GREAT LAKES BEACON

Jackson Investing Millions More with Mayor’s Employer Since His Election

Since Jackson Mayor Bill Jors was elected, his employer, County National Bank, has seen a 50 percent increase in total investments from the city, records obtained by the Great Lakes Beacon show, raising questions of conflict of interest and whether the mayor is making bonuses with the help of additional taxpayer funds being held in his bank.

That increase, totaling $4 million over two years, may not seem like much at first glance, but the speed at which the change occurred while Jors was serving as mayor certainly seems troubling, as the graphs below illustrate.

Jors is the vice president of commercial loans at County National. Jackson City Treasurer Andrew Wrozek, who is in charge of the city’s investments, told the Beacon he doesn’t do business with the mayor when it comes to investing public funds in County National, but records also show that as a percentage of just cash – checking and savings accounts – the mayor’s employer has seen a nearly four-fold increase in just two years.

Specifically, the checking/savings accounts went from $393,148 (about 6 percent of all cash held by the city) in June 2015 – six months prior to Jors’ election – to more than double that in June 2016: Just short of $1 million, or nearly 16 percent of the city’s cash, had headed to the mayor’s bank. By April 2017, County National held as much as 24 percent of all the city’s cash – a substantial increase from a lowly 6 percent roughly two years ago.
Jackson has three different types of accounts: cash, certificates of deposit (CDs), and money market investments. The GLB issued, and was granted, a Freedom of Information Act request to the city of Jackson for monthly balance for each of those accounts, as well as the city treasurer’s investment policy, for the period of October 2011 through present.

Jors was sworn in as mayor in December 2015. First Merit Bank had held the largest share of Jackson’s cash, the records show, but that investment has been decreasing while County National’s share has been increasing. The GLB has obtained records on this matter dating from 2012 through present showing as much.

In money market and CD investments from the city, Jors’ bank holds $10.7 million – the largest sum of money held by one of the 18 accounts divvied up among seven separate banking institutions. That amount represents slightly more than 26 percent of the city’s money market investments. Flagstar Bank holds the next highest amount of pooled cash investments at $9.7 million as of September 2017, or about 24 percent of the city’s nearly $40.8 million balance on pooled accounts, according to the records.

When reviewing all holdings, it is First Merit Bank (now owned by Huntington) that, from 2012 to six months before Jors’ election, held the biggest share of the city’s total pooled cash and investment accounts. At that time in June 2015, First Merit and County National were pretty evenly split in terms of overall investments, though First Merit still had roughly $1.3 million more.

Weeks after Jors’ election in December 2015, it was County National that held slightly more than First Merit, and since then, the gap between the two has only increased. By April 2017, County National held about 36 percent of all investments by the city (about $12.1 million), and Huntington (previously First Merit) was well behind at around $4.4 million (about 26 percent of all investments).

Wrozek – Jackson’s treasurer since 1982 – acknowledged in an interview with the Great Lakes Beacon that, “Every once in a while, a bank will call and say, ‘we need some money, and we’ll give you a special rate.’”

He reiterated that he doesn’t do business with the mayor directly, and when asked about transferring so much to County National, he said, “The other bank wasn’t paying anything.”

Per Jackson’s investment policy, the city treasurer has control over where all funds are invested and held as long as they’re held by an institution approved by the city council. Wrozek confirmed as much in an interview with the Beacon, saying he and the deputy treasurer set Jackson’s investment priorities.

Unfortunately, it could not immediately be found whether Mayor Jors is making bonuses or commission of the loans he writes that may or may not have the backing of public funds. Jors did not return multiple requests for comment.

And Becky Wiley, County National’s assistant vice president/director of human resources, said compensation information for all employees at the bank is confidential, and the bank does not disclose such information without an employee’s written consent.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson