Township threatens court action to recover bonus
May 11, 2011 - After two years, Independence Township is going after Building Director Dave Belcher for $3,000.
|Building Director Dave Belcher appears before the Township Board regarding a $3,000 township-hall bonus. Photo by Trevor Keiser (click for larger version)|
Township Board of Trustees voted 4-2, May 3, to direct the township attorney to pursue civil action to recover the bonus payments given to Belcher for work done on township hall.
Treasurer Curt Carson and Trustee Mark Petterson voted against the motion. Supervisor Dave Wagner was absent.
Carson said Belcher should get the opportunity to make arrangements with finance. If they aren't made by the next meeting, then they can discuss disciplinary action.
Petterson, who voted in favor of a similar motion in July 2009, believes the motion was directed at the wrong person.
"That person (Wagner) is not here tonight. He's the one who's supposed to know the rules and the regulations of this township. He's the one who appointed that money out and in turn created a casualty out of an employee," Petterson said. "I think that's wrong, very wrong."
Clerk Barbra Pallotta agreed.
"What's frustrating about sitting up here tonight is the person who's been notorious for this kind of action refuses to face us once again and the people who put him in office," she said. "He's not facing them either."
Wagner sent payment-authorization memorandums to Renee Poole, assistant finance director, on Dec. 8, 2008, and Jan. 16, 2009.
The payments were listed in the May 11, 2009, check run for the new township hall as "reclassify expenditures to proper account."
Belcher acknowledged he was aware of the board's July 2009 motion to repay the money. However, he held off paying it back because he wanted a letter from the township board stating he did nothing inappropriate and would not receive any disciplinary action.
"I feel I did not act inappropriately or deserve any disciplinary action in regards to this amount," Belcher said. "This wasn't an envelope under my door – it was in my wages."
Trustee David Lohmeier said Wagner was responsible for authorization of payments, but said Belcher was responsible from "the point he received the bonus payments and the board ordered repayment until now."
"Nobody is forcing him not to repay it. It's his decision to require us to absolve him," Lohmeier said. "We don't have the authority to say a crime was committed or you didn't do anything wrong because I don't know what you did. All I know is, you got $3,000 of taxpayer money and we're obligated to get it back."
Trustee NeilWallace agreed.
"I don't accept that precondition and just never would. I think the money should be paid back and the fact that you never paid it back is snubbing your nose at the board," he said. "I don't know how we are able to conduct business as a township and as a board with that just hanging out there."
Trustee Larry Rosso said he's always been on record that there should be no bonuses in public employment.
"This is taxpayers' money," he said. "Taxpayers' money is not to be used for bonuses, for a lot of reasons. If there is to be additional compensation, that should be done by this particular body."
Pallotta said Belcher met with the finance department the next day following the meeting and worked out a payment plan to pay the money back.
The board will discuss disciplinary action for Belcher at its May 17 meeting.
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.