Thursday, March 11, 2021

Deputy supervisor’s pay rate remains board topic

Finance Director Michelle Cole accepted the appointment as deputy supervisor in Sumpter Township last month, following the abrupt resignation of Kenneth Bednark.

Bednark reportedly resigned due to a pay dispute and a public disagreement with Supervisor Tim Bowman during a meeting of the board of trustees. The dispute regarding the hourly wage for the position was the topic of discussion by board members again during the Feb. 26 meeting when Trustee Peggy Morgan continued to advocate for a higher hourly wage for the position.

Bednark was appointed to the deputy position by newly-elected Bowman in November and was to be paid, both acknowledged, at the same rate as the previous deputy, $31.44 per hour, along with medical benefits. The board of trustees disagreed with that wage decision and, following a legal opinion from township attorney Rob Young, explained that the board members, by township charter, not the supervisor, determine the rate of pay for employees. During a meeting Feb. 15, the trustees reduced the full-time position to part-time at an annual salary of $8,406 or $8.08 per hour, and disallowed all benefits. The board subsequently agreed to pay Bednark at the higher rate up until the change, from Nov. 20 until Dec. 15, but ordered him to repay the extra salary that he had received since that date. The amount was being deducted from his paychecks.

Bednark complained and demanded the full payment including benefits and other compensation. The board members, through Young, offered him a $5,500 settlement which he refused and he is currently pursuing the issue through the Michigan Department of Labor while the township has hired a labor attorney to handle his claim.

During the meeting of the board last month, trustees were asked to approve the same part-time rate of $8,406 for Cole, prompting  Morgan, who had been the most supportive of the higher wage for Bednark, to strongly disagree with the proposed motion setting the wage for the position.

Morgan said she had no objection to Cole, but disagreed with the pay rate.

Trustee Don LaPorte asked Morgan if she felt the rate was too low and wanted to pay Cole more. He suggested that the rate could be increased if brought to the board members at a later date.

“I think the pay is appropriate,” explained Trustee Matt Oddy. “She (Cole) is already getting paid as the finance director, this is additional pay to perform the statutory duties of the supervisor, such as the budget. She is performing those duties already,” he said.

Treasurer Jim Clark agreed noting that Cole had already accepted the part-time pay rate with no benefits for the duties involved as deputy supervisor.

The pay rate as presented in the motion was approved by a vote of the board members.