Board rescinds finance, HR dept. merger

By: Nico Rubello | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published June 11, 2013

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Clinton Township’s finance and human resources departments are no longer expected to merge.

The Clinton Township board on June 3 voted 5-2 to rescind a February vote to merge the township’s finance and human resources departments into a single department responsible for all accounting, budgeting, labor relations, employee benefits management and risk management issues.

Trustee Dean Reynolds, who was absent for the February vote due to illness, brought the matter back before the board, taking issue with a few of its provisions.

On Feb. 4, the board had voted 4-2 to form a single Administrative Services department, but the resolution was contingent upon agreement from the public services employee union. At the time the merger was planned to happen around April 1, but the two departments never did so.

Reynolds took issue with the fact that, as proposed, the Administrative Services department would have had two deputy directors, with one making more than the other, he said. He also noted that the current human resources director would have gotten a pay raise for heading the new department while the township had merged other departments in the past with the director in charge not getting any pay raise at all, he said. 

Trustee Kenneth Pearl, who in February voted for the merger  and has supported other consolidation proposals in the past, said his initial support had been contingent on getting some of these details getting worked out, including agreement from the unions. On June 3, he voted for rescinding the merger, stating the issues have not been worked out in the months since the original merger vote.

“I said work it out and it didn’t get worked out,” he said. “If you work it out, then bring it back.”

In February, the union agreement was deemed necessary by the board since the move called for giving some of the duties now being done by a union member, the finance director, to a non-union member, the administration services director.

Township Supervisor Robert Cannon, a proponent of the merger, disagreed with the notion that it had not been worked out with the unions, saying union management had indicated to go ahead with the merger. The supervisor said he had met with the union membership, which had put the issue to a vote that was never needed; the vote never produced an official tally, he said. 

Cannon said that given the increasing number of federal and state regulations with which the township has to comply, human resources and finance personnel have been taking on more responsibility and were having difficulty keeping up with the workload.

“If (the merger) doesn’t work, we’ll be back to request a change,” he said.

Treasurer Bill Sowerby and Paul Gieleghem, who had voted against the merger in the first place, saying there still too many questions and concerns that needed to be addressed, voted for rescinding the merger, as did Clerk Kim Meltzer.

Trustee Joie West voted against rescinding the merger.

While the merger was rescinded, Reynolds’ proposals that the township still implement two of its provisions — hire a human resources manager and move the finance and human resources departments next to each other — were rejected under 4-3 votes.

Human Resources Director William Smith and Finance Director Donna Lauretti, acting upon Cannon’s request, wrote in a June 3 letter to the township board that, alone, moving the two departments together would not achieve the efficiencies the merger would have achieved.

Smith also said that the human resources position made sense within the organization of the new department, but adding another position without the merger “would just simply be adding another tire onto the car, and a car only needs four tires; it doesn’t need five.”