Mickey Mouse

FILE PHOTO (Credit: Jim Dedmon - USA TODAY Sports)

Michigan County Official Dresses As Mickey Mouse To Criticize Government Spending

February 21, 2019 - 10:27 am

FLINT (WWJ/AP) - Was a jaunt down to Disney for some Michigan county employees justified? 

Genesee County Clerk-Register John Gleason dressed as Mickey Mouse to help draw attention to what he describes as wasteful spending on a Florida trip for training.

Gleason held a news conference Wednesday with play money and a suitcase as props, speaking to reporters while a woman dressed as Minnie Mouse stood behind him.

"This has been an issue that has been very, very dear to my heart," Gleason said. "In the last six years that I've held this office I have fought as hard as I could fight to make sure that we spend the money in the right way, because it's hard-earned taxpayers' money that drives our budget."

Gleason said spending about $25,000 to send three employees to the Disney Institute was "another junket on behalf of the taxpayers."

"We are not spending money the way that we should," Gleason said. "...You don't need to go down there and see Goofy and the Gang to learn how to treat people."

The Flint Journal reports commissioners approved the travel and lessons learned in Florida are to be shared with other county employees.

County Board Coordinator Josh Freeman, who was among the attendees, said the expense was justified after about a decade of little spending on employee development and training.

"If we can improve the productivity of an employee tree to 5 percent, you're starting to talk about some pretty big money," Freeman said. "That's $3 million to $5 million a year of increased productivity because the attitude of the employee changed."

WJRT-TV reported Freeman broke down the cost for the trip. He said courses on leadership excellence, employee engagement and customer service cost $6,500. Lodging and meals totaled about $2,000, along with $250 for airfare. The total per person of more than $8,500 was paid for in part by a one-time reimbursement from the state of Michigan for unclaimed property.

The board president also defended the trip, saying he saw the training as a chance to improve employee morale.

According to a website for the Disney Institute, the program provides "an engaging and inspiring professional development experience in a real-life setting," with professional development courses in the areas of Leadership Excellence, Employee Engagement and Quality Service. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.