by Elizabeth Wehman, editor

(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)

Shiawassee County Clerk Caroline Wilson took office on Tuesday, Jan. 3 (due to the New Year’s Day holiday delayed) and soon found the transition to be an eye opening experience. She commented regarding the situation on Monday,

Feb. 13 during the Finance and Administration Board of Commissioner’s meeting, saying, “I was left with a mess. It has been a disappointing situation. I had been looking forward to bringing my gifts and talents to the table and to make a positive difference.”

The mess Wilson is referring to was left by former County Clerk Lauri Braid who left office at the end of the year after being the clerk for the past 16 years. Wilson was not afforded the opportunity to get into the office prior to Jan. 3. There was no contact between Wilson and Braid before that date. “Because of this situation, that in itself created challenges which could have been prevented,” Wilson added.

The entire staff was new and Wilson comments that, “I was never given the opportunity, as a professional courtesy, to be involved in the hiring process of my own staff.” There were two former employees, Lenore McMaster and Deb Cline, who had been hired by Braid in the final months of 2016 who were still under a probationary period. “After accessing things for a few weeks, I wanted the office to go into a positive direction as I had promised voters, and I felt certain employees hindered that,” Wilson added, “In learning that the entire staff needed training, the best time to release employees would be in the beginning before investing time, money, and effort into that training.”

Wilson sought counsel from corporate counsel who told her she could fire or hire any employees who were still on probation, which included McMaster and Cline. Wilson released them in January, leaving the office understaffed as reported by County Commissioner Dan McMaster at the

Jan. 17 Owosso City Council meeting. Commissioner Chairman Jeremy Root said that the chief judge, who is now Judge Ward Clarkson, is in charge of that, but commissioners are still looking into the specifics regarding this issue.

On Friday, Feb. 10, as Wilson reported to work she was greeted by Sheriff’s Dept. Officer Lt. Cory Carson, Root, and an Argus Press reporter in the rotunda of the courthouse. The two former employees McMaster and Cline were in the office. Wilson had been given notice from Judge Clarkson, late Wednesday, that he was granting their grievance and they were to be reinstated immediately. Wilson didn’t believe she had done anything wrong, because she had sought corporate counsel before releasing the two employees. “Upon coming to work on Friday, I expected to see the employees because they hadn’t reported on Thursday. I didn’t understand the police escort or why it was necessary,” Wilson said.” I felt it in the best interest of the county to allow them to return to work to avoid any further disruption until the matter is resolved.”

At the Finance and Administration meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, it appeared that other staffing problems were noted as the commissioners’ started procedures to hire one Vital Records Clerk, appoint a Chief Deputy County Clerk, and authorize the hiring of two temporary former employees to help begin to resolve the situation at the office. “The staff has stepped up to the plate and put in extra hours, despite the situation they have been working through,” Wilson added, “I’m proud of my staff.”

Wilson told the commissioners she needed the two temporary former employees due to their expertise and knowledge of the office. They will receive no benefits and the cost will be paid out of the clerk’s existing budget.

All of the employee help was voted on and passed on to the Committee of the Whole Commissioner’s meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The Vital Records Clerk and the appointment of a Chief Deputy Clerk were authorized to consider with all seven commissioners approving the consideration. The temporary employees needed in Wilson’s office were voted on with five votes toward and two opposed.

After the meeting, Commissioner Jeremy Root had this to say about some of the problems Wilson has been facing, “I have nothing against Wilson, she is doing a good job. That office is very demanding and it takes a lot of time to figure it all out, but she’ll get there.” He then added, “We need to keep all the offices to the same standard,” referring to the hiring and firing process. Then said, “Everyone wants Caroline to succeed. We’re here to help.”

In knowing Wilson was leaving the Friend of the Court to pursue her next career ambitions, Wilson was determined to leave the Friend of the Court office in good standing and said, “I was committed to finishing up my job as Office Manager, well. I wanted the office to succeed in my absence, so in assisting Director, Kristy Bray, who herself has only been the Director for less than a year – I was a part of the interview panel for new hires and I worked through the end of the year training current staff that was delegated my job responsibilities. My attitude has always been – we all succeed when we work together for the betterment of our county. I guess that’s why this has been so hard. I was given no help whatsoever to start my new job.” Despite all of this, Wilson keeps trying harder each day to get the County Clerk office back to normal again.

Frustrating Transition for County Clerk was last modified: February 20th, 2017 by Karen Elford