The positions of civil service personnel director and township superintendent in Redford Township are incompatible under state law, according to the Michigan attorney general’s office. The opinion was issued Aug. 14 after questions on the appointment of Don Wood as superintendent were raised by State Sen. David Knezek and Rep. Leslie Love earlier this year.
Township Attorney John Clark disagreed with the opinion at a Tuesday Board of Trustees study session. The basis for the opinion, which was written by the attorney general’s chief legal counsel, B. Eric Restuccia, was on the personnel director’s duty to certify payroll.
That certification process, the opinion states, makes the superintendent subordinate to the personnel director. It puts the two positions at odds, something ruled illegal under the “Incompatible Public Offices Act” of 1978, Restuccia writes.
Clark countered by saying Wood doesn’t certify payroll. “It’s done in (the) Finance (Department),” he said Tuesday.
Clark has been Redford’s attorney for more than a decade. He also serves several other communities in the same capacity.
“To me personally, it’s illogical,” Clark said of the opinion. “Every community I deal with, the city manager doesn’t certify payroll, the strong mayor form of government doesn’t certify payroll.
“There’s community after community where the chief executive doesn’t certify payroll. It’s usually done in finance. If you take this (opinion) to its logical conclusions, in every one of these communities, they’re in violation of state law because the person who certifies payroll is subordinate to the person they report to.”
Love and Knezek issued a joint statement as to why they asked for the opinion.
“We asked for the Attorney General’s opinion at the request of many members of the Redford Township Board of Trustees,” they wrote. “As a local matter, it is now in the hands of the leadership of Redford Township to best decide how to move forward given the Attorney General’s response.”
Redford Civil Service Commission’s Authority
Redford’s Civil Service Commission has authority over a “handful” of employees, Clark said. Those include two superintendents in the Department of Public Services, and a non-union foreman, also in DPS, among others.
“The Civil Service Commission’s authority starts and stops with the employees that are under its jurisdiction,” Clark said.
Redford Civil Service Commissioner Craig Miller disagreed.
“Any employee of the township, accept fire and police, can come to the civil service commission as a last defense for any issue they may want to discuss,” he said. “We’ve had multiple employees come to us with questions and other things in the five plus years I’ve served on the commission. I would disagree that there’s only a handful.”
Wood is not personnel director over civil service commission employees, Clark said. Trustee Linda Jackson said the board is considering appointing a “per diem” personnel director for the civil service commission.
“We haven’t worked out the details of that,” she said, “but we’re looking at how to separate the personnel director for civil service versus the personnel director over everybody else.”
Wood is personnel director over all employees that fall under collective bargaining agreements with the township, Clark said. That fact, he said, means that Wood’s dual titles with the township are not incompatible. The opinion of the attorney general’s office isn’t binding, he added.
“This is not a court order, this is not a judgement,” Clark said. “It’s an opinion.”