Some on council want to revisit hiring of city clerk

DAVISON — Since being sworn in as city manager June 26, 2017, Andrea Schroeder has held both that office and the office of clerk, which she was hired for in 2007.

As a cost-savings measure, the council has given Schroeder a stipend of $1,000 a month to continue her duties as interim clerk while holding the position of city manager and receiving her annual salary for that job.

But some council members want to revisit the hiring of a full-time clerk, only they have been unsuccessful in bringing it up for discussion by the council due to improper procedures.

Councilman Casey Clark said he has asked the city manager/clerk to place the issue on the council’s agenda three times now, and it has yet to appear as an action item.

At the council’s July 26 regular meeting, Clark said he had asked for the item to be placed o the agenda, to which Mayor Tim Bishop replied by saying it could be discussed under the Open Issues Log on the agenda.

Clark said he had verbally requested that the clerk’s position be placed on the agenda prior to the July 26 meeting, but during the meeting Bishop said it wasn’t because he had not put the request in writing – according to council rules.

“Because basically at this point, we are settled in with what we’ve been doing,” said Bishop. “Furthermore, some of the talk Casey and I had he said there may be some people on council and the public who have questions about that process or what went on…why we don’t have a clerk.”

He said he didn’t put it on the agenda because that’s where the council takes action and this was more of a discussion that needed to be had.

Bishop said eventually the city will have to hire a full-time clerk, but right now it is saving $70,000 a year by having an interim clerk, who the city pays $1,000 a month to do that job in addition to her city manager duties.

Clark said he understands it was about the cost savings, but after four year he said he is also concerned about the legal roles and responsibilities.

“I know at first it was an interim thing,” he said. “And I know in our charter we’re supposed to have two separate positions (city manager and clerk) so I just wondered mostly what kind of steps we were taking to go out of an interim thing, whether it be 10 years down the line or next year. What steps are we taking to go that direction?”

Clark said he also wanted to get the conversation started because there are four members of the council who were not there in 2018 when the decision was made to keep Schroeder acting as interim clerk indefinitely.

“I thought it was an important discussion to have because we’ve had a lot of talk lately about what’s in the charter and making sure we are doing the right thing and that’s clearly in the charter,” he said.

Bishop asked if the charter said the city council not have an interim clerk and Schroder responded by saying there was a time limit on how long an interim position could be maintained.

Councilwoman Jessica Abraham said the subject of having a city manager and clerk be the same person was brought up at a Michigan Municipal League workshop she attended during a conference and the consensus there was the clerk and city manager can’t be the same person.

She said those attending the workshop asked her how that worked in Davison and she was unable to give them a response because she didn’t know why the decision had been made since it happened before she was elected to the council.

“How do we discuss this? I can’t call four members to discuss it, I don’t want to get in trouble,” she said. “Where do we have those discussions?”

Clark agreed, asking where the council can have an open discussion about questions raised by its members if the agenda is only meant for action items.

Bishop said he wasn’t saying conversations can’t take place in the meeting, but suggested questions be directed to him or Schroeder if a new council member is unable to provide an answer.

As for getting items placed on the agenda, he said the proper procedure is in the council’s rulebook, which states the request must be made in advance of the finalization of the agenda and must be in writing.

Abraham said council members had asked that other issues be on agenda in recent months and that hadn’t happened.

“Because this wasn’t followed,” Bishop said, indicating the rulebook. “That’s how we do it. You can’t just call up and say, ‘I want this on the agenda,’ that’s not how this works.”

Abraham asked Clark if he had been advised he needed to make the request to add the issue to the agenda in writing, to which he replied Bishop had said such requests needed to be made in writing, but that he would speak with Schroeder about adding it.

Bishop said if the council wants to discuss the clerk’s position and the possibility of hiring a full-time clerk, it can be placed on the agenda for the Aug. 9 council meeting.

Councilman Ron Emery said the arrangement with Schroeder to handle both the city manager and clerk’s jobs was born out of the city’s financial situation at the time and he said if the current council revisits the matter and chooses to hire a full-time clerk, it will have to find between $70,000–$100,000 (wages and benefits) in the budget to pay someone to do that job.

“(The clerk and her staff) are great team,” said Emery. “She does a great job; the deputy clerk does a great job.”

Clark said bringing up the clerk’s position had nothing to do with job performance and he understands Schroeder was made interim clerk to get the city out of a “rough patch.” But he said going forward, if Schroeder is considering retirement soon, it is a matter that will have to be discussed.

“This is a conversation we’re going to have to have. This situation is not indefinite,” he said. “All I wanted to know was how we got here and what we’re going to do going forward.”

Bishop gave what he called a brief answer to both questions: “We got where we are to save money and going forward you won’t hire anyone who will do both jobs.”