Head of veterans committee says questions about funds politically motivated

Photo of Accredited Representatives of National Association County Veterans Service Officers from Livingston County

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Hansel Keene, chairperson of the Livingston County Veterans Committee, says the investigation by the Michigan State Police into the Livingston County Department of Veterans Services, of which he is chairperson, is “more of a procedural thing,” and that questions as to how funds raised by the 2016 veterans millage request are being spent are politically motivated.

Keene also said that the bulk of the money raised by the 2016 millage is earmarked for a transitional housing program; however, no such program is listed on the department’s website. Keene said he isn’t sure why the program isn’t included.

The MSP investigation into the department, triggered by a $400 check for which a tax receipt was not issued, won’t “take that much time,” and that the Livingston County Democratic Party is seizing on an “opening … to get a platform” in an election year.

“Where were these same people a year ago?” Keene said. “I think it’s pretty slanted to make veterans services look bad because (fired director) Adam (Smiddy) is part of that group.”

Adam Smiddy, the former director of the Livingston County Department of Veterans Services, was terminated earlier this month. Smiddy has not answered multiple requests from The Livingston Post for comment; however, in another news report, Smiddy is quoted as saying that he wasn’t going to sacrifice his “personal code of ethics to appease” the veterans committee; that he was fired shortly after he began looking into the $400 check with no tax receipt; and that veterans services is the shortest-staffed it has been since 1994.

Keene would not discuss why Smiddy was fired, but he agreed with his assessment of the department’s staffing level.

“We have no director. We had a counselor quit because she went to work in another county. A driver quit in protest over (the firing of) the director. We have another counselor who is going to quit because of an internship. When you look at all this, we are (short-staffed).”

Keene said he has a stack of resumes for the open positions, and the positions are going to be filled as soon as possible.

While the county’s Department of Veterans Affairs lists a number of services funded by the 2016 millage request, it doesn’t mention transitional housing, which Keene said was the main thrust of the veterans millage.

As to why the department has spent less than half of the money it received from the 2016 millage, Keene said the funds are needed to pay for a transitional housing program for veterans.

“It was our intent when we went for the millage,” Keene said. “We got plans drawn up. We paid an architect. You just don’t do transitional housing overnight.”

Keene defended the work of the veterans department.

“We provide exemplary services for our veterans,” Keene said. “I challenge you to talk to any veterans and if they aren’t absolutely 100 percent ecstatic, I’d be surprised. People move her for the benefits. We do one helluva job for our veterans.”

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The Livingston Post is the only locally owned, all-digital information and opinion site in Livingston County, Mich. It was launched by award-winning journalists who were laid off from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus by Gannett Co. Inc. in 2009.