Board votes to merge finance, HR departments

By: Nico Rubello | C&G Newspapers | Published February 7, 2013


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In another move toward streamlining township operations, Clinton Township trustees voted Feb. 4 to merge the township’s financial and human resources departments, effective this spring.

The plan, however, is contingent on confirmation that the restructuring doesn’t conflict with public-services employee union agreements.

“We’ve been inundated with additional work in the two departments,” said Township Supervisor Robert Cannon, who supported the measure. “There’s no possible way, without rearranging, that they can keep up with the necessary work. This will streamline the operation tremendously.”

Under the resolution, approved by the Clinton Township Board of Trustees, a new Administrative Services department would be formed with the fiscal year beginning April 1.

The proposed department would be tasked with handling all issues pertaining to accounting, budgeting, labor relations, employee benefits management and risk management.

Human Resources Director William Smith said that, given the increasing number of state and federal regulations with which the township is obliged to comply, human resources and finance personnel have been taking on more responsibility, yet still are not able to keep up with the necessary workload.

The board approved the merger by a 4-2 vote, with Trustee Dean Reynolds absent.

Pending on the union’s agreement, Smith, who would head the new department as the administration services director, and current Finance Director Donna Lauretti, who would become the deputy director, would swap some of their responsibilities.

Also, Assistant Finance Director Mary Hein would become the assistant director overseeing accounting and budget matters, including managing grants received by the township.

The process additionally calls for the hiring of a human resources manager at a pay rate of $60,000-$66,000.

The human resources and finance departments also would be moved to neighbor each other on the second story of the Clinton Township Civic Center, located at 40700 Romeo Plank Road.

Two board members, Township Treasurer Bill Sowerby and Trustee Paul Gieleghem, voted against the resolution, saying there were still too many questions and concerns that needed to be addressed before merging the departments.

For one thing, Sowerby said, complications could arise from giving some of the duties now being done by a union member, the finance director, to a non-union member, the administration services director.

“We’ve got to realize that, because we are working with the unions, that we are making decisions here that will impact decisions later on and maybe be reversed,” Sowerby said.

Cannon said he would immediately notify the Board of Trustees if the merger wasn’t working.

Gieleghem, while agreeing there was more work to do than what finance and human resources workers can perform, said he didn’t agree with the restructuring.

“I think there needs to be a direct line of communication (between the finance and human resources departments), but I think those are very important and very independent functions,” he added. “I want my finance director in charge and focused on budget and accounting issues. I want my human resources director specifically focused on employee administration and labor negotiations. … I think we’re blurring too many lines.”

Smith said streamlining operations would make the departments more efficient. For instance, work that originates in the human resources department is transferred to the payroll system.

The restructuring would allow financial and human resources staffers to specialize in specific areas, instead of spreading their time across many different roles, he said.

The Feb. 4 meeting was not the first time governmental consolidation has been discussed in Clinton Township, however.

The township previously merged its Engineering, Water and Sewer, and Department of Public Works into what is now the singular Public Services department. Water billing was moved to the treasurer’s office.

And, more recently, the Board of Trustees voted Dec. 17 to consolidate police dispatch operations with Macomb County, beginning this spring.