A local lawmaker was among those criticizing the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission as it tries to secure funding for the coming fiscal year.
On Tuesday, a $1.15 million funding request was referred to the state House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, which is co-chaired by State Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton), who questioned Commissioner MC Rothhorn and Executive Director Edward Woods III about $50,000 in taxpayer dollars the commission spent to put together a documentary it is calling a “lessons learned” report.
“Throughout the process there was so much documentation from your experts on how you should approach the redistricting process,” said Bollin. “My understanding is that was already put down on paper. So, what is really left to be done as far as ‘lessons learned’ that would require a $50,000 video?”
Bollin also expressed concerns about the $1.1 million deficit the commission is facing, and the 7-percent raise commissioners voted to give themselves earlier this year before reversing course in March.
“To go over budget and still try to raise your own salaries – even though you knew you were likely to face legal challenges – shows a concerning lack of accountability,” Bollin said. “No public body should have free rein to spend public taxpayer dollars so recklessly.”
In response, Woods pointed out that the commission faces two lawsuits in federal court which could drag out for several years and pointed to the independent citizens redistricting commission statute in the Michigan Constitution which states, in part, that “The legislature shall provide adequate funding to allow the commission to defend any action regarding an adopted plan.”
He also said an email had been provided for subcommittee members to ask questions and provide feedback, but no members responded.
Redistricting Commission Vice Chair Dustin Witjes then asked if the subcommittee planned to purposefully delay their funding.
“Are they going to continue to ask for things before they, in my opinion, vote to do what they’re constitutionally mandated to do?”, Witjes asked.
The commission’s current funding lasts through Sept. 30., but as of yet, there has been no proposed funding by the legislature for the commission for the next fiscal year.