Building director suspended 60 days for bonus payments
May 25, 2011 - Dave Belcher, Independence Township building director, was slapped with a 60-day suspension without pay for refusing to repay a $3,000 bonus.
Clerk Barbara Pollata and Trustees Dave Lohmeier, Larry Rosso, and Neil Wallace voted unanimously, May 17, after closed session to immediately suspend Belcher. He will be on a probationary period for one year following his return.
Belcher must also repay the $3,000 within 13 months. Failure to meet conditions means immediate termination.
Trustee Mark Petterson, Treasurer Curt Carson and Supervisor Dave Wagner were absent.
According to Wallace, the board received new information "somewhat different" than what Belcher told them during open session, May 3.
"He for the very first time apologized for his various conduct. The receipts of the bonuses, the lying to the township about them and the failure to timely make the repayment," Wallace said. "That was significant to me because one of things I think we have to be concerned about in our discipline situation is that this sort of thing not happen again and without the apology and he was quite adamant at the last meeting he had done nothing wrong and wanted us to say he had done nothing wrong."
He also said Belcher promised it would not happen again concerning bonus payments and lying about them or any other "breach of trust."
"The most significant thing perhaps is he told us the supervisor told him not to repay the money, which I think is a significant factor in explaining the delay in the payments not being made," Wallace said.
Lohmeier said he could support the motion to suspend for 60 days.
"I think it was very, very relevant Mr. Belcher's apologies and acknowledgement of what was done wrong," he said. "It was stated that he was at least in part was operating under the advise and council of the supervisor. That's his direct supervisor that meant something for me."
Lohmeier had made a previous motion to completely terminate Belcher from his position with the township, but failed on a 2-2 vote. Trustee Larry Rosso and Clerk Barbra Pallotta voted against termination.
"I thought it was important that we clear the decks on the issue of termination which is why I made that motion even though I wondered if I would get suitable support," Lohmeier said. "I thought it would not be as appropriate to start in the middle on this. I was glad we took the vote on termination and I can support this (60 day suspension) as a secondary means."
Rosso said he voted against termination because it was "more extreme" than he was comfortable with and he felt has done a lot of good for the township and the board "can't lose total track of that."
"We can't have this one incredibly bad mistake of his and very serious lack of judgment, cancel out all the positive things he's done for the township; however, the disciplinary measure we took I feel in the end was appropriate," Rosso said. "We really had a lot of negotiations going on between the four of us on the board (and) there was give and take on everyone's position."
Belcher could not be reached for comment.
Wagner felt the decision made by the board was wrong and nothing more than a personal attack against him.
"This was already looked at by the Attorney General's Office and by the County Prosecutor and there was a finding of no problem that was done," Wagner said. "We did nothing wrong, we all followed protocol according to the investigation. There is no way the board should have made that decision but once again it's just witch hunt against me."
As far as giving advice to Belcher not to pay the money back, Wagner said he talked to the labor attorney about it and was told Belcher "had no obligation to pay it back and it was just admitting guilt."
"Unfortunately he's paying the price," Wagner said. "I'm very disappointed in that."
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.