Thursday, February 4, 2021

Sumpter trustees approve settlement of pay rate dispute

Supervisor Tim Bowman
Members of the Sumpter Township Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to a one-time $500 payment to Deputy Treasurer Kenneth Bednark along with a month of a back wages at a higher hourly amount.
The unanimous vote came after a protracted discussion of the situation at the Jan. 26 meeting. The topic was prompted by Trustee Peggy Morgan who also raised the issue at the Jan. 12 meeting, suggesting Bednark be compensated at the higher rate paid to the previous deputy supervisor.  At that time, the question of authority to set township employee wages  was referred to township attorney Rob Young for research.
Young presented his preliminary findings but told the board members last week that his research left him needing direction from the board as to their intent when they voted on the issue Dec. 15. At that meeting, the board reduced Bednark’s position to part time without benefits at a reduced hourly rate.
Young explained that the  board of trustees has the authority to set the wages for township employees. He explained, however, that a deputy official is responsible only for performing the statutory duties of the person appointing the deputy, and nothing more. If the board intended the deputy, in this case Bednark, to perform additional or other duties, then other laws such as minimum wage and benefits would come into play. 
“I need direction from you as to what your intent on Dec. 15 was,” he told the board.
Supervisor Tim Bowman explained that when he hired Bednark as his deputy, he assumed it would be at the same rate as the previous deputy supervisor.  “I was not asking him to do anything more that my statutory duties,” he said. 
During the meeting, Young repeatedly acknowledged, as did the trustees, that there was no inference that Bowman had any ulterior motive in the appointment of Bednark and that he had acted on incomplete information.
Morgan repeatedly suggested that the board pay Bednark at the previous deputy supervisor’s rate and stop withholding what had been determined as an overpayment from his checks. She reiterated several times that Bednark had not been paid “the money he had earned.”
Trustee Matt Oddy reminded Morgan and the board that the trustees had previously agreed that if it had been determined that the supervisor had the authority to set the hourly wage rate, the township would not take the money back from Bednark as a reimbursement for the overpayment. 
“We had a review. The board already passed a resolution, so we can move on. If this was paid in error, we should get the money back. We dealt with this at the last meeting,” Oddy said.
Bednark delivered a letter to township officials last week demanding back pay, interest, insurance, sick and vacation time accrued from the date of his swearing in on Nov. 20 until the board set his pay as a part-time deputy supervisor at $8,406 with no benefits  Dec. 15.
The discussion continued with Morgan repeatedly insisting that Bednark be paid the amount “authorized by the supervisor.”  She suggested paying him that hourly rate and then discussing the interest, benefits, insurance and vacation days he was claiming at a future meeting.
Oddy and Trustee Tim Rush were both adamantly opposed to that suggestion saying this issue had simply “dragged on too long.” Both said they wanted the issue settled during the meeting. Oddy said, however, it would be difficult to vote on the issue when there was no calculation of the amount presented. 
After lengthy discussion, the board members unanimously agreed to pay Bednark the increased hourly rate for the time worked from Nov. 20 until Dec. 15 along with an additional $500 in compensation for his other claims on the condition that this would satisfy all the pay issues.
Bednark reportedly submitted a letter of resignation last weekeffective Feb. 10 following a public dispute with Bowman.
(See related story, above)