Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Financial dispute at 34th District Court settled

The funding dispute at the 34th District Court which serves the townships of Sumpter, Van Buren and Huron along with the cities of Belleville and Romulus has been formally settled by a new funding agreement among the municipalities.
The District Court Unit Funding Agreement will replace the one signed in 1998 and revised either in writing or verbally multiple times by the communities served by the court
This written agreement was suggested by Michigan State Court Regional Administrator Paul J. Paruk who completed an audit of the court finances following questions raised by court officials earlier this year about disbursements by Romulus, the host community of the court. That disagreement was reportedly based on the 2016 agreement to construct a new court building for which the City of Romulus issued a $17 million bond as a funding mechanism. The court subsequently added fees on traffic tickets and fines to be set aside to pay that bond obligation. Questions about the correct distribution of those funds were eventually referred to the Michigan State Court Administrative Office for a review and an audit. That audit was completed by Paruk who sent a letter detailing his findings to all the communities involved last month.

In his detailed and extensive explanation of the findings, Paruk found no wrongdoing or misappropriation of funding as had been rumored. He did find both an overpayment of funds to the other communities from Romulus under one verbal amendment to the agreement and an underpayment by Romulus to the communities under another verbal arrangement, modifying the 1998 agreement.
In his letter, Paruk suggested the solution be the formalization of all the various verbal agreements between the communities and the court in a new funding document to be signed by all the municipalities involved.
“In my initial meeting with representatives from the communities, it became apparent there were differing interpretations of how disbursement by the Court should have been made pursuant to the agreement and how funds could be used. This was based, in part, on their interpretation of the 1998 Agreement and their understanding of whether the agreement has been orally modified over the years. A discussion took place regarding whether any alleged oral agreements would be binding and enforceable,” Paruk wrote in his findings.
He stressed the importance of the communities coming to a consensus on the issues and recommended that representatives from the communities continue to work on a joint resolution in the matter.
 “It is an opportunity to fashion an outcome that meets your needs and not risk an alternative that is lengthy, costly and unpredictable. If I can be of any assistance in helping the communities further understand these issues or help to resolve these matters, please feel free to contact me,” Paruk concluded.
The agreement waives any claims any of the participants may have against any of the other participants and establishes regular twice-yearly meetings where court funding and procedural issues can be discussed.

All the involved communities have reportedly tentatively agreed to the provisions of the new funding agreement.