Plainfield board sets compensation at $32,000
by BETH ALTENA
Despite much protest by the Plainfield Township Clerk Scott Harvey, the board set compensation for the position of clerk statutory duties (those required of the position by law) at $32,000 effective after the election in November. The lengthy discussion and explanation before the nine residents who were present during a special meeting held March 12 spelled out base salaries for the minimum duties performed by the elected positions of supervisor, treasurer and clerk.
In the previous Monday’s special meeting considering changes in salaries of the three positions, the board described the difference between statutory duties associated with each position compared to compensation for taking on additional work. In the March 5 meeting, in which no action was taken, the board discussed a report by a committee researching the issue. The committee proposed reducing the clerk pay from $64,272 to $32,000; reducing the treasurer pay from $66,200 to $20,000; and increasing the supervisor’s pay from $12,400 to $15,000. The $32,000 was based on a formula from a study performed by the Center for Social Research at Calvin College.
The township’s former clerk, Sue Morrow, had held the title for 24 years before losing the position to Harvey. Her pay after her long tenure was over $64,000 plus benefits.
All three positions have statutory duties associated with the jobs that must be performed by each office, and all three jobs at Plainfield Township have traditionally included salaries that reflect not just those duties but also other work former and current office holders have performed. Supervisor George Meek said that in Plainfield Township, the difference between the required (statutory) duties and additional duties and the compensation for each have never been defined.
“I appreciate the process we are going through,” said newly sworn-in Treasurer Jack Hagedorn, who accepted the job after long-time Treasurer James Stover resigned last month. “I appreciate the position Scott is in and am thinking back to when Sue Morrow was here. If we had the conversation then, we’d probably have the same conversation.”
Hagedorn said much of the work Harvey performs was carried over from when Morrow was doing the job, but he pointed out that no individual should expect to retain elected office forever.
“If we continue the way we are, if someone comes in with a large salary and decides they don’t want to do all that work, they could say they are just going to work ten or fifteen hours a week and collect a big salary and there would be nothing we could do.”
Hagedorn went on to point out that the new structure could well end up paying as much as the township currently pays for the job, but the compensation for the additional work would match the additional work, not simply be part of the pay package without clearly defined additional duties.
Hagedorn said the committee tasked with researching the three duties and how other townships compensated office holders had limited success comparing salaries and jobs because townships can be vastly different. He used the example of Cannon Township, which also structures officials’ pay by differentiating what compensation is for statutory duties and what is for the performance of other work. The Cannon Township clerk, he stated, is set at $36,400 for statutory duties, but the clerk earns an additional $19,200 for additional work she performs for the township in her role as clerk.
“It gets kind of mucky and murky,” Hagedorn said. “More townships are coming online with this same thing. I’m of the camp that it needs to be looked at and done right.”
Trustee Charles Weldon agreed, stating, “This is good. It should have been done a long time ago.”
Harvey said he considered the proposed pay an insult and that it would impede future filling of the position by a qualified person. “My concern is the board not impede the clerk position,” he stated. “I won’t go down in flames.”
Newest Trustee Catherine Bottema said she didn’t understand Harvey’s negativity. “If you take on statutory duties and non-statutory duties, you get paid more. She said that if Harvey believed his statutory duties left him little time for other duties, it was only right to pass them on to someone able to fulfill them.
Meek said it was important to settle the matter prior to the deadline for residents to seek any of the three offices and that it was only fair for those who do decide to run to know what pay compensation the position will offer.