Saturday, September 22, 2012

Corporation Political Giving, Potter Park Zoo Director, DB/DC Hybrid, PLA for Family Center

Sorry for being late with the Blog this week. We had committee Thursday night, so I wasn't able to write this at that time. Luckily, I have a rainy morning to do it this morning!

This week, we had the County Services committee which was fairly busy. We first took up a resolution expressing the county's support for the group Move to Amend. This group is a national organization that wants to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizen's United case. This case said that corporations are people and contribute to political campaigns. Move to Amend wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to say (1) money is property and not speech, so it can be regulated and (2) corporations are not people. The Lansing Coordinator of Move to Amend testified in support of the resolution. He said that there is a resolution before the Lansing City Council as well. He also said that in addition to the Lansing group, there are groups in Traverse City, Glen Arbor, and Grand Rapids in Michigan. The resolution passed unanimously.

We then discussed the Potter Park Zoo. In good news, the Zoo was accredited by the AZA (which few zoo's are) when the accreditation folks were here last month. That is great news for Ingham County and the Potter Park Zoo. One criticism in the report, though, was that the executive director has too many levels of people to report to. There were about several levels of decision making after the executive director. The resolution that we had before us addressed that situation. It would make the executive director an employee of the county and directly supervise employees (which is necessary for the accreditation). The resolution gives the executive director $48,000 as a salary with no benefits in addition to compensation from Friends of the Zoo. This passed unanimously. We also considered a resolution that would move the executive director to be an employee of the Controller. She currently reports to the zoo board which reports to the parks board which reports to the parks director which reports to the County Services Committee which reports to the Board of Commissioners. This has too many advisory committees and is too much time in order to make decisions. There were also questions about if there is too much direct reporting to the controller. She currently has about 13 departments reporting to her now. Several member of the committee were hesitant to add another one. There were also questions about creating a new zoo department. I had suggested that we should have the zoo board report to the county services like the fair board does. We will continue the discussion at the next meeting and make a decision then.

We again considered a resolution authorizing the establishment of a MERS Defined Benefit/Defined Contribution Hybrid plan for the Board of Commissioners and Elected Officials. This was referred to committee from the Board, a resolution approving modifications to the 2012 managerial and confidential personnel manual, and a resolution the Establishment of MERS a Hybrid Plans for managerial and confidential employees. We rehashed the same conversations regarding the fairness of each plan, the problems with defined benefit, the risks involved, the potential rate of return percentages, and other factors. The big hang-up on these resolutions is whether or not we should do these before we deal with the union employees in collective bargaining. Some (Grebner and Holman) argued that we should deal with the employees that we can control now and pass these resolutions. Others (DeLeon, Celentino, Schor) argued that we should wait until employee negotiations settle the DB versus DC issue before moving on to our non-represented employees. These resolutions were table in County Services, but passed Finance and will be considered on the Board floor on Tuesday. One issue that came up that was new was how to prevent people from getting a higher rate if they go to another county position? Currently, if a county commissioner receives a 1.5 DB multiplier for 15 years then takes a job somewhere else in the county and receives a 2.25 for a few months, the entire service become a 2.25 multiplier. We all agreed that is wrong. We were told that we could go to an alternative rate instead of standard rate with MERS, but were not sure if this can only be done for transfers or not. Staff is checking on this, and we will make that change if we can.

Finally, we considered a recommendation from our staff to not use a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) when the bid specs go out for the Ingham County Family Center. Our staff recommended against having a PLA because of a recent;y-passed law. Last year, the Legislature passed a law prohibiting PLA's. That law was struck down by the courts. The Legislature then came back this year and passed a law saying that PLA's cannot be used in bid specs. This law has not yet been challenged but many think that it illegal to craft a law that would re-create something already struck down by the courts (according to previous legal cases). Our staff recommended against a PLA in bid specs due to the passage of that law. They said that they would be able to encourage the winner of the project to use a PLA according to the law, but were not comfortable going against the law. Commissioners Grebner and Holman and Celentino agreed with this. They said that we should follow the law and push for a PLA after the bid packets go out. They said to continue to push for a PLA could delay the Ingham County Fammily Center project because of time delays and the need to re-write the bid documents. I made a motion to reject the staff recommendation. I believe that the move by the Legisalture would be struck down by the courts just like the previous law was. If we continue with the PLA and we are sued, I believe the judge would rule the new law unenforceable. Commissioner DeLeon agreed with me and voted with me to reject the staff recommendation and continue on with a PLA. Commissioners Holman, Grebner, and Celentino voted against my motion (again, bevause they were concerned about the delays for the project and they think that a PLA can still be done after the bid packets go out). The motion was rejected and we went along with the staff recommendation to not use a PLA in the bid packets for this project.

The other committee that I had was the Human Services committee. All of the action items were on the consent agenda (many of the changes were already made in Finance, which met the day before and was out of order because of the Jewish holiday). We did hear an excellent presentation on the county dental program. Really eye-opening regarding the need for dental services and the many needs. They are truly doing a great job!

Next week is the Board of Commissioners meeting. We are meeting on Monday night instead of Tuesday because Tuesday night is the beginning of Yom Kippur. Have a great weekend!

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