County BOC reverses decision to give Ambrozaitis more money

At their regular Wednesday meeting, a technicality caused the Clare County Board of Commissioners to reverse a decision they had made at their last meeting on March 7th.

At Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis’s request, the Board had agreed to divide the wages of the Chief Assistant Prosecutor between Ambrozaitis and the Assistant Prosecutor while the Chief’s post was vacant.  Upon legal review, the Board was informed that they may, at any time, raise the salaries of elected officials, but they are prohibited from lowering those salaries at any time during the official’s term of office.  If the Board granted a temporary raise in salary to the Prosecutor, the Board could not lower it until Ambrozaitis’s term of office had expired.

When presented with those facts, Ambrozaitis issued a statement saying that she was willing to forego any extra compensation and/or benefits that had been approved by the Board.  The Board voted unanimously to reconsider (rescind) their previous vote giving Ambrozaitis the temporary raise.  The Assistant Prosecutor, who is an appointed – not elected — official, will still be able to receive a temporary raise for the extra work she will be required to do until a new Chief Assistant Prosecutor is hired.

The Board questioned the details of a motion to support the appointment of attorney Karen Willing as the new District Court Administrator/Magistrate.  To help clarify what salary and benefits Willing will be receiving, the Board requested District Court Judge Josh Farrell come before them as soon as he was available.

Once he arrived, Judge Farrell explained that Clare and Gladwin is classified by the State as a “First Class” court serving multiple counties.  As the judge presiding in both counties, he can appoint a “registered elector” from one county and then can order her to serve in the other county.  Because Willing lives in Gladwin County, Farrell said, Gladwin County “technically has to do the appointment and issue the [$50,000 performance] bond,” which Gladwin County did at their meeting last week.

Farrell said that he had discussed wages with Willing, but had made no firm agreement with her as to salary.  Farrell did say that Willing was not going to take the County’s insurance and that she will not receive mileage for travel between Clare and Gladwin counties.

“My intention is to try to keep the salary as close.  Mrs. Willing, obviously, with a bachelor’s degree, a law degree and a PhD, her qualifications, I think, in other counties, she’d be way higher than what we are in this area.  I think Mr. LaBoda was right around $52,700.  I believe our Magistrate in Gladwin is right around $57,000, $58,000,” Farrell told the Board, saying he would like to set Willing’s salary as close to Gladwin’s Magistrate as possible.  Farrell indicated he was confident he could find the extra money within the District Court’s budget.

After receiving specifics from Judge Farrell, Commissioners voted unanimously to support the appointment of Willing, effective March 25, 2012, as a Court Administrator/Magistrate at a salary of $57,000 per year, with funding to come from the present District Court budget.

Clerk Pam Mayfield reported that the Redding Township election will be held May 8th, in order to replace the recalled township supervisor and clerk.  Mayfield also said that the deadline to file for elected offices is May 15th at 4:00 p.m.

“We did have another show cause hearing,” Mayfield said, “I think they had 24 cases that they were calling in.  Of the 24, 13 got caught up with their payments, seven more made payment arrangements…There were four cases where they failed to appear.”

Mayfield said that bench warrants were issued for those who did not appear, adding, “Of those four cases, three of them appeared in our office after the show cause hearing, and they made arrangements.  They were not arrested; nobody was arrested.”

Commissioner Jim Gelios reported that he had asked the chair of the Medical Control Authority Board and the chair of the 911 Advisory Board to attend the next Central Dispatch Committee meeting on March 29th at 10:00 a.m.

Gelios said that, if all parties are present, it will be easier to resolve the issues without having to go back and forth between the various boards. “Then we can get on with the issues as to…what that means for dispatching — the nearest ambulance, dispatching authority ambulance — probably end up with legal opinion also.  We’ll do the best we can, but we need to meet those questions head-on and that’s what we’re gong to do,” Gelios said.

Treasurer Jenny Beemer-Fritzinger reported that the County now accepts credit cards.  “We are almost finished with settlements.  We are actually waiting on just one unit, and the good news is delinquencies are down about, I’d say approximately $150,000 all together, which is a good sign.  It’s actually lower than the first settlement that I did for 2008 taxes,” Beemer-Fritzinger said.

Also at Wednesday’s Clare County BOC meeting, Commissioners:

*approved 911 Central Dispatch to purchase 2010 topographical fly-over data at a total cost of $16,100, with half to be paid in 2012 and half in 2013; the money will come from the 911 Central Dispatch budget.

*approved the Homeland Security Grant for local planner funding, effective June 1, 2012.

*reappointed Terry Thayer to the Construction Board of Appeals for a two-year term, to expire March 1, 2014.

*appointed Dean Beavers and Jerry White to the Building Authority Board for five-year terms, to expire March 1, 2017.

*approved the Tax Foreclosure Fund budget adjustment in the amount of $673,500.00 and the Abstract Department budget adjustment in the amount of $15,025.00.

*appointed Commissioner Lynn Grim to the Parks and Recreation Commission (appointment by Chairperson Don David) to replace Commissioner Leonard Strouse, who had previously resigned.

During the Committee of the Whole meeting, the Board voted to pass the following items on to the full Board for possible approval at their next regular meeting:

*Lori Ware’s request to extend the hours of Senior Services and Community Development to 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., pending the required 10-day notification of the department’s union employee.

*payment to Jack Little for the death of 17 laying hens in the amount of $136.00 as the result of stray dogs killing his chickens; money would be taken from the Contingency Fund, pending concurrence by the Garfield Township supervisor, as required by Michigan law, Act 339, enacted in 1919.

*payment of $10,000 from the Contingency Fund to the 911 budget, as per their agreement, following the completion of the grounding project.

*two budget adjustments: the first to transfer funds from the Administrator’s budget to the Clerk’s budget to cover the transfer of the payroll/accounts payable department, and the second to cover the retirement payout of sick and vacation time accrued by District Court Magistrate Rick LaBoda.