- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan governor’s residence has turned from a family home into a venue for department meetings and receptions under Gov. Rick Snyder.

Snyder is the first governor not to live in the 8,700-square-foot house since it was donated to the state in 1969, the Detroit Free Press (https://on.freep.com/1pPW7bw ) reported. The Republican governor, who took office in 2011, commutes to Lansing from his home near Ann Arbor.

Governor’s office data show 183 events have been held at the residence since January 2011, and outside organizations have used it more than 30 times. Agencies pay a fee of up to $125 to use the space, while private groups are encouraged to donate to the Foundation to Reinvent Michigan, a nonprofit established to maintain and operate the governor’s residences, in both Lansing and Mackinac Island.

Other states, like South Carolina and Colorado, also rent out their respective governor’s residences for events.

“There are several states where the governor’s residences are used as a reception area for the public. But there is also a set price or contribution so any private group can obtain access,” said Melanie McElroy, executive director of Common Cause of Michigan. “This list of organizations and partisan events, seem to be mostly one-sided. It should be open to all and any to hold events.”

McElroy and her organization, a nonpartisan group that advocates for good government policies, believe the private business and political events that have been held at the governor’s residence in Michigan show conflicts of interest.

“Private groups and partisan organizations are gaining special access to this government property and that’s definitely of concern to us,” she said.

The Michigan Grocers’ Association has held two events at the residence and its leader, Linda Gobler, was the chairwoman of Snyder’s inaugural committee before he appointed her to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. The group announced its endorsement of Snyder in May.

Other events that have been held there include a luncheon and a roundtable for the Michigan Republican Party, a fundraiser for the Mid-Michigan Business Association and two holiday staff parties for the Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizer Co.

Some of the outside groups offer donations ranging from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars, depending on the scale of the event, according to Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel.

“Obviously we pay close attention to who is holding events at the residence,” she said. “And in some cases, (the governor) might stop by during an event.”

Democratic candidate for governor Mark Schauer has said he would move into the house if elected. Snyder’s office has said he doesn’t intend to move.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com

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