Court, county at odds over paid days off

March 31, 2016

By Rosemary Horvath

Clare County Commissioners decided to look into installing time clocks at the County Building to register when all employees arrive and leave for work or don’t come in. Discussion is expected to continue at the April 20 board meeting.

The option surfaced from a so-called snow day Feb. 24 when Governor Snyder had all state administrative offices in the Lower Peninsula closed due to significant snowfall.

80th District Court Judge Josh Farrell had courts and offices closed in Harrison. The County Building, which houses county offices such as clerk and treasurer, did not close. All offices remained open except for the prosecutor’s office.

Only a month before, county commissioners established board policy not to close for snow days.
A few commissioners were not happy over the judge’s action Feb. 24. In their view, board Chairman Jack Kleinhardt is the only one authorized to have the County Building closed, including courts.
They were further disgruntled that employees in the court offices turned in pay stubs and were paid automatically.

Commissioner Don David said he had contacted Judge Farrell’s office but that no one would talk to him. “He refused to talk to us. We should ask the administrator to come up here. This is getting out of hand and I’m getting tired of it.”

Commissioner Karen Lipovsky agreed.
Chairman Kleinhardt said it was “irresponsible” on the governor’s part to shut down all state and federal offices across the Lower Peninsula “when one-third of the state didn’t have snow.”

Karen Willing, district court court administrator, said in a phone interview Wednesday, court offices are a separate entity from the County Building. “We are in one building but we are separate.”

Evidence of this is the fact members of the public entering the judicial section of the building are required to pass through security screening managed by sheriff’s deputies. Security is not required to approach county offices.

As for the Feb. 24 snow day, Willing said the decision to close was based on a state of emergency. Judge Farrell had conferred with administrators in the early hours and decided to follow the governor’s lead. Willing added that all local schools and colleges had closed.

“We’d like to see one voice but it was our understanding that each department is free to make a choice,” she said, adding that Judge Farrell as chief judge has authority over the courts.

On the occasion court offices are closed, notices can be added to the county website. Messages also can be added to voice answering system and notices are sent to respective departments such as Department of Corrections.

Willing added that decisions regarding district court are made independently between the offices in Clare and Gladwin counties.

An unrelated Feb. 24 event compounding the board’s ire was over a prank committed by an unidentified source someone who broadcast the song “Take This Job and Shove It,” over the intercom at the County Building. A department head had to approve it, commissioners speculated.

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