Clawson OKs city manager contract with former clerk

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published August 11, 2020

 Michael Smith

Michael Smith

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CLAWSON — In a 3-2 vote Aug. 5, the Clawson City Council approved a contract with former City Clerk Michael Smith to serve as city manager, with provisions for Smith to also fill the vacant city clerk position.

The contract, negotiated by Smith and interim City Attorney Renis Nushaj, includes an annual salary of $95,000, as well as an additional $15,000 annually for the time Smith spends serving as city clerk.

The contract provides that, upon a successful yearlong review period and subsequent annual reviews, Smith would receive an additional 10% of his annual salary on top of the 12% city employees already receive added to his retirement account.

The contract states that the $15,000 annual provision for Smith’s duties of filling the city clerk position would be deposited into his retirement account “as a bonus and overall cost savings to the City for serving as both the City manager and City Clerk. This amount shall be pro-rated during any given year due to the potential he may not serve in this dual role for an extended period of time.”

On July 28, the City Council voted 3-2 to extend an employment offer and negotiate a contract with Smith. He was one of six final candidates from a pool of 273 applicants from around the country for the position. The city hired Amy Cell Talent to conduct the executive search for the city manager position.

The other five candidates included Darcy D. Long, Cassi Meitl, Darchelle Strickland Love, BT Irwin and Joseph M. Sobota. The City Council interviewed the six finalists on July 22 and 23.

According to a press release from Amy Cell Talent, Smith serves as the village administrator and clerk for the village of Wolverine Lake, where he works closely with all departments to “ensure the effective administration of Village services.” Prior to working for Wolverine Lake, he served as deputy city clerk and city clerk for Clawson for nine years, and prior to that, he worked for Oakland County.

Smith earned a Bachelor of Science in liberal studies with a concentration in leadership and diversity from Grand Valley State University. He also earned a Master of Public Administration degree as well as a post-master certificate in local government management from Oakland University, according to the release.

Councilwomen Paula Millan and Susan Moffitt cast the two no votes on both Aug. 5 and July 28.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to serve as city manager and clerk,” Millan said. “We interviewed for city clerk, put job postings out for city clerks and now all of a sudden we have a document and don’t have a city clerk anymore.”

She said she had major concerns with one person’s ability to fill two full-time positions, especially given the soft start proposed in the contract of Aug. 17 that includes a hybrid model of in-person and virtual employment.

“Mike’s a nice guy and he’s probably got great skills. I don’t know if he has a Superman cape, but he’s going to need that, and he’s going to need a magic wand in order to get things done,” Millan said.

Moffitt said she felt the language in the contract concerning the city clerk position was “ambiguous” and she would rather remove the entire section and appoint Smith to the position separately. She also felt that the financial provisions were overly generous, including the “golden parachute” if Smith were terminated without cause.

“I’m disheartened to hear that no points of this are negotiable,” Moffitt said.

Mayor Reese Scripture said the soft start as she understood it was a compromise so that Smith could start on a part-time basis immediately while still giving the normal 30-day notice to his employer and that his benefits would begin in September.

She said she was glad that Smith could step in and help the city of Clawson with the November election on a temporary basis, so the City Council could have time to hire a new city clerk.

“It’ll be awfully hard to hire a clerk between now and November,” Scripture said. “The way it’s written, we can revisit it in three months.”

She said she felt that, compared to other city managers in comparable cities, the addition of the 10% of Smith’s $95,000 salary to his retirement account after the first year was a fair way of paying Smith a reasonable salary that would also save the city money by circumventing the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax.

The posted city clerk position included a high range of $65,000, and Scripture said she felt the money saved through November would benefit the city.

Interim City Attorney Renis Nushaj said he thought the terms were “fairly standard as far as city managers are concerned.” Councilwoman Kathy Phillips and Councilman Lou Samson both supported Smith as their top candidate and did not voice concerns with the proposed contract.

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