The Michigan Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine has halted transportation and death investigation services to Saginaw County due to nonpayment.
Saginaw County had until 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14 to make a past due payment of $116,390.25 to MIFSM before services ceased, MIFSM said.
Previously, the county always paid its invoices on time, MIFSM said. Saginaw County was billed for MIFSM’s services on Nov. 9 with payment due Dec. 1.
“Despite repeated requests from MIFSM and its attorneys, Saginaw County has refused to pay for MIFSM to continue to provide death investigation and transportation and medical examiner services,” MIFSM said.
MIFSM said several communications regarding the past due payment were relayed to Saginaw County Controller Robert Belleman and other county officials prior to stopping services.
On Dec. 22, Belleman promised to make a payment by the first week of January, claiming a problem with their financial software prevented them from making the payment on time, MIFSM said.
“The first week of January came and went with no explanation from Robert Belleman and now a second week has gone by, again with no payment or explanation of when payment could be expected,” MIFSM said. “Saginaw County has expressly stated it will not pay MIFSM’s bills unless MIFSM agrees to a reduction in the amount its invoice and turns over control of its operations to a family doctor, who is not board certified, who is a political associate of Robert Belleman.”
Saginaw County entered an agreement with MIFSM on Oct. 12, 2019 that identified Dr. Russell Bush as the medical examiner for the county, Belleman said, adding the county would not have entered the agreement without the assignment of Bush.
Belleman added the agreement prohibited MIFSM from removing or replacing Bush without prior consent from the county.
MIFSM, without prior consent from the county, terminated Bush's employment and attempted to remove him from his position as the county's medical examiner on Nov. 19, 2021, Belleman said.
"On Dec. 2, 2021, MIFSM appeared before the county board seeking authority (after-the-fact) to remove and replace Dr. Bush from his appointed position as county ME. The county board denied the request and reaffirmed its appointment of Dr. Bush as county ME. Thereafter, Saginaw County placed MIFSM on notice of its breach and violation of the agreement," Belleman said in a statement to TV5.
Saginaw County then exercised the "termination for cause" provision in the agreement by providing MIFSM notice of termination, effective in 180 days, Belleman said.
MISFM said it will withhold the following services until payment is made:
- Cremation permits
- Death Certificates
- Body Storage
- Medical Examiner Services
- Death Scene Investigation
- Body Transportation
- Body Storage
- Autopsy Services
- Forensic Toxicology
"Saginaw County has attempted to work with MIFSM regarding the continuation of these comprehensive support services which MIFSM is contractually obligated to provide over the remaining 180 days of the agreement," Belleman said, adding MIFSM refused to commit to providing the servies while Bush remained the county's medical examiner.
MIFSM said it will continue its service should Saginaw County provide payment.
"These are very important services to the community and, more specifically, to the family of loved ones of the deceased. The county will do all it can to ensure a seamless transition to this abrupt interruption," Belleman said.