isn't true that it should be vetted out in the court or through mediation.
       Flynn said the board "clearly" has the authority to pass ordinances of the county, adding that not following the law would be in direct violation of the charter.
       "I hope they have a change of heart or have time to consult with legal counsel before they go down that road," Flynn said.
       This isn't the first time the governmental entities squared off after the board overrode vetoes. The board and executive's office went to court in 2012 when Hackel ignored ordinances pertaining to government contracts. The Michigan Court of Appeals sided with the board on the issue.

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