OSCODA – The Oscoda Board of Trustees canceled their regular board meeting Monday after board members came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

The board met in person at the Robert J. Parks library to conduct a closed session meeting with the township attorneys, but the regular meeting scheduled for immediately after the closed session was canceled. It has not been rescheduled as of publication.

Before Monday’s canceled meeting, the board also held a special meeting on Friday afternoon to meet with the board attorney in two closed sessions.

According to the agenda, those sessions were regarding the professional services contract with the WoodHill Group for financial consulting, as well as the superintendent employment contract. Both sessions were related to “privileged and confidential attorney-client communication dated October 19, 2020.”

During their Oct. 12 regular meeting, board members voted 4-3 to hire the Royal Oak-based WoodHill Group for financial consulting services, at an amount not to exceed $50,000. The services provided in the contract include closing out the township’s finances for 2020, and getting them ready for the annual audit. 

That vote also came shortly after the board approved a proposal to hire a designated finance director for the township, a position that would reduce the duties and hours of the treasurer and clerk. The board voted 7-2 to advertise for the financial director position with a salary range of $65-75,000. The WoodHill Group would also be tasked with preparing the finance director to take over.

The board met in person at the Robert J. Parks Library on Friday and the public was allowed to attend, but the meeting was also streamed live via the Zoom App. The meeting had originally been scheduled for Wednesday, but was subsequently canceled and later rescheduled.

After meeting in a closed session for nearly three hours, the board emerged and Treasurer Jaimie McGuire made a motion to cancel the professional services contract agreement (PSCA) with The WoodHill Group, with support from Trustee Tim Cummings. Board members did not discuss the item further amongst the public, and the vote passed unanimously. 

Then Supervisor Aaron Weed made a motion to postpone resolutions 23-29 that were on the agenda for Monday’s regular board meeting. Included in the resolutions were new salaries for the supervisor, clerk and treasurer positions at $15,957.43 — a reflection of the part time status of the clerk and treasurer position with a finance director. The resolutions also delineated the duties of these positions in relation to the new finance director position. Trustee William Palmer supported the motion, and it also passed unanimously without discussion.

The WoodHill proposal had received pushback from McGuire, Trustee Jim Baier and Clerk John Nordeen, who each expressed concerns about spending upwards of $125,000 on both the finance director and the consulting services. 

Nordeen supported hiring a finance director to ensure township finances are in order, but Baier and McGuire opposed that decision as well, arguing that the board should not make such a big change right before the election of those positions. McGuire and Baier also questioned the legality of such a move, and asked repeatedly what the township attorney’s thoughts on the issue were.

Superintendent Dave Schaeffer explained that the WoodHill Group’s services would be a one-time cost, and if there are minimal issues with the finances then it could end up costing less than $50,000. 

He referenced the 2019 audit and management letter: “We believe that a review and evaluation of the transactions with proper monthly and yearly closing procedures being performed, would expedite the year-end closing process, reducing audit time and fees.”

During public comment, residents expressed their concerns for the legality and expense of the financial services and the reduction of the clerk and treasurer positions.

“Who on the board has worked or has been associated with the Woodhill Group from Wayne County Michigan? Second question: how does the board OK up to $50 thousand contract without going out for bids?” Edward Smith wrote in the public Zoom chat.

“The treasurer and clerk are rooted in law as part of the organization, not to be diminished or excluded from activities and I’m glad to hear that the WoodHill contract has been terminated as of tonight,” resident Larry Holland said, adding that the new superintendent needs to be voted on before being hired.

As for the superintendent contract, it’s unclear what concerns the board addressed. The board interviewed candidates for the position earlier this month, but as of Monday they have not announced a selection. The Oscoda Press has entered a Freedom of Information Act request to get more information.

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