Pay rates and the attendance policy for the Union Township Board of Trustees were heavily discussed in a Wednesday workshop meeting, after complaints of corruption from residents,
Meeting pay is a small, but important part of the more than $10 million budget. Funding for the budget comes from the near 11,000 Union Township residents’ tax dollars. Past and present trustees have been accused of poor attendance at meetings, one of the main calls for a deduction in pay.
A main concern among the board members was preventing abuse of the policy, which Trustee Tim Lannen said has been in place for more than seven years.
“I have seen it abused,” said Trustee Bryan Mielke. “I have seen members … during their lame duck sessions suddenly start attending meetings for five minutes and then they would leave. I haven’t seen anybody here doing it, but I have seen it in the past.”
One of the residents viewed the tape from the last meeting and gave some feedback to Trustee Phil Mikus regarding pay.
“It seems quite clear that two new board members, Bryan (Mielke) and Roger (Hauck), found a loophole in the meeting policy,” Mikus said. “The loophole being that our policy states that we, as board members, can attend meetings that we are eligible to attend. (There is) no definition of eligibility.”
Board of Trustees Supervisor Russ Alwood said he turns in only some documents for meeting pay from the ones he attends because he feels he is constantly in meetings.
The township does not have defined hours of work for its employees.
With the position being part-time, Alwood said he doesn’t know when members have working days or time off.
Mikus proposed an 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. shift for their regular township business hours. In the draft of the meeting pay policy, this would mean the township supervisor, clerk and treasurer would not receive any extra pay during those hours if at an extra meeting would take place.
“The way our policy is, it states that all seven of us could go (to a meeting) and all seven of us could get paid,” Hauck said. “I just don’t see how anyone on this board thinks it’s in the best interest of our taxpayers to go to any board meetings that they want to when we can assign one board member to go to that meeting.”
Lannen, who earned the most of the trustees from extra meeting pay ($3,950) of the four trustees, was against having just one person go to meetings.
He said he doesn’t encourage limiting the opportunity for trustees to learn more about what is going on in the community through meetings for the planning and road commissions.
“Nearly 50 percent of our residents are students,” Lannen said. “Limiting (trustees) would probably be the last thing I would want as a taxpayer to ask my board to do.”
There are some trustees assigned to go to extra meetings, such as Alwood, who attends the road commission meetings, and Mielke, who is already part of the planning commission.
“We don’t want to come down on anybody,” Mielke said. “We just want to maximize the bang of the buck for our taxpayers.”
Mikus said he was happy with the policy introduced at the last meeting, as it could fill the loophole that was discovered.
They added a specific definition in the revised meeting pay policy draft created by Mielke, Mikus and Hauck, which was introduced at the last regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, March 26. The added portion included what meetings board members would be eligible to receive pay for.
“We all should go to other meetings,” said Clerk Margie Henry. “There should be seven chairs and all of us board members should be there without pay.”
However, Lannen believes there is a good system of checks and balances already in place.
“You guys (have) insurance,” said Mount Pleasant resident Edward Peters. “You’re getting a wage and a per diem. I know other people who were on the tribunal board. They never get paid. They do it because they want to help this community.”
Revised minutes for the workshop will be reviewed April 9 at the next Union Township meeting.