A Washtenaw County township voted to double its supervisor’s salary. That wasn’t legal, lawsuit says

WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI — Scio Township’s supervisor dragged his feet on appointing residents to a commission charged with setting his salary, then benefited from a township vote that doubled his pay — a measure that violated Michigan law, a lawsuit filed by a resident alleges.

Kathleen Brant filed the complaint in Washtenaw County Circuit Court on Sept. 20 against Scio Township and Supervisor Will Hathaway.

She had applied to sit on the township’s compensation commission, a group of five registered Scio Township voters created by the township’s Board of Trustees this summer to set their pay, the lawsuit states.

But, Hathaway, tasked with appointing applicants to the commission, missed a deadline to do so and days later called a special meeting where trustees voted to double his salary from $36,000 to $72,000, according to the complaint.

That resolution violated Michigan law, the lawsuit alleges, saying the establishment of the compensation commission removed the authority to set pay from township trustees’ hands.

Hathaway, “cannot simply forego appointing a commission in order to then ask the Scio Township Board of Trustees to set his salary and give him an immediate raise,” the lawsuit states.

Hathaway’s raise passed 5-2 at the Aug. 17 meeting, with Clerk Jessica Flintoft and Trustee Kathy Knol voting against.

The suit, filed by Ann Arbor attorney Thomas Bourque, asks the court to order Hathaway to appoint members to the compensation commission and declare the resolution to double his pay “invalid and unenforceable.”

Brant declined to comment. Hathaway did not respond to a voicemail and email on Thursday, Sept. 23, requesting comment. Township Attorney James Fink said he does not comment on pending litigation and has advised Hathaway to do the same.

The case will come before Judge Timothy Connors, according to court records. The records currently show no court date has yet been set.

Raise comes amid accusations of ‘power grab’

The resolution that bumped Hathaway’s pay in August recognizes that the supervisor’s $36,000 salary was set with the expectation that the position would be part-time, supported by a full-time township manager.

But that top position has been vacant since the end of 2019. In the meantime, the township’s Board of Trustees voted to move forward with an “administrator model” and has begun a search to fill that position.

That proposition included a full-time time supervisor, recognizing the job required full-time hours, according to documents that describe the plan. “The current supervisor is consistently working 50-60 hours per week,” according to a memo Hathaway prepared that addresses his compensation.

A full-time salary of $72,000 was included in the township’s budget for this fiscal year, but trustees voted in May to table the pay bump.

It only re-emerged after the establishment of the compensation commission, which the Brant’s lawsuit argues is improper.

The Aug. 17 meeting where the pay bump was considered was marred by accusations of overreach. One resident, Peter Davis, called the measure a “power grab” and criticized the special meeting taking place at 4 p.m., during working hours, minutes show.

Other residents referenced ongoing efforts to recall Hathaway and other trustees who frequently vote as a block. At the meeting, Brant spoke about the establishment of the compensation commission and referenced possible legal action if the supervisor’s salary increase went forward, according to minutes.

Knol asked the township’s attorney if the board could legally vote to raise the supervisor’s compensation, instead of following a process originating with the newly established compensation commission, referencing Brant’s comments.

“The statute doesn’t say anything about the gap between when the board adopts an ordinance and when the compensation commission is first established, which it’s not,” Fink replied.

The resolution authorizing the raise passed soon after.

To read the lawsuit, click here.

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https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/09/a-washtenaw-county-township-voted-to-double-its-supervisors-salary-that-wasnt-legal-lawsuit-says.html

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