by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

   The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners voted on Wednesday, June 12 to move an agenda item forward that would make part-time Emergency Management/Homeland Security Director Trent Atkins a full-time salaried employee. Atkins (left), who retired from the Lansing Board of Light and Water in May of 2017, was hired by Shiawassee County in July of 2017, in a part-time capacity, at an annual salary of $49,500.

   Pending board approval on Thursday, June 13, Atkins would become a full-time county employee, at a Pay Grade 11, Step 9 rate of $68,287 annually. Atkins would not contribute to nor receive any benefit from the county’s pension plan, and would not receive any payout for unused vacation or sick time during or upon separation from employment. Atkins will, however, be paid out $1,800 annually in lieu of health insurance. Also of note, the state pays 37 percent of Atkins’ wages.

   The motion, made by Commissioner John Plowman and seconded by Commissioner Cindy Garber, was forwarded to the board’s June 13 meeting for final consideration by a 6 to 1 vote. Commissioner Marlene Webster cast the lone “no” vote.

   “I just want to say, you’re setting precedent,” Commissioner Webster reminded her colleagues on June 12. “So, what you do for him, you’re going to have to be willing to do for all county employees. I’ve heard the argument over and over that Mr. Atkins is exceptional, and I think that is insulting to all of our other employees, who also work weekends and evenings. I mean, the people who work in the courts are taking calls late in the night, and I would guess that they work more nights a week than Mr. Atkins.

   “And I think, to make an argument that somehow he’s exceptional and should be treated special in terms of his package, I’m just opposed to that,” continued Commissioner Webster. “It is not fair to the rest of our employees. He may be a great guy, he may do his job exceptionally well, and so do 90 percent of the rest of the county’s employees.”

   Commissioner Brandon Marks, the board’s vice chair, ended the discussion by stating, “Setting salaries for county employees is the commissioners’ job, so if people don’t like it, they can run for county commissioner.”

   Since the state of Michigan covers 37 of Atkins’ wages, the county would be responsible for only $43,021 annually, not the full salary of $68,287.

   Earlier in the June 12 meeting, the commissioners turned down an agenda item to authorize the Clerk’s Office to hire a part-time Vital Records employee, at an hourly rate starting at $14.77, for 20 to 30 hours per week. Clerk Caroline Wilson made the case for an additional employee on Monday, June 10 while presenting her office’s annual report to the board’s Finance & Administration committee.

   Wilson noted on Monday that her office has experienced increased foot traffic, new state requirements have created additional responsibilities for her staff and high voter turnout is expected for the upcoming 2020 election season, which includes four elections.

   “I came to the board last fall asking for an additional employee,” explained Wilson. “I am trying to be prepared for 2020, and the atmosphere itself is already picking up. Proposal 3 passing has added to our workload and the state mandating the Real ID Act has affected our foot traffic significantly. We need to add someone in Vital Records to allow us to concentrate on everything that is needed for the 2020 elections.”

   “I think the clerk knows what she needs in her office,” said Commissioner Webster on Wednesday. “We need to trust our elected officials to manage their own offices and if she feels she needs an additional person, then we need to get the resources together and make that available.”

   Commissioner Marks acknowledged that the Clerk’s Office needs additional staff but expressed his apprehension in funding a portion of the new position with CPL funds, which fluctuate from year to year. Marks called the move “fiscally irresponsible” and stated that he is not comfortable authorizing additional expenditures for the Clerk’s Office without being provided with the office’s budget.

   Webster made the point that the board has approved funding requests from the Sheriff’s Office in the recent past without having access to the office’s budget, but Marks did not agree with that comparison, stating, “We’re not talking about the sheriff right now. He has paid for everything out of his own budget.”


Commissioners Consider Making Emergency Manager Full-Time Employee was last modified: June 17th, 2019 by Karen Elford