Government and Travel & Tourism

Council settling budget disagreements with MDOT

Board allocates funds for majority of state charges, waits for next invoice.

January 18, 2013
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Members of the Grand Valley Metro Council agreed recently to pay an invoice from the Michigan Department of Transportation in an attempt to put a three-year-old accounting dispute behind them.

The $365,000 payment arose from a charge made by MDOT’s auditing commission in 2010.

The Office of Transportation Commission Audit reviewed the council’s budgets from 1995-2009 and said it found some alleged reporting discrepancies in such items as how the staff’s vacation hours and sick leaves were posted.

OTCA concluded that the Metro Council had received $1 million in overpayments from MDOT and the federal transportation department over that period, as grants from both sources are funneled through the agency, which is the region’s transportation planner.

OTCA based its conclusion on Circular No. 887, a reporting regulation for grant recipients.

“Was this a serious violation? No. Was this an attempt to defraud the government? Absolutely not,” said Don Stypula, who was the GMVC executive director in 2010, the year the matter surfaced publicly.

Stypula added then that the council had maintained “meticulous records” throughout those years and its financial statements over that timeframe also had met auditing standards.

After negotiating with OTCA, MDOT managers got the overpayment charge reduced to $524,000. The recent $365,000 payment, which covered budget reviews from 1995 to 2004, went to that total. “We’re trying to get this taken care of and clean this up,” said GMVC Executive Director John Weiss.

Weiss said MDOT hasn’t provided the council with a second invoice of $159,000, a figure that also came from a settlement made with OTCA over budgeting issues after 2004. The Metro Council has set aside the funds for both payments in its current budget.

Another auditing dispute, but this time with the council’s regional geographic information system, was settled last year at no cost to the Metro Council. OTCA had sought $165,000 from REGIS for its 1999 to 2001 budgets.

“Hopefully, in early 2013, the last remaining issue of these audits will be resolved,” said Weiss.

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