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Where are the savings?

Trustees question results of contracted HR director

June 02, 2010 - When Carol Gabris was hired as human resource director a year ago, Trustee Mark Petterson said it was a "very, very big mistake."

The passing year didn't change his mind.

"One of the main reasons for hiring her was to not spend so much on attorney fees. It turns out we need our attorney just as much," said the Independence Township trustee. "She is doing something the three full-time or the trustees could and should be doing,"

Trustee Larry Rosso said they had to utilize the labor attorney during Teamster union negotations. He also said with this being a first year for Gabris she could "benefit from the institutional knowledge" the attorney had.

"It wasn't meant to be we would be totally void of any legal service," he said. "We definitely have to have it regardless. For years ahead, for certain legal proceedings to be done and interpretation of labor law."

The township board approved budget adjustments for healthcare and labor attorney fees, due to negotiations not being settled between Independence Township's union workers and Gabris

"I just budgeted the amount I was told," said Independence Finance Director Susan Hendricks referring to the healthcare adjustment of $271,000 to be made. "I wasn't involved with how do we determine how much, so I don't know if it was thought contracts would settle in January or what."

Hendricks said the last time she talked to Supervisor Dave Wagner, who has been out on medical leave, they discussed a few possible options. The options included taking the money from fund balance or making additional cuts else ware.

"We can't say we'll bring in more revenue because that's hard to do," she said. "The supervisor is looking at making a recommendation to the board, but right now I don't know what his recommendation is going to be."

As far as legal bills, Hendricks said all bills come through her office, but she doesn't check what they are for. She said it's Gabris's job to make sure they're billed properly.

The township paid $32,557.95 in 2009 to labor attorneys Roumell Lange & Cholack. So far for 2010 $6,266.43 was spent. Gabris was originally allocated $7,500 for legal. Hendricks said she knows the amount is greater, but she hasn't received the bills for them yet.

"I can't say all these bills have been for union negotiations." she said. "I do think there has been some other things that our attorneys have been involved in, but again our bills don't always spell that out either."

AFSCME Union President Craig Richardson said the lawyer fees are only being used for the Teamsters union.

"AFSCME is only using (Supervisor) Dave Wagner and Carol Gabris," Richardson said. "The negotiations are progressing at a slower rate."

AFSCME Union member Lisa McCoy said union negotiations are different due to the economy and conditions.

"We'd like to get it resolved as quickly as possible," she said. "We've been working diligently on our own researching things that we've brought to the table to help the township save money."

Gabris was hired on a year contract in July 2009 at salary of $87,000 a year.

Supervisor Dave Wagner agrees the HR position has not worked as well as "some of us perceived."

"One of the other things that bothers me is the amount of time it appears it takes HR to do this," he said. "It doesn't seem to be very substantial at all to be paying that kind of money, I don't know how we can do it."

Teamster representatives, nor Carol Gabris returned phone calls or e-mails.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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