By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
PLEADING HIS CASE – Shiawassee County Commissioner Hartmann Aue explained his reasoning behind pushing for the Board of Commissioners to hire a county coordinator during the board’s July 15 Committee of the Whole meeting. The board decided not to approve a motion that would have set the wheels in motion for the county to begin searching for their next county coordinator.
The motion would have allowed the new coordinator to be hired at a pay rate of $18.30 to $22.40 per hour, for no more than 129 hours per month. The motion was defeated by a 4-3 margin, but the board will re-shape the proposal and should vote on a new motion in August.(Independent Photo/GRAHAM STURGEON)
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners declined to approve a motion to hire a part-time county coordinator during their Wednesday,
July 15, Committee of the Whole meeting on a 4-3 vote. The position, as proposed on Wednesday, called for the county to hire a coordinator to work no more than 129 hours per month at $18.30 to $22.40 per hour, with only the fringe benefits that the law requires. Commissioners Gary Holzhausen, Les Schneider, Jeff Bartz and Jeremy Root all voted against the motion as presented.
The county has operated without a county administrator/controller/coordinator since former administrator T.J. Clark was fired in December for embezzlement of county funds and failure to perform his duties to a satisfactory level. The commissioners and department heads have been picking up the slack so far, but Commissioner Hartmann Aue gave his reasons for why the county needs a coordinator.
“We have been getting by this year because we have great elected officials and department heads who have stepped up and gone above and beyond,” Aue said during the meeting. “This is about being flexible. This is about being accountable to the public and to our employees. We are the only county in the state with a population of over 44,000 that does not have an administrator. We need to focus on the position and not the people who have held the position in the past.”
Commissioners Schneider and Holzhausen are wholly against the idea of hiring a coordinator at this time, in any capacity, with each citing the state of the county’s finances and the need to allocate the resources elsewhere.
“I think with our tight budget that we cannot spend the money for a coordinator,” Holzhausen said. “We have a lot of buildings that need attention, and that’s just part of it. We just cut
$1.2 million from our Sheriff’s Department. I’d like to see how many other counties have cut that much from their budgets. Maybe we should shut down all of our other offices so that we can have an administrator. Maybe that sounds good for a year or so. Go for it, but I am opposed to it. I think we should wait until the end of the year and see how it works.”
“I absolutely believe that we don’t need a coordinator,” Schneider said. “We have been going for a year without anyone in that office and we’ve been doing fine, so why would we spend the money now?”
Even though the motion died before it could reach the Thursday board meeting, there seems to be sufficient support on the board for the hiring of a coordinator. The board agreed, by a 5-2 vote, to proceed with the search for a coordinator, but not everyone could agree on how to structure the payment schedule. Commissioner John Plowman does not see an hourly wage as being the best route, favoring instead a salaried payment schedule, a move which was agreeable to Commissioner Root.
Commissioner Plowman made the motion to “continue to seek candidates for the coordinator position in a full or part-time capacity,” while Commissioner Aue asked the other commissioners to think about how to restructure the motion for a future vote. Aue is in favor of hiring a full-time administrator, but realizes that the county’s financial situation does not make that possible at this time.
“I have checked with the Michigan Municipal League and this pay level is very reasonable,” Aue said. “We are trying to be competitive, but at the same time, we are trying to be fiscally responsible and prudent with our budget. I believe this is a position that is necessary.”
The county has not yet identified any candidates for the position, but the issue will be on a future agenda, with some slight adjustments.