Investigation: Flint / Apple Valley Connection (September 13, 2016)
Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability was founded in 2015 over concerns of out-of-control spending and a lack of transparency by the Town of Apple Valley.
Specifically, there was a lack of scrutiny of unelected Town staff who were pursuing multiple eminent domain actions, embarking upon major debt spending projects, and neglecting investment in legitimate Town functions such as infrastructure and public safety in the Town’s budget.
Recently, in the shadow of the #FlintWaterCrisis, we discovered a connection and a pattern of mismanagement that connected Apple Valley with Flint, Michigan.
Marc Puckett — Current Apple Valley Assistant Town Manager/Former Flint, MI, Finance Director
Marc Puckett is currently the Town of Apple Valley Assistant Town Manager in charge of the Town’s finances. He is responsible for drafting the Town’s budget, for responsibly allocating taxpayer funds, and for investing taxpayer dollars, among other things.
Puckett was also the Director of Finance for the City of Flint, MI, from 1992 to 1999.
The Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability group has uncovered a pattern of mismanagement by Puckett during his time in Flint, MI, with direct repercussions for the taxpayers of Apple Valley.
The Flint Journal stated that Puckett had been
credited with helping to make up a multi-million dollar deficit by charging various accounts for things the general fund had paid for previously.¹ This same practice has been heavily criticized in the Town of Apple Valley, and the Town is currently being sued for Proposition 218 violations related to its recent sewer rate increases.
Marc Puckett resigns from Flint, MI, under cloud
Marc Puckett resigned from his position as Director of Finance for the City of Flint, MI, just days after an unusual $9 million transfer was made to the City’s pension system. According to Flint Journal articles published between January 1999 and September 2000, Flint city of cials discovered that the Finance Department under Puckett had failed to transfer money to the Pension Fund for two years, which ended up costing the City $1.1 million dollars due to lost interest that the fund would have been making.²
In an article published February 2, 2009, Puckett claimed that
These funds have always been in the retirement (system).³ In another article, Puckett called the pension controversy
contrived because someone is running for mayor.4
After his resignation from the City of Flint, the amount that had not been transferred to the pension kept increasing, from $9 million at the time of the report,5 to $17 million a week later.6 When the final late transfer was finally made, the total would be up to $21 million.7
Even at the time of his resignation, Puckett claimed that
all monies in question … have always been on deposit in the retirement fund.8 Then after claiming
full responsibility for non-transferred pension funds, he continued to blame employees underneath him, stating that he
failed to follow up to ensure that these work assignments were complete,9 and blaming an internal auditor in his department.10
A Flint Journal article from February 24th states that the
city (of Flint) will deposit an additional $1.1 million into its retirement system…the minimum amount of interest officials say is owed to the fund because of past failures to transfer money to the proper pension accounts.11
This $1.1 million were funds that came directly out of taxpayers’ pockets, which would not have been necessary but for the shell game played by Marc Puckett.
Independent audit reveals true failings of Puckett’s tenure
Upon Puckett’s exit, the Flint City Council immediately called for an independent audit, and in addition to non-transferred pension funds, discovered the following:
- Under Marc Puckett as retirement board secretary, the retirement system accounts had not been subject to a stand-alone audit.12
- From 1996 to Puckett’s exit, the City incorrectly misdirected some $6 million in property tax payments.13
- From 1996, to Puckett’s exit, Puckett as Finance Director failed to pay millions in industry facility and commercial facility taxes to the State Government. A previous audit done in 1996 determined that the city had not paid $12 million in taxes for the four previous years, and the payment was later made.14
- The city violated state law by spending beyond the budget adopted by the City Council in certain areas.15
- A lack of employees in the City Finance and Budget department resulted in transactions not being recorded on the city’s general ledger in a timely way, making it impossible to compare the city budget to its actual spending on a monthly or quarterly basis.16
Following his resignation and the fallout, multiple City Council members and city leaders criticized Puckett for the damage done to Flint — especially after Puckett cashed in on $6,000 of unused vacation time.17
Former Flint City Council President Scott Kincaid18(Puckett) should have been terminated, not rewarded.
Former Flint Finance Director Matthew Grady (Puckett’s Successor)19In previous years … Puckett often didn’t share information freely.
Andrew Heller, Flint Journal columnist20Who could forget Marc Puckett, the former finance director who resigned after costing the city a million dollars for screwing up the pension funds?
Donald Phillips, Former Flint City Retirement Board Member on auditors’ requests21… the problem is they can’t get the figures (from Puckett’s department).
Barry Williams, Former Flint City Councilman22The person (Puckett) wasn’t telling us the truth.
Puckett’s impact elsewhere
At the time of his resignation from Flint, Puckett claimed that his resignation was not related to the pension flap, but instead due to the fact that he had accepted a governmental position elsewhere.24
That position was as Director of Finance for the City of Costa Mesa, CA, where he served in this position from 1999 to 2009.
Puckett was placed on leave from his position in September of 2009, at which point he abruptly resigned. The city manager at the time stated that it was not for
financial malfeasance, but could not say
whether a criminal investigation was pending.25
Puckett later became head of the Town of Apple Valley’s Finance Department in 2010.
Puckett, Apple Valley, and the #FlintWaterCrisis
The Town of Apple Valley, under Marc Puckett’s leadership as head of the Finance Department, is seeking to take over a multi-million-dollar water company via eminent domain, and take on over $100 million in revenue bond debt to accomplish this. Also, with the departure of former Assistant Town Manager Dennis Cron,26 there would seem to be no remaining Town staff with water experience.
However, Marc Puckett has experience with the City of Flint’s Water Department.
In a Flint Journal article on April 3, 1996, entitled
Folks Soaked by Water Bills May Get Relief, customers were complaining about the outrageous increases in water bills by the City. Flint resident Colette Timlick, whose bill went from $70 to $700, said
The city has a monopoly. You can’t go anywhere else. You’re stuck, and that’s what angers people.27
In the article, Marc Puckett defended the water meter reads and stated there was a misconception about water meter malfunctions, stating it was
impossible for the meter to advance at a rate of speed faster than the water flow through it, and that it was
resident’s responsibility to check remote readings.28
When the Flint Water Crisis hit, the fault laid not only on a switch to water supplied by the Flint River, but in the lead contaminated pipes that were the result of decades of non-investment in their water system.29 The switch to the Flint River water supply was the direct result of residents and politicians who thought their water bills were too high.
Many point to the start of problems with water bills and water quality to previous Mayor Woodrow Stanley, who was recalled in 2002 due to the financial state in which he left the city.30 The appointment of Flint’s Emergency Manager in 2002 (which led to the #FlintWaterCrisis) was a direct result of the financial wasteland left by the Stanley administration.
Who was in charge of finances during most of Stanley’s term as Mayor? Marc Puckett.
Questions that need to be answered.
This investigation by the Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability has led to some serious questions involving the financial health of the Town of Apple Valley, including:
- Did the Town Council know about Puckett’s Flint, MI, past when he was hired in 2010?
- Why was Marc Puckett put on leave in Costa Mesa before his resignation in 2009?
- Why was Marc Puckett dismissed from his position in Eastpointe, MI, prior to working for Flint?
- Is Marc Puckett’s Finance Department making correct pension transfers to its retirement fund?
- Is Marc Puckett’s Finance Department paying the appropriate amount of taxes?
- Will Marc Puckett under-invest in the Town’s water system, as he did in Flint, if a takeover is successful?
- With Puckett’s approach to finance — which this group has often called a
shell game—how do we know that the numbers that Puckett is presenting are reliable?
- … will Apple Valley become the next Flint, Michigan?
Files dealing with Marc Puckett
- 19920114 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920225 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920303 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920305 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920319 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920623 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19960111 Retirement firm accuses official of favoritism
- 19960403 Folks soaked by water bills may get relief
- 19960920 Marc Puckett’s red light ticket
- 19990130 $9-million pension fund transfer raises questions
- 19990202 Retirement panel urges ‘immediate’ audit of plan
- 19990203 Retirement board splits over need for independent manager
- 19990203 Finance director resigns under fire of pension flap
- 19990210 Former finance director lashes back at critics, hints suit
- 19990224 Flint to boost pension fund
- 19990319 Flint sent tax funds to wrong units
- 19990326 Ex-finance director cashes in on $6,000 in unused vacation time
- 19990330 Flint could owe state millions some industrial facilities taxes have not been paid since 1996
- 19990408 Stanley acts on money woes, appoints new finance chief
- 19990411 Stanley must share blame as part of his plan to fix city’s financial woes
- 19990909 Audit details shortfalls in financial procedures
- 20100219 Personal injury complaint against Marc Puckett
- 20100408 Answer of defendant, Marc R. Puckett, to plaintiffs’ complaint
- 20101227 New finance director to step down
- 20101228 Marc Puckett out — Again
- 20101230 Leadership turmoil
- 20110104 The world according to John Moorlach
- 20110110 City faces $231,000 deficit
- 20110113 Interim finance director named
- 20110210 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- 201102405 Marc Puckett’s ticket for stopping on a red signal
- 20110817 Marc Puckett’s ticket for no license plate
- 20120309 Marc Puckett’s Orange County accident case information
- 20120425 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- 20120703 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- 20140724 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- 20141124 Marc Puckett’s ticket for coasting out of gear
- 20141205 Marc Puckett’s ticket for speeding
- 20150529 Marc Puckett’s ticket for improper use of preferred lane
- Comments for tonight’s council meeting
- The innumerate Mr. Puckett
- Shill crazy after all these years
- Earth to Puckett!
- About those awards
- One PRR story: American Express (CC)
- 20160913 Documents link top Apple Valley official to #FlintWaterCrisis
- 20160913 Investigation: Flint / Apple Valley Connection
- 20160915 Economic Speech (Trump)
- 20161018 Will Apple Valley become California’s Flint, MI?
- 20170319 Trump EPA grants Michigan $100 million to fix Flint water system
- 20170320 Sinkhole: Effort to replace pipes to Flint homes off to slow start
- 20170806 Vehicle belonging to AV town manager involved in hit-and-run
- He’s gonna need a good lawyer
- 20170809 Apple Valley official believes Liberty could have followed him before crash
- Public trust destroyed (Carloni)
- 20170907 Hit-and-run investigation involving Marc Puckett’s Cadillac sent to DA
- 20171010 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- A question of character
- 20171206 Apple Valley Finance Director Marc Puckett charged with felony hit-and-run
- 20171206 A long wait for crash victim
- 20171117 A history of infractions
- 20171207 Apple Valley Finance Director Marc Puckett on personal leave after felony hit-and-run charge filed
- 20171214 Apple Valley Finance Director Marc Puckett pleads not guilty to felony hit-and-run charge
- 20171214 I-15 crash victim seeks $2M in damages from Apple Valley
- 20171219 Editorial: Passing the Puck (Valles)
- 20171228 Town Hall position not a factor in Puckett’s custody status, attorney says
- 20180105 Puckett forced out as Apple Valley’s Assistant Manager & Finance Director
- 20180109 Tin Cup Men (Valles)
- 20180116 Puckett’s dismissal just what the town needed (Valles)
- 20180307 Puckett deposition set for mid-April in town’s eminent domain case
- 20180425 Pre-plea report ordered in Puckett’s felony case