Per diems paid to Commissioner Meyer under review

State Auditor finds he may have been overpaid $3,520 

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

The Minnesota Office of the State Auditor (OSA) found that Morrison County Commissioner Don Meyer may have been overpaid $3,520 in per diems by the county from November 2006 through March 2012.

Meyer, who has represented District 4 for more than 20 years, has served as the county’s representative on the South Country Health Alliance (SCHA) Board since Jan. 1, 2007, when the county joined the alliance.

SCHA is a county-based purchasing program. As part of the program, Morrison County, in a joint powers agreement with 11 other counties, is a local buyer of health care for county residents eligible for state and federal health care programs.

The report is the result of the OSA reviewing per diem payments made by SCHA and whether county commissioners receiving SCHA per diems also received per diems from their respective counties.

The OSA reported that on one occasion in 2008, and on one in 2007, Meyer received one per diem from SCHA and one from the county for SCHA-related meeting(s) on the same day. The county paid a total of $110. A footnote said SCHA paid him a total of $250 for those meetings.

On 34 occasions during this time period, the report said Meyer received one per diem payment from SCHA for an SCHA meeting and one per diem payment from the county for a non-SCHA meeting held on the same day. The county paid a total of $1,870 for these 34 per diems and a report footnote said SCHA paid a total of $4,250 to Meyer for the same 34 per diems.

And on 28 occasions, the OSA report states Meyer received a per diem payment from SCHA for SCHA meeting(s) and a per diem payment from the county for the day prior to the SCHA meeting(s). The county paid a total of $1,540 for these 28 per diems and SCHA paid $3,500 for the same per diems.

The OSA report cites the county’s established policy of paying a commissioner $55 per day for all county-related meetings attended. The county’s policy also states, “No more than one $55 payment will be made per day to any commissioner.” The commissioner has to submit an expense report to receive a per diem, or may put certain travel expenses on the county’s credit card.

The report said that a joint powers board of a county-based purchasing program such as SCHA, may set a per diem for county commissioners serving on the board. However, it said the OSA did not find any independent statutory authority for a county commissioner to receive a per diem for work on a county-based purchasing program.

As such, the OSA report said, “It appears that a county commissioner may not receive more than one per diem in a calendar day,” ie: may not receive a per diem from the county if an SCHA per diem is paid for the same day.

In addition, because SCHA does not pay a per diem for travel days, the OSA questioned whether the county should pay a commissioner a per diem for a travel day prior to an SCHA meeting.

The OSA review also found several occasions where no receipts or summary receipts were submitted by Meyer for meal expense reimbursement requests or purchases made on the county credit card.

In 2011, Meyer was paid more than any other commissioner, receiving $47,624.07. This amount includes the $21,328 base pay each commissioner receives, plus per diems paid by the county and $10,085.76 in benefits.

This amount does not include per diems from other government agencies or boards he may serve on and it does not include meals that may have been paid for by others such as department heads or other boards and agencies.

The OSA report was sent to the county’s administrator, auditor-treasurer, attorney, sheriff and chief executive officer of SCHA, as well as each of the county commissioners.

Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf has forwarded the report to the office of Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney for review. Heaney’s findings will determine whether criminal charges will be brought against Meyer. It can be considered a felony if more than $1,000 is stolen or collected fraudulently.

Once Morrison County receives Heaney’s review, an internal investigation will be done as well, said County Administrator Deb Gruber.

“We will look at policies and procedures and at what, if any, action needs to be taken as an organization as a result of what has happened in the past, and what we need to do moving forward, to ensure appropriate policies and procedures are adhered to,” she said.