2013-04-04 / Front Page

Board rejects proposed change

Addition to eligibility guidelines in leave of absence policy denied

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners has decided against a potential policy change intended to make it easier for county employees to take a leave of absence to participate in ventures such as shared services. The policy change was suggested by a commissioner following last month’s Schoolcraft County Public Transit director’s departure.

A shared services agreement between Schoolcraft County Public Transit and the Delta Area Transit Authority was considered earlier this year, calling for then-Director John Stapleton to split his time 50/50 between Schoolcraft and Delta counties. The agreement was initially approved by both counties, and stipulated that Delta County would reimburse Schoolcraft County on a quarterly basis for 50 percent of Stapleton’s salary and benefit package.

During a meeting in early February, however, Schoolcraft County commissioners backed out of agreement, citing concern over the cost to the county. In March, DATA hired Stapleton as their executive director and agreed to “lease” him to Schoolcraft under the same terms.

While the board initially voted to grant Stapleton a leave of absence during his shared services trial, they later discovered this was against the county’s policies and procedures. Despite this, commission Chairperson

Al Grimm noted in March that Stapleton would still be welcomed back to the position, should he choose to return after the year trial.

In Thursday’s meeting, Commissioner Craig Reiter proposed a change to the Schoolcraft County Policy and Procedure Handbook. He noted that, currently, there are only four circumstances making an employee eligible for a leave of absence, including: serving in an elected position, maternity leave, a prolonged illness or disability affecting the employee or a member of their family, and education training in relation to the employee’s position.

“If we could add a (number) five to that: ‘Any other circumstances with board’s approval’,” he said. “It would give us any leeway if we would have to, in future times, if something like this would come up, that it would leave it up to us for a unique situation.”

He noted the proposed change had gone to the county’s personnel committee and that its members had been split over approving it. Reiter then made the motion for the policy change, with a second by Commissioner Sue Cameron.

“It opens way too many windows,” Commission Jerry Zellar said. “(It’s) allowing the board to do anything outside the parameters of what’s ever been in the policy and procedures.”

Commission Dan LaFoille agreed, noting he didn’t think it was a good idea.

Reiter further explained his train of thought, noting that the new policy would allow for employees to participate in endeavors such as shared services with other counties.

“We’re kind of going into unchartered waters,” he said. “How do you go ahead and put something into place for something if you’re not sure what it’s going to do?.

Grimm also disagreed with the policy change.

“People do these things with a certain amount of risk involved with it,” he said. “We can’t guarantee them that if it don’t work out over there, a year from now, that they’re welcome back.

They’re going to get more money, they’re going to get more benefits – but there’s also a downside to this,” he added.

Reiter voted no on his motion, along with Grimm, Zellar and LaFoille. Commissioner Sue Cameron cast the sole “yes” vote.

In other business, LaFoille noted that the board will have a letter and a list of “specific objections” to the Manistique Downtown Development Authority at the April 11 meeting.

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