2013-02-07 / Front Page

County stalls on director’s contract

Shared services agreement raises questions

MANISTIQUE – A contract between Schoolcraft County Public Transit and Delta County Transit Authority for the shared services of a director will head back to the drawing board. The decision to fine-tune the proposed contract was made during a recent meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners.

The board had previously approved a shared services agreement between DATA and Schoolcraft County Public Transit in October. Under the agreement, John Stapleton, current director of Schoolcraft County Public Transit, would split his time 50/50 between Schoolcraft and Delta counties and receive a salary of $50,000 per year, benefit package, and the use of a DATA administration vehicle for transportation.

The agreement called for Delta County to reimburse Schoolcraft County on a quarterly basis for 50 percent of Stapleton’s salary and benefit package. Once approved, Stapleton’s contract with DATA would last through Sept. 30, 2013.

During Thursday’s meeting, Chairperson Al Grimm said the county’s lawyers had looked over the contract, and had indicated it was ready to be approved, as long as the 50/50 language was acceptable for everyone. He added he wasn’t sure this was the case for Schoolcraft County, which could possibly charge Delta County an administrative fee or having Stapleton spend more time in Schoolcraft.

Commissioner Dan LaFoille explained he had “several” concerns about the proposed contract. He pointed out the transit would need to appoint or hire a second-in-command person to cover Stapleton’s position in his absence.

“We have to resolve whether that’s going to be from in-house or whether that person will be in the union as a supervisor,” he said. “We don’t gain very much monetarily (from the contract), because of the increase in wages and what we end up paying the second-incommand person.”

Another of LaFoille’s issues centered on Stapleton’s role within the county.

“John, in effect, becomes a parttime employee of Schoolcraft County,” he said. “I think the responsibilities at DATA, because of its size … are different then they are here at Schoolcraft.”

Because of these issues, LaFoille said the county would have to consider how to handle Stapleton’s retirement and insurance costs.

“Before we sign a contract, I think we need answers to some of those questions,” he said.

According to Stapleton, the Michigan Municipal Employee’s Retirement System had found no problem with the proposed contract.

“Their (MERS) legal department reviewed the situation and they have no issues at all,” he said. “From what MERS has told me directly, as long as there are 10, eight-hour days per month, that constitutes enough service credit.”

Stapleton also noted the county’s attorney had set up a contract as “lease-style” agreement.

“You’re not putting me part time here and part time there,” he explained. “What you’re doing is leasing services to the other agency … that does not change the benefits, insurance, retirement, etc.”

Commissioner Craig Reiter noted the Schoolcraft County Public Transit board is in favor of the contract and suggested hiring a part-time salary employee to hold the second-in-command spot.

Stapleton said he advocates promoting a current transit employee to fill the position.

“Promoting from within, I think is a way to reward some of the existing staff that have been there and done an excellent job working,” he said. “We’d have to have some discussions on making that work properly.”

The board unanimously approved a motion to send the contract back to the transit board for more suggestions and guidelines before approval.

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