OSCODA – The Oscoda Township board of trustees on Monday, Sept. 28 voted to approve the advertisement of a financial director position, a decision that has become a point of contention among board members.
According to the job listing, the financial director would be responsible for planning, coordinating and leading the township’s accounting, financial reporting, accounts payable, payroll, financial planning and forecasting functions.
Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting with a minimum of 5 years’ experience in the accounting field and experience in governmental accounting. The anticipated salary was set at a range of $65,000 to $75,000, depending on experience and qualifications, with benefits.
During a special work session on Aug. 24, Superintendent Dave Schaeffer brought up a proposal to hire a financial professional, shortly after turning in his resignation to the board. As reported, the board is in the process of vetting candidates to replace Schaeffer, and are set to interview finalists on Oct. 10.
Treasurer Jaimie McGuire immediately took issue with the proposal, arguing that it would take away duties from her position. McGuire has recently faced criticism from the other board members about her ability to perform the financial duties of the treasurer position.
To explain the need for a financial director, Schaeffer referenced the township’s latest audit, which states that the township relies on the auditor to produce accurate statements, a weakness in the township’s operations. The auditors suggested the township consider contracting with the firm to detect errors before the annual financial report.
“An example of where the Township relies on the auditor as a control for producing reliable financial statements is in the excessive number of adjusting journal entries proposed during the audit,” the management comments read in part. “By accounts not being adjusted monthly, the financial records provided to the Board each month are not an accurate reflection of the Township’s standings.”
The comments were included in Monday’s packet in two draft resolutions delineating the duties of the township treasurer and deputy treasurer, the clerk and deputy clerk, and the new financial director. Currently Jane Hackman serves as the deputy treasurer, and Shelly Kimsel serves as the deputy clerk. These positions would remain the same.
During Monday’s meeting, McGuire said the majority of the essential functions listed on the job posting were responsibilities of the township superintendent, and explained that she receives free help from the auditors to make adjustments, whereas hiring a financial director would be more expensive.
Schaeffer explained that by reducing the treasurer and clerk positions to part-time, and bringing their salary down to the same rate as the trustees, the township would actually save money even while paying the financial director a salary of $75,000.
“So another way to put this is your concept of this plan is that the treasurer and the clerk, they’re status is going to be reduced from $46,000 to $16,000 and $46,000 includes benefits, hospitalization,” Trustee Jim Baier said. “That’s quite a drastic change.”
“It’s actually the establishment of the township having a relationship with the treasurer and the clerk that are that of a public official, a separately elected public official,” Schaeffer explained. “When you have $14 million flowing through a municipality, you need to have somebody that is accountable for the core financial and accounting functions of the municipality.”
Still, Baier said he felt it was wrong for the current board of trustees to be making such a big change to the clerk and treasurer positions right before the Nov. 3 election, where up to seven board members could be replaced. Baier raised the same concerns about replacing the superintendent right before the election as well.
“What’s wrong with letting these new people make this major decision that they will have to live with for four long years?” Baier said, comparing the situation to the Republican party trying to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court right before the election.
Supervisor Aaron Weed responded that it’s the board’s responsibility to make decisions until their tenure is over. He said the financial director position was simply based on the audit’s comments and the need to prevent the township from having to make adjustments.
“If you can make a change that improves the product at the same or a lower cost, then that should take priority regardless of when it’s election time,” Weed said. “It’s about getting the proper business done when it needs to get done.”
Trustee William Palmer said it made sense to hire both the superintendent and financial advisor as soon as possible so that they would be able to shadow Schaeffer before he leaves his position.
Clerk John Nordeen said he was not against the idea of hiring the financial director, as long as it saves the township money. He suggested reducing the advertised salary of the financial director from $75,000 to a range of $65,000 to $75,000, which he still felt was too high. He also expressed concerns about the timing, but did not elaborate.
McGuire and Baier upheld their position that deciding to change those positions so close to the election was “reckless.”
“I think it’s kind of revenge for what happened on Aug. 7 as far as the election results,” Baier said, referring to Weed losing the race for treasurer.
“Oh my God, so the tantrum is going to start now? Seriously people?” Trustee Tim Cummings said as Baier called him “sweetheart” and tried to interject. “You were acting professional and all of a sudden you’re dropping the gauntlet and you’re throwing your tantrum?”
As reported, Cummings faced backlash in June when he called McGuire “sweetheart,” and told her to “go balance a checkbook.” McGuire filed a formal complaint, calling his remarks misogynistic.
Baier said he could see that he would not be changing the minds of the other board members, and that he was used to losing.
“This has nothing to do with revenge,” Weed said. “What this has to do with is making sure the work gets done the way it’s supposed to economically.”
Palmer made the motion to approve the advertisement of the financial director position, with a salary changed from $75,000 to a range of $65,000 to $75,000. Cummings offered support, and the motion passed 5-2, with Baier and McGuire dissenting.
During public comment, three people expressed concern for the decision, one commented on the salary and another said they were in support of hiring a financial director.
“We see through this — the people of Oscoda — many of them that I talked to today see that this is revenge tactics, it’s disgraceful,” resident Ellen Maher said. “Mr. Cummings again showed his true side today and I know several others who are willing to start a GoFundMe because Jaimie should have sued the township long ago, and we’re going to stand behind her and we’re going to help her. It’s disgraceful what you’re doing.”
“Diminishing the duties and responsibilities of the clerk & the treasurer will alter the way they are able to engage with the other board members and daily functions of the Township-thus diminishing the voice of the people that elected them,” Supervisor candidate Ann Richards wrote in the public Zoom chat.
Mary Smith commended Baier for fighting against the decision, and asked “what job does Aaron Weed get, the supervisor or the financial director?”
At the end of public comment, Weed said he wanted to set the record straight that he would not be taking a job with the township in any capacity. He reiterated that the audit has been an issue and that the township would benefit from a financial director.
“I’m not applying for it, it’s not a job I want, so bring up all the lies you want, they’re just lies — part of your manipulation scheme,” he said. “I prefer to stick with the facts and the truth and if you don’t like it, I’m sorry but I’m not here to manipulate and lie.”