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Is the Township Treasurer required to sign checks for Township Board approved bills without seeing any documents that substantiate the bills?

No. Although the Township Treasurer is required to sign all checks, concluding that the Treasurer must do so without proper supporting documentation erodes the internal check and balance that the Treasurer has on the Clerk. Even if the Board has approved payment, and may have done so without supporting information, the Treasurer has the ability to ask for documents substantiating the payment prior to signing the check.

There are numerous reasons, but most importantly (as referenced above) is the need for the Treasurer to provide an additional review of authorized payments. In endorsing the check with a signature, the Treasurer is also approving the validity of the payment. If the Treasurer believes additional documents are necessary, the Treasurer should request such documents. Also remember that if the Treasurer were to find additional information that indicates a certain payment should not be approved, that information can be provided to the Board and its previous action to approve the payment can be rescinded.

Aside from the standards for good township governance, a Treasurer also has a basis in State law to request substantiating documents. State law mandates that the Treasurer of a township “insure” all local unit accounts are maintained in accordance with the chart of accounts.” MCL 141.421(1). Along this same vein, the State Treasurer publishes procedures and forms for “guidance of local units in establishing and maintaining uniform accounting.” MCL 141.421. One such procedure from the State Treasurer indicates “[a]ppropriate documentation (supporting invoices) must be attached for all disbursements. Original bills, not copies, must be used for documentation.” See http://www.michigan.gov/treasury/0%2C1607%2C7-121-1751_2194-5990–%2C00.html.  

MCL 41.76 also provides that the Treasurer “shall pay over” money on “order of the township board.” Notably, there is no limitation that suggests that the Treasurer cannot inquire into the basis for making the payment prior to following the Township Board’s approval.

We find it remains within the sound discretion of the Treasurer to refuse to issue checks on a warrant from the Clerk without supporting documentation for the expenditure. And, if such payment appears suspicious or otherwise not legitimate, the Treasurer has the right to return before the Township Board and provide information that may change the Board's previous decision.

This issue could also be easily addressed by Township policies and procedures.

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