By Rosemary Horvath
Hayes Township Supervisor Terry Acton speculated Wednesday the motivation behind Road Commissioner Eddy Garver’s hasty resignation was fueled by the anger mounting over a separation agreement awarded former road commission manager Ron Bushong.
Bushong resigned the position effective July 31. After completing 25 years and one week of service at the road commission working numerous jobs until he became manager in 2011.
Garver who served as vice chairman of the road commission announced his resignation effective Aug. 14.
Acton filed a Freedom of Information request with the road commission in hopes of receiving details of a settlement with Bushong.
A separation agreement dated June 4 indicates Bushong received the equivalent of all unused vacation, sick leave and floating holiday hours.
Plus was paid 50 percent health insurance non-participation reimbursement for all full months employed during 2014.
Plus was paid six months severance pay equal to his current hourly rate of $33 times 1,040 hours, which came to $34,320.
Plus the board purchased five full years of MERS retirement service credit.
Instead of the usual date of retirement in 2021, Bushong is able to retire at 55 in April 2016 and will collect an annual benefit of $51,705. 72.
The actuarial cost, which is computing the present value of additional credited service the road commission provided Bushong, is estimated to be $255,392.
The last bit of information was not provided from Acton’s FOIA request but through another request made by an unnamed source who provided Acton and a few others with the information.
What some observers deem a sizeable payout does not sit well with township officials who prefer to have the road commission spend money on road improvements.
Acton and a small delegation of Hayes Township residents at a special county commission meeting Wednesday attempted to pressure commissioners to investigate the action of the road commission.
“As citizens you should be interested,” Acton said to board Chairman Rick LaBoda who was puzzled over Garver’s letter of resignation. It was later learned state law requires county commissioners to fill a vacancy on the road commission vacated by a resignation or death.
Commissioner Jim Gelios whose district includes Hayes Township explained salaries for road commissions are included in the county budget that commissioners approve, but other than that, the two are separate entities. Dollars paid road commission salaries are not out of the county general fund.
During a break, Gelios attempted to appease the group but found some too angry. One woman who would not give her name said the road commission was using “our money” to pay off the former manager when dollars should be spent on road improvements.
Some accused road commissioners and county commissioners of withholding information.
Acton had left the commission meeting when LaBoda ended the discussion. Contacted later in his township office, Acton speculated the county could be forced to take over the road commission “if this spirals out of control and two more road commissioners resign. Then the county board will have to take over the administration of the road commission.”
Acton says the public has a right to know the amount of money paid to Bushong and reasons for his departure.
Constituents want details, particularly since the road commission claims money is short for road repair.
Acton and Grant Township Supervisor Dan Dysinger have a sense of being broadsided learning of the steep payout.
At a road commission meeting last week, Dysinger said Bushong’s separation agreement has created a public relations problem for him.
Recounting what he said in an email for this story, Dysinger recalled telling road commissioners:
“As you know, I have written some articles detailing how the road and highway funding is in jeopardy. Additionally I have been supportive of the Road Commission and their plight regarding tight finances to finance local road repairs or improvements. My support levels are dropping quickly. I went on indicating to the Road Commissioners that if the millage question fails, it will be a long time before such question is re-introduced, if ever. We all know that this will not be a good thing for our road infrastructure.”
Dysinger and Acton are suspicious Bushong’s departure goes beyond a typical retirement.
Acton has been told Bushong’s responsibilities were curtailed early this year or last.
In fact, the Clare County Review ran a letter to the editor March 7, 2014 from a concerned citizen who complained Bushong had been demoted, his responsibilities reduced “because of his lack of performance,” while his rate of pay remained the same.
Bushong declined to respond to the letter at the time.
Bushong succeeded Steve Stocking, manager-engineer, at the beginning of 2011, although his background did not include engineering.
The road commission has accepted resumes for the manager-engineer position.