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Tuscola County still without county controller - administrator
Tue, 09 Jul 2019 07:16:27 EDT
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As of 12:01 a.m., June 15, Tuscola County has been without a county controller - administrator for the first time in more than three decades despite having hired one in May.
Although Tuscola County Board of Commissioners approved hiring the county's Chief Accountant Clayette Zechmeister May 6 in a vote of three to two, to be the county's next controller - administrator a contract locking in that decision in has not been accomplished, and the employment offer has been revised.
Zechmeister and commissioners have been at a loggerhead on some contract issues and the wording in some areas of the proposed contract. Plus, there are some other issues the contract that have to be taken into consideration. There are certain rules and regulations that are required of a controller and also of an administrator, which have to be taken into consideration in the contract.
Zechmeister has worked for the county for 30 years. She started out working in the county clerk's office, and then spent the last 20 years working in the controller - administrator's office as the chief accountant.
After commissioners approved hiring Zechmeister as the replacement for Mike Hoagland, he stepped away from his duty of heading up county board meetings after doing so for 33 years.
"She's capable. She's done that before," stated Hoagland after commissioners questioned his not attending the eight board meetings during the last two months of his employment as the county's controller - administrator before his retirement.
That put Zechmeister at the forefront of heading up county meetings. That meant commissioners outlining their expectations of her new duties, asking pointed questions on how she would handle certain issues, and working on negotiating a contract in a public forum.
"It was an awkward position for the board as well in working on a contract agreement with the candidate (Zechmeister) sitting there," noted commission Chair Thom Bardwell.
The situation was awkward at times for Zechmeister as well.
"I'm hopeful a contract will be reached soon. My lawyer and their lawyer are still talking and have not gotten back to us yet," she said.
After not being able to each an agreement, commissioners appointed Zechmeister as "acting county controller - administrator."
"She is a staple in Tuscola County government. She knows where every dollar is," said District 1 Commissioner Tom Young. "I hope we can come to some kind of an agreement soon."
In May, the board approved offering Zechmeister a salary of $87,740 and a two-year contract.
At the June 13, meeting, commissioners then added the provision of no automatic pay increases during the two-year contract.
At that point, Zechmeister verbally rejected the contract. That was when commissioners decided she would be appointed as the interim controller - administrator going back to midnight June 14, and receive some financial compensation for that role.
Commissioners discussed the options available regarding the contract and no contract for the controller - administrator, and the options when she rejected the contract.
Tuscola County Register of Deeds John Bishop, who used to be a private-practice attorney, stated the job advertisement should have had the details included within it so the applicant knew what would be offered in the contract and other such information.
County Clerk Jodi Fetting read motions passed at the May 30 meeting regarding the employment contract for the controller/administrator position.
Because a contract was not reached, Commissioner Dan Grimshaw made the motion with Bardwell seconded to have himself (Bardwell) as board chair contact the county's lawyer to clarify a response on what steps should be taken next.
Also, Fetting was asked to reference Robert's Rules of Order regarding rescinding a motion.
At the June 27, county meeting, Bardwell talked about some options.
According to Bardwell, the board's options include: continuing to negotiate an employment agreement, rescind the as-is-contract, amend the employment agreement, have no contract, rescind the decision to hire Zechmeister, to go with one of the other candidates who were originally interviewed, or to start the hiring process over again.
"When she rejected the contract, it made the offer null and void. So the contract for the position can be offered to anyone now," Bardwell said. "The original candidate rejected the offer so legally it is open."
"When the original candidate refuses a contract offer there is no obligation to negotiate unless the board decides to do so. That is what we are working through."
However, during Monday's commissioners' committee of the whole meeting there was an amicable agreement to wait until the next county meeting on the controller - administrator issue to give the lawyers more time. The issue is expected to be addressed at the full board of commissioners 8 a.m., July 11 meeting.