Ann Arbor, Emergency Managers, Michigan, Rick Snyder — July 31, 2011 at 9:26 am

Michigan’s Emergency Manager overseer Roger Fraser has a sketchy financial history of his own


My latest piece at A2Politico gives an illuminating look at the number two administrator in the Snyder administration in charge of our state’s Emergency Managers. His name is Roger Fraser and, until earlier he was the City Administrator for Ann Arbor, Michigan’s sixth largest city, a position he held for nine years. He currently has the position of Deputy State Treasurer for Local Government Services working under State Treasurer Andy Dillon.

During Fraser’s time as City Administrator, Ann Arbor took on nearly a half billion dollars of new debt. The city employees’ pension system went from being over-funded by over 10% to being under-funded my nearly that amount.

But that’s not all.

Another example of questionable fiscal oversight by Fraser during his tenure involved sloppy record-keeping and hiring practices. In the 2006 state audit, the auditors dinged the City for a number of items. For example, they recommended the implementation of a fraud risk management program to root out fraudulent City transactions. The also recommended adopting a policy of doing background checks on employees in sensitive departments like accounting and information technology (computers and computer networks). They also pointed out that the City was inappropriately spending monies in excess of budgeted amounts without formal approval or adjustment of the budgets involved. Most importantly, they found multiple irregularities involving the use of City credit cards. Roger Fraser himself was involved in some of these irregularities according to documents obtained in an FOIA request by Ann Arbor resident and CPA Karen Sidney.

In 2008, the state audit (pdf) found inappropriate purchases of eleven flat screen televisions and associated equipment by Maintenance facility staff using City credit cards and in the 2010 audit irregularities were found in the use of City purchasing cards. In fact, they appeared to be in violation of the law.

This is the guy now in charge of overseeing Michigan’s Emergency Manager (EM) system, a system that gives the EMs widely-expanded powers under recently passed legislation that became Public Act 4.

[T]he choice of Roger Fraser for this very important role stands out as highly questionable at best. The fact is that the City of Ann Arbor was nearly a half billion dollars more in debt after his time as City Administrator. This should be enough to raise some red flags. However, when you dig into the details of how these debts arose, the red flags begin to flap more vigorously. The shifting of funds, sloppy record keeping and irregularities associated with the use of credit and purchasing cards, some by Roger Fraser himself, call his credentials into serious question. Under Fraser’s guidance, the City of Ann Arbor was guilty of some of the very actions that the cities of Benton Harbor and Pontiac, both of which now have EMs, have been criticized for.

When Rick Snyder was elected governor of Michigan, he promised to bring in a “new team full of people with fresh, new ideas.” One of these people was Roger Fraser, an associate of his during his time as the leader of SPARK. He has put a man with a questionable past regarding the financial oversight of Michigan’s sixth largest city in a position of responsibility for the financial well-being of Michigan’s most hard hit cities.

The Peter Principle says that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” The more you consider Roger Fraser as Deputy State Treasurer for Local Government Services, given his track record in Ann Arbor, the more it seems that he has become the embodiment of the Peter Principle in the state government of Michigan.

Check out the A2Politico piece for lots more including extensive links and documentation.