On Thursday, the mayor of Double Oak sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Treasury to justify the former mayor’s use of federal COVID-19 relief funds to give ineligible employees $25,000 bonuses.
Former Double Oak Mayor Von Beougher resigned in July after receiving heavy criticism because he used State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) to give $25,000 bonuses to nine town employees. Most towns of similar size gave bonuses no more than $5,000 with SLFRF. The Town Council requested an audit of the use of the funding, to find out if Beougher’s uses were allowed, and the audit found that three of the nine employees were not eligible, according to SLFRF stipulations.
While some on the Double Oak Town Council wanted to have those three employees return the money, the majority of council voted last month to ask the federal government for forgiveness instead. Mike Donnelly, who served as mayor before Beougher, was appointed to fill the remainder of Beougher’s term, and on Thursday he sent the letter to the Department of the Treasury.
In the letter, Donnelly said he aimed “to justify that the premium pay was responsive to the employees’ performance of essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic.” He said the three ineligible employees were the town secretary, police chief and assistant police chief, and he provided details about how during all of the pandemic closures, they and other town and police employees could not work remotely. As they worked in the small Town Hall building in close proximity to each other, they “all experienced a high risk of contamination.” He also pointed out that two Double Oak police officers died in 2022 of COVID-19.
“The decision to give premium pay was intended to compensate these workers who, by virtue of their employment, were forced to take on additional burdens and make great personal sacrifices because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Donnelly said in the letter. “The premium pay was responsive, despite the employees’ higher income, due to the substantial risks each faced.”