By Rosemary K. Otzman
Arthur F. Mullen, who has been serving as Interim Director of Planning and Economic Development since Feb. 11, finally had his employment agreement approved by the Van Buren Township Board at its regular meeting April 2.
VBT Supervisor Linda Combs had brought Mullen’s employment proposal to the Feb. 19 work study session of the board, but board members said they didn’t have enough information on him and asked that the item be pulled from the board agenda.
At that time, Supervisor Combs had proposed $7,000 a month as Mullen’s pay. She said having a person in that position was very important and he started at once after Terry Carroll was pushed into resignation.
Mullen, who lives in Grosse Pointe, is on the board of the Michigan Downtown Association and is certified with the American Institute of Certified Planners.
He was laid off from an executive director’s position at the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority last May for economic reasons. The DDA had less money coming in and no projects to give him to manage, an official said.
According to an interview with Mullen when he was with the Mount Clemens DDA, Mullen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. He then earned a Master of Science degree in Historic Preservation at Columbia University.
His first full-time job was in the Planning and Development Department of the City of Detroit. Then he worked for four years with the MotorCities National Heritage Area as a program manager before becoming director of the Mount Clemens DDA.
The VBT agreement with Mullen approved on April 2 was retroactive to Feb. 11, but the new $70,000 salary ($5,833.33 per month) was put in place as of April 3.
The interim employment is expected to last about six months while the township seeks a new director and gets a director in place, Combs said at the April 1 work-study session of the board. No benefits are offered with the agreement.
A planning/building department budget was given to board members to explain how Mullen, the next director and a new deputy director ($39,000 budgeted) would be paid. It was discussed at the April 1 work-study session.
Carroll had $77,500 in the budget for his wages and $140,655 for fringes. $30,591.97 of the wages and $35,861.70 of the fringes were expended when he left.
His separation payment is included in the $30,591.97 paid to Carroll this year. Although Supervisor Combs has refused to honor a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Independent to release the amount of the severance payment made to Carroll, it appears to be in the range of $22,000.
Proposed expenses call for six months of Mullen at $5,833.33 per month (about $35,000) and about 19 weeks for the new director at $25,478.92 (salary: $70,000).
It was estimated $14,800 more was needed for this, plus $151,655 for Mullen’s $700 FICA payments and the new director’s benefits. The shortfall adds up to $25,800, which Combs is taking out of Contracted Services. She said McKenna and Wade Trim will no longer be doing permit inspections for building, mechanical and plumbing
The only budget amendment needed was a re-allocation of $25,800 from Contracted Services.
Combs said she has advertised for a new director through professional organizations and had 15 submissions already. Help-wanted advertisements also have been posted for the DPW Director, since Tom McDonald was retiring as of April 8.
There was a long discussion on the way Mullen’s employment was being handled at the April 1 work-study session.
Trustee Jeff Jahr said he didn’t like shifting Contracted Services over, “Just shifting money from one line to another doesn’t solve the problem. Who’s doing the electrical inspecting?”
Combs said VBT employee Judy Fields was doing all the inspections but electrical. Contractor Robert Lenz was doing electrical inspections.
“We’re saving money by doing it in-house,” Combs said.
“We were having McKenna and Wade Trim doing inspections and that ended before I came on board,” Mullen said. “It was in the budget and now we have that money.”
“This board never approved a contract
with Wade Trim … This was controversial,” Trustee Jahr said referring to inspections and all the questions on inspections at many past meetings.
Combs said under Carroll, Fields, a union inspector, was doing account clerk work and Wade Trim was hired to do inspections and money for that was built into the budget.
“A union inspector as an account clerk which is no longer happening,” Combs said.
“I’d like to see it spelled out as a budget amendment, not these loosey-goosey transfers,” Jahr said.
Combs said Carroll built in funds for Wade Trim and McKenna to do inspections and, “We’re not going to need that money for them.”
Jahr said the board supposedly directed Carroll to go out for Requests for Proposals to outsource building department services, but Combs said the RFP did not go out because she stopped it.
“The board has been left out of the loop,” Jahr said. “We’ll be looking stupid when people start asking questions at meetings.”
Clerk Leon Wright said the township lost an electrical inspector and Matt Forster, the building inspector, left. Fields thought this affected her, Wright said.
“We lost two employees and still have the work,” Jahr said.
“There was a personal conflict between her [Fields] and him [Carroll] and he didn’t give her the work,” Combs said.
Jahr said the former director said Fields couldn’t do it and suddenly she is doing all the work, except electrical.
John Delaney said from the audience that Fields spent 75% of her time behind her desk and she was supposed to be out inspecting. Delaney said the township used to have rotations of inspectors in the community to be called in for work.
Combs said setting up a rotation is something that takes time.
“I’m not going to let this drop,” Jahr said. “The problem may or may not be the previous director … he’s gone …we were looking into contracting out services … This board has not been kept advised. This is a problem area…Suddenly we’re taking money out of one area for another … The new director will be making less than the previous director. We’ve never seen any of the budget implications.”
“I agree with Trustee Jahr,” said Trustee Phil Hart. “We need to be advised. I’m kinda glad you did what you did … But if we had a piece of white paper telling us what’s going on…”
“This board needs to be involved,” Jahr said.
“You should have asked,” Combs replied.
“You’re at the top of the heap, the CEO,” Hart said, noting board members don’t know what to ask.
Combs said she was new on the job and board members can ask her anything.
“You challenged my integrity,” Jahr said to Combs, referring to a past situation, “and I’m not going to let this drop.”
Trustee Reggie Miller suggested Combs offer a weekly update to the board of her activities and decisions.
“Certainly the policy changes,” Hart added.
Jahr said the board doesn’t know what is going on and it is contrary to what the board thought when they allocated the budget money.
“There’s no way the board would have known … the board should be told,” Jahr said.
“I also need backup when Judy goes on vacation,” Mullen said of another concern.
Trustee Brenda McClanahan said the board needs to know what’s going on because if, in six to eight months something goes down, it falls on the entire board.
“We have some physical hard times coming,” Jahr predicted.
Mullen said it was a decision by the supervisor to cut out Wade Trim and McKenna from inspecting.
“We weren’t advised,” Jahr insisted.
Combs said there were a lot of loose ends and she didn’t have time to call every board member.
CeJay Marshall said from the audience, that Terry Carroll stonewalled everyone when he was questioned about inspectors. Marshall said John Delaney brought this forward six months ago.
“I commend you for stopping it,” Marshall said to the supervisor. “It was something from the previous administration.”
Delaney noted employees left or were pushed out because Wade Trim and McKenna were getting the inspections.
“We will endeavor to make this as fair as we can,” Combs said.
In business at the April 2 regular meeting, the board:
• Approved changing voting precinct locations for Precincts 2, 6, and 8. Precinct 2 moves from Fire Station 2 to Wayne County Community College, Precinct 6 moves from Fire Station 1to the high school; and Precinct 8 moves from Savage back to Haggerty School. Updated voter registration cards will be mailed out to about 7,600 effected voters. It was agreed that the fire stations do not have enough parking area for big election turnouts;
• Approved hiring Wade Trim as housing rehabilitation services contractor for the township’s Community Development Block Grant program. McKenna Associates also bid for the work, with both stating the same rate based upon a percentage of expenditures, all costs paid through the federal CDBG program. Mullen said the township has $144,000 for housing rehab and there are 12 applications. Treasurer Sharry Budd said the township has CDBG rehab funds from 2009, 2011 and 2012 and the township has to move forward or it will have to refund the money to CDBG. “We have to move forward. I’m not going to send that money back,” Budd said;
• Approved changes to the Salaried Employees Benefit Manual: Health / Dental / Optical section. As of May 1, all salaried employees and all elected officials will pay 10% of the cost of their health insurance, just like the unions have agreed to pay. Combs said the unions were getting impatient that this hadn’t been approved yet for salaried/elected personnel. The previous administration had a policy that new salaried employees would pay 20%. Those paying 20% were Jennifer Zaenglein, Karin LaMothe, Terry Carroll (who left) and Dan Besson (who dropped township insurance). They will now pay 10%;
• Approved the $25,300 proposal from Roofing Technology Associates to act as roof consultant on the upcoming reroofing of the township hall. In 2012 the board approved RTA to prepare specifications, assist with bidding, and provide oversight to replace a small portion of the roof and make various repairs. The bids came in low, so the board approved the re-roofing of most of the roof with RTA overseeing the expanded project, expected to be this summer. The VBT DDA offered to pay 75% of the cost for the entire roof;
• Approved the supervisor’s reappointments of Dr. Gerald Graf and Carl Pedersen to the Water and Sewer Commission with terms to expire June 1, 2015. Commission members are paid $25 per meeting;
• Learned VBT received two Risk Avoidance Grants from its insurance carrier MMRMA. One was for $8,576 for the water control system upgrade and the other was for $4,399.50 for a sewer inspection push camera that works without excavation. The grants are for 50% of the cost of the equipment.
• Heard Clerk Wright say he would be giving lessons on elections at Belleville High School on April 9 and his office will be running a real election for the BHS Student Council all day May 14. The Clerk’s office will provide real ballots and real voting machines to introduce students to the voting experience;
• Heard presentations from Interim Public Safety Director Greg Laurain and Fire Chief Dan Besson on their departments; and
• Heard Supervisor Combs ask, during the Non-Agenda Items part of the meeting, how they would like to choose an electrical inspector: go out for proposals or get a list of inspectors and rotate. Trustee Miller suggested putting the item on a workshop agenda for discussion. Trustee McClanahan asked that the proposed board policy also be brought back to the work/study for discussion. No members of the audience wished to speak.
By Rosemary K. Otzman