Scio Township moves ahead with Township Administrator plan

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The question of which administrative model Scio Township would choose has been hanging over township hall for the past few months or so.

Should the township adopt a shared governance model or a township administrator one?

The question has finally been answered.

The township board by a 5-2 vote at its May 11 meeting, affirmed its support for moving forward on the Township Administrator model.

The next step will see the township’s new Human Resources consultant further refine the proposed new positions under the model with these being presented at a special Board of Trustees meeting for a final decision.

In addition, the township will look to set up a process in order to begin an executive search for a township administrator.

According to the approved model, the “township administrator model represents an effort to distribute functions and responsibilities to respond to concerns expressed about past township managers. The intent is to centralize operational authority for the business of the Township and thereby allow the elected officials to focus on their work serving the residents, performing their statutory duties, and fulfilling their commitment to move Scio Township forward.”

The model further states, “The township administrator
will be focused on internal operations of the Township. They will be responsible for the working relationships of the parts of Scio Township government, the implementation of organizational policies, including the new initiative to update human resource procedures. They will be the one who makes sure that everything works as it should."

Township supervisor Will Hathaway played a big part in formulating this model's proposal.

In the model’s overview of outstanding needs, it states:

“Scio Township has had a vacancy at the top of its administration for well over a year. The current Board of Trustees has been debating how best to fill that vacancy since we took office in November 2020.

“As the chronology shows, the Board of Trustees has considered this question for many months. We have held multiple public meetings on administrative structure. Officers have done research and shared memoranda and given presentations. We conducted a survey to gather input from Township employees and appointees.

“The Township has been experiencing the absence of a Township Administrator for almost 20 months. Several of us newly elected to the BOT in 2020 have served in Scio Township government for years. We have been thinking deeply about this problem because we have experienced it directly.

“We have clarified that Scio Township is presented with a choice between two approaches to administration. The irony is that the two options are very similar.

“Similarities of the two models:

  • Human Resources: A part-time HR position is in both models.
  • Sustainability and Development: There is a full-time position in both models.
  • Deputy Treasurer: This is a statutory position, dictated by law, in both models.
  • Out-sourced Information Technology: This new contract is in both models.

"A full-time Supervisor: This is in both models. The reality is that the position of supervisor is not part-time. The current supervisor is consistently working 60+ hours per week on Township business.”

There was opposition to the township administrator model and it came from others on the board, including township clerk Jessica Flintoft and trustee Kathleen Knol, as well as many in the community, who have spoken during the public comment portions of meetings over the past few months.

Flintoft originally put forth the proposal for a shared governance model.

In defining part of the shared governance proposal, an affirmation of this model by the Scio Township Board of Trustees would have meant it desired “to retain responsibility for continuing and creating positions and authorizing appointments or continuation of appointments to positions and specifying and fixing the compensation for positions.”

In noting how needs could be addressed, the shared governance models states that in part it, “Builds upon checks and balances built into Township design. The Clerk, Treasurer, and Board of Trustees have the statutory responsibilities that provide the fundamental checks and balances of a general law Township—appropriation, authorization, and disbursement of public monies. The Board of Trustees is responsible for the administration of the Township; it is not simply an oversight body. To that end, sharing the direct governance of the Township’s activities across officers in a way that strengthens—and does not diminish—checks and balances is one critical way we can proactively protect ourselves against fraud, waste and abuse.”

Many who spoke out in opposition to the township administrator model said the concerns they have came in part from their experiences with the previous township manager. They spoke about concerns with communication and transparency. Many also spoke about concerns the supervisor’s role will gain more authority under the township administrator model.

Resident Carrie Letke compared the situation to a bait and switch at the May 11 meeting. She said with the new supervisor and board members, voting residents wanted a change from the ways of the previous board and township manager situation. She said the township administrator model doesn’t look like the change they anticipated, expected and deserved.

Resident Jonathan Greenberg said on May 11, he agreed there probably needs to be some sort of management adjustment in the township, but he feels the township administrator model is a big change and maybe the township should take more time to debate and discuss it.

One who spoke in support of the township administrator model at the May 11 meeting was Roy Townsend, a township resident and who said he worked for years with the county road commission. He said he’s had experience with the model in the form of a township manager and noted its value in helping a busy township work properly. He said there are various things and activities going on in Scio, such as the Gelman clean-up, different millages, and economic growth, that make it a busy township and in need of management help.

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