Source: Sherman Publications

Reckoning for Brandon Recreation Director

by Susan Bromley

July 17, 2013

Brandon Twp.- An employee hearing for embattled Recreation Director Fred Waybrant will be held at 6 p.m., July 22, at the library, 304 South St.

It is undetermined whether the hearing will be held in open or closed session. Waybrant had not seen any agenda, nor received any correspondence from any of the township board members regarding the meeting, as of Wednesday.

“I’m just going to ride the storm out,” he said.

Waybrant said at the July 1 board meeting he feels he has been under attack for years. At a June 26 strategic planning meeting, he attempted to give answers and solutions for a number of concerns regarding the recreation department including conflicts in scheduling, organization, poor field conditions, and more.

He gave a report that was not well-received by several board members, including Treasurer Terri Darnall who said she was ready to recommend the board “gets rid of” Waybrant’s job.

Darnall made a motion during the July 1 meeting to have an employee “review” meeting on July 22. The board approved the motion 5-2, with Supervisor Kathy Thurman and Trustee Bill DeWitt voting no.

Thurman said she is in the process of talking to an insurance provider to explore possible ramifications with insurance regarding liability if the township were to terminate an employee. Township employees are “at-will,” meaning the township can terminate them at any time, with or without cause. However, there may be certain ramifications to doing so, she added.

Thurman said she is unsure if there will be a vote taken to fire Waybrant at the July 22 employee hearing.

“It’s an evaluation of the employee, not the position,” she said.

During a strategic planning workshop on July 15, the township board touched upon possibly returning the recreation department to its structure as BGO (Brandon Groveland Ortonville). The department operated as BGO for many years, with a recreation director overseen by a recreation commission board consisting of members from Brandon Township, Groveland Township, the Village of Ortonville and the schools. BGO also had funding from the municipalities, as well as in-kind services from the village.

In 1999, BGO was dissolved about two months after Waybrant was hired as recreation director.

“They dissolved because there were too many individual recreation activities going on and scheduling problems with fields and practice times,” Waybrant said. “They wanted to bring it under the township umbrella, and by doing this, all the travel teams and recreation teams.”

The village ended funding, but continued in-kind services. Groveland Township continued to offer funding to Brandon Recreation and even increased funding, Waybrant said, but in 2008 Groveland officials, who were contributing about $15,000 annually to Brandon Recreation, withdrew their funding. This occurred after then-Supervisor Ron Lapp and the rest of the Brandon board asked for an increase in Groveland’s annual contribution to $42,144 to sufficiently fund recreation for their residents. Groveland had 388 participants in Brandon recreation programs in 2007. When Groveland officials declined to increase their contribution, the Brandon board unanimously approved increasing the non-resident fee from $10 to $60 per event. A subsequent outcry from the community led the board to reverse their decision in a 4-3 vote, lowering the non-resident fee to $15.

Thurman doubts a return to BGO structure is possible.

“We now own a park, which requires more oversight and maintenance,” she said. “I don’t think we would see BGO in its original form, but I don’t know if some other potential arrangement could be worked out. Monetary support from the village and Groveland would be the chief advantage. I don’t know that they would want to contribute. There is no ownership at stake for the other communities, that’s why I don’t see it as a possible arrangement.”