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Posted on Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Unions concerned about proposal that would boost pay of top Washtenaw County officials

By Ryan J. Stanton

A proposal that includes boosting the pay of top Washtenaw County officials by $15,000 each was pulled from the county board's agenda Wednesday night, but not without first causing some controversy, including backlash from employees who called it a slap in the face.

In a memo to commissioners, County Administrator Verna McDaniel proposed a reorganization of the county administrator's office. In part, it called for not filling the deputy county administrator position, which has been vacant since June.

In place of hiring a new deputy, McDaniel proposed the creation of a four-member Cross Lateral Team to support county departments, administration and the county board.


Verna McDaniel

The team would include the county's finance director, infrastructure management director, corporation counsel and human resources director. McDaniel proposed that each of the four team members be paid a stipend of $15,000 for taking on extra duties.

The proposal also called for the elimination of an administrative coordinator position and the county's information and technology manager position, while creating a new management analyst position and an infrastructure management director position.

According to McDaniel, the net effect of the proposed position eliminations, creations, hold vacant placements and team appointments would be a savings of $120,962.

But representatives of at least two different county labor unions expressed concerns about the proposal on Wednesday.

Caryette Fenner, president of AFSCME Local 2733, said she's not saying the four officials don't deserve a boost in pay, but she said now isn't the time — not after county employees just made millions of dollars in concessions to help balance the county's budget.

Nancy Heine, president of AFSCME Local 3052, offered similar thoughts in an e-mail sent to county officials before Wednesday's meeting.

"I now know the meaning of the phrase 'the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,'" she said, expressing concern that the county asked rank-and-file employees to dig deep into their pockets and "you are now rewarding some of the highest paid non-union county employees with an additional $15,000 to be a member of Verna McDaniel’s cabinet."

Heine said when the positions of union workers are eliminated, they have to consolidate and make do with working longer hours for no additional pay.

McDaniel said she understands that employees are fresh off making concessions and she doesn't blame them for their concerns.

"But this Cross Lateral Team is a savings of $120,000 by not having a deputy county administrator — that's three jobs," she said.

McDaniel noted the changes she's proposed reduce staffing in the administrator's office to three full-time employees, its lowest level in years.

"The point is this is a very complex organization and we need bright people who have been here and bring in years and years of experience and expertise — and I think more divergent opinions and input on decisions that majorly impact the county," she said. "And these are people who all of our departments and all of our employees know."

McDaniel said she hopes to bring the reorganization proposal back to the board for consideration after commissioners are more comfortable with it.

County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, said he understands there might be some concern because it's a new proposal, but he thinks it's the right move.

"If you look at how major companies around the world are dealing with changes in communications technology, and the importance that communications is playing in efficient and effective organizations, making them more lateral is a very effective strategy," he said. "So reducing our hierarchy, I think, is a good thing. And getting rid of the deputy director position and elevating the authority of some of our other leaders throughout administration is an interesting experiment that I think we should go forward with."

McDaniel said members of the Cross Lateral Team would have a capped salary of no greater than $125,000 unless authorized by the county board. If a member’s salary plus the stipend exceeds $125,000, amounts in excess would be paid into a retirement plan.

The administrator’s office has undergone several changes in recent months. In addition to the deputy administrator vacancy, management analyst Joanna Bidlack recently left the county for another job, leaving two immediate vacancies within the four-member staff. Also during the same time period, the county's information and technology manager resigned.

McDaniel said those vacancies occurring so closely together allowed her the opportunity to consider restructuring the administrator's office.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 12:38 a.m.

Verna McDaniel also slashed funds for programs that help people, but increased government funding for businesses. If the Republican agenda is to leave the private sector alone including not taxing them, then wouldn't giving them money be the same principle of interfering with private sector? Ms. McDaniel is simply trying to do her job which is to drive out every salt of the earth poor hillbilly and minority in Washtenaw County. Its like when Detroit bused the homeless out of the city for the Superbowl, but on a much grander scale. And before you say, "But she's black!" There are many self-loathing African Americans who made it to high positions. Those types are the ones who end up caught in a big scandal. Just watch. Give it a year or two and we will hear how Ms. McDaniel abused her power and broke the law.


Mon, Sep 26, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

MR. ED: Washtenaw County works a 75 hour week. Hourly gross wage was $19 a hour. After regular deductions, we made a $14 a hour. In 2012, after the cuts, including previous years cuts, increase in medical, deductibles, co-insurance and others we will make about $10 a hour. We work for the government for several reasons. 1. Some of us actually believe helping others is good. 2. We did get better benefits before but we DID not get better pay despite the many people who blame unions and act like we get so much money. 3. Most of the union members believe that we protect our jobs and our co-workers jobs and help the public by giving up more. OF course that was before we saw what they are doing with the money. Now we feel foolish, and lied too. The county has repeatly screwed with numbers to make people believe that UNIONS are the problem. Check out the last 10, 15 or years salaries and you will see how high union pay has gone up. Average increase 1.5% in 20 years. Non unions, received much much more, even if you just go by % they always received more. Throw in pay for performance and you are talking thousands. The average union worker in Washenaw county in 2002 made approximately the same amount we will begin making in 2012 while NON union staff get more and more raises and while THE BOC cuts money to the shelter downtown by $80,000 which give them the $75,000 to cover the extra work the top 5, (all who make over $100,000) will be doing. Actually they will NOT be doing, most of the work will be done by lower (most likely) union paid employees, these five; they will go to meetings and plot. Odd, every union member I know, have had more and more work given to them, all with out extra pay. I guess greeds makes you unable to handle extra tasks without extra money. Let people freeze this winter BOC while you and your top 5 go someplace warm.

Basic Bob

Fri, Sep 23, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

The unions should not have to question this abuse of government power. That is the duty of our elected representatives on the Board of Commissioners. And with all the union support that these cats get, why are they quiet? I've given up on Conan Smith, who just doesn't get it. But you would think Kristin Judge would be cutting right through this baloney the same way she supported combination (elimination) of front line jobs. In the real world, people often take on additional responsibilities when their colleagues leave, and later are rewarded for taking on the challenge through raises or promotions. When the additional responsibilities take time, they delegate work to trusted subordinates. I'm sure that in county government they have done the same thing, but that does not justify an automatic $15k raise to four managers.


Fri, Sep 23, 2011 : 1:22 a.m.

I love it, you're in bed with the Unions. Every anti-union post was deleted. Can't take the truth. Guess what, union membership is at an all time low, your liberal ways are a thing of the past.


Fri, Sep 23, 2011 : 4:37 p.m.

in the famous words of south park "blame Canada" jenny granholm bent over backwards to give all the concessions to the uaw. new ge plant being built union first in line to get them. no worker left behind same thing. I don't feel to bad for them, they had a chance to go to school, get a degree for free. they chose not to. they made really good money, had good 401ks etc.. I have know since I was 11 the big three was going to shut down U.S plants. and the great Savior Obama and his bail out builds plants over seas. and all that $$ for 300 new jobs. uaw =nazi


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

Taking on extra work for less pay. Working more hours without extra pay. Losing benefits or paying more for fewer. And all the while being grateful you have a job. What you are telling your employer is that you are a doormat to be used at their leisure. Isn't it time to band together with your fellow workers and fight for your dignity? The fact that American workers have yet to take to the streets and fight back against this treatment is stunning.

Don B. Arfkahk

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

I don't see what the big deal is. Big income earners make big money because they do big work. If they get a raise it's because they're working harder for us at their bureaucratic shuffling. Maybe some of the lower paid workers should actually try in life for once.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

That was weak!


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 6:47 p.m.

I applaud the elimination of jobs "at the top". However, most of workers have taken on more duties in their jobs because positions have been eliminated AND taken pay cuts and given concessions. Therefore, these folks "at the top" need to suck it up, take on the extra work duties and just be grateful that they have a job, just like the rest of the working folk in Michigan.

What is Going On

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

In the private sector, as we have all had to learn to do more with less, the responsibilities of the deputy would simply be added to the job duties of the "cross-lateral team" – without extra compensation! Certainly the union members who took cuts are doing more without an additional pay increase. What a slap in the face! Get with the times, Commissioners and Administrators! Getting more lateral is a good thing, but if Conan or any other Commissioner thinks burdening the workers who are actually making concessions and doing the work in favor of those at the top is the right thing to do, perhaps we need to begin a review of our Commissioners. I believe the Republican's new terminology for this whole approach is "Class Warfare"!


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

The proposal was pulled but not dead yet. "McDaniel said she hopes to bring the reorganization proposal back to the board for consideration after commissioners are more comfortable with it" So in other words you plan on pushing it through when no one is looking. I am willing to bet that this money gets put under the $500,000 misc item in the budget, lots of hidden cost there. Why should anybody in a NON Union position get paid more money for doing more work when UNION staff has been doing that for years. I have constantly worked more than my position, often taking on 50% or more of other duties when staff was laid off. There was never a mention of extra pay for that work, we were expected to do it or GET FIRED. So 4 people are covering the job of ONE, and they need to be paid more at the same time UNION employees have agreed to give up a large percentage of their check to help with the county shortfall. All of these employees already make over $100,000 and if their pay is over $125,000 the money will go into their retirement. I have worked for the County for over 20 years, the cuts to take place in 2012 will take my income from a huge $1,640 a month to approximately $1,200 a month and that money is now to be given to people who take home approximately $5000 a month. Every county job as the statement "other duties as assigned" written into its description. Why in the world should these people get paid more for doing more work, when non-union staff have been covering 2 or 3 positions that have been cut and merged into their job description over and over. Local 2733 have lost over half of its members due to cuts, the union has given more and more while those in higher positions continue to get more money. How insulting to the working class. . If you want to spend $60, 000 dollars, use that money to increase the beds in the shelter since I am sure some county employees will be living there come 2012.

Mr. Ed

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

So after 20 years you only make 7.50 per hour. Why on earth would anyone stay and work for 20 years in a position for 7.50 per hour.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Allen they aren't taking care of their own, they are taking care of themselves. The employees took anywhere from15%-30% in cuts depending on their pay level. Flat out disgusting! Verna I thought better of you, thanks for enlighting us.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 4:38 p.m.

People losing homes for taxes and can't afford mortgages because they lost their jobs , No jobs , NAFTA and all the free trade agreements took care of American jobs . Government cutting back police , firemen and othere services . Local government wanting to pay insane prices for what someone considers art. No cost of living raises for people on Social security . Yet Goverment always seems to take care of their own . What the heck is wrong with their minds ?


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

Alot of America is only getting minimum wage and people consider themselves lucky to get 10 or 11 dollars an hour


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

Anyone want to bet they elimnate the positions, take a pay increase, and then add the positions again? Anyone?


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 3:05 p.m.

Wow, she acts like this is doing us such a favor by saving $120,000. How about you save all $180,000 & do it because it's your job. Everyone else picks up extra duties, and like others said, they either get no pay increase or a pay cut.

hut hut

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

"If you look at how major companies around the world are dealing with changes in..." says Mr Smith. So he's making comparisons between public service on the county level to major companies around the world? If that's the case then they should be paid millions and get bonuses, like Wall Street bankers. Well, that's not the case, government is not Big Business. It is PUBLIC SERVICE! You do it because you want to , you think it's important and it's the right thing to do for your cmmmunity. It's not about rising to the top and getting the big bucks! But Mr Smith seems to think that public service are like giant corporations where the folks at the top get the big raises while the workers get the cuts. Shame on Mr Smith. He needs to go.

Mr. Ed

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

To Mr. Smith it's his families business.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

Is this any surprise? While workers continue to give back for the greater good, admin gets a a raise? This should be no surprise to ANY of you. YOUR votes created this monster, live with it.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

Blame Snyder. BUT the fact is those at the top of any branch of gov from townships to Washington are always the most greedy! And feel THEY are entitled to perks!


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

In the real world many of us have taken on extra duties without a "stipend". In many ways it is survival for the organization and personal job security that we assume the extra duties without hand extended. We do it willingly and without moaning and groaning.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

speaking of tone deaf!


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

All pyramid schemes require a strong base or the whole structure collapses. Keep eating away at the base and increasing the weight at the top...

Charley Sullivan

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

"McDaniel said members of the Cross Lateral Team would have a capped salary of no greater than $125,000 unless authorized by the county board. If a member's salary plus the stipend exceeds $125,000, amounts in excess would be paid into a retirement plan." So the $125K limit is a political limit, not an actual limit on spending; they'd just get the money later. And, not that I've checked, but does anyone know if they raised the salaries of other county workers, unionized or not, who are now covering the duties formerly held by others, in addition to the work they've always done? Here's a radical solution: vote for people in Lansing who actually would have the guts to tax us at a rate that covers the work we need done. And here's another radical idea: don't pay any executive more than twice the salary of their lowest paid worker . . .


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

NO, the Unions took cuts in pay that equals year end total by 25% or more. This included non paid days (10 this year), increase in medical, retirement, co-pays, deductibles and others which total 25% decrease in union employees pay. This after taking cuts last year. If someone really wants to know where the money has gone, compare the pay increases over the last 20 years and you will see many Non-union and maybe a few union staff who at one time received pay for performance increases that were thousands and thousands of dollars. That is what screwed our budget, not the Unions, the average salary raise in the last 20 odd years for unions members have averaged about 1.5%. At the same time, we took low raises we got better benefits while private companies received high pay raises but had to pay for medical. A friend of mine who started in the private section the same year as I started with the county at almost the same pay, makes almost $15,000 more a year but she does pay $3000 in medical but she still comes out ahead by $12,000. We gave up raises to keep our benefits cost low to us, now that everything is screwed, the unions are being blamed but it is not Unions, it is the BOC AND THE ADMINSTRATION THAT STILL REFUSE TO LOOK at the little things that COULD safe money, instead, blame the UNIONS and cut the staff.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

Maybe Ms McDaniel needs to join the ranks of the unemployed and save the county more money. She seems to be lacking the intelligence needed to manage her present position as demonstrated by her recent action.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

Does anyone know why the last deputy county administrator left? I do. Ryan email me and I'll be glad to fill you in.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

Ask Verna. She works for you, at least thats the way I understand it.

Mr. Ed

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

Do tell.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

Sorry about that. I tried sarcasm but disgust clouded my thinking.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

When they do it on my dime, its no longer personal.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:37 p.m.

Your not the only one. But ha, those are "personnel" matters which are confidential or at least that was the standard line.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.

Just more greed from the top as the botton takes the hit. They should be ashamed of themselve, or at the very least voted right out of office. They had better rethink think this.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

I don't understand this, because the administrators are adding duties they get paid more? Hmmm my job has taken on many more duties but i got a cut? What happened to equity? That's right the County has no equity.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

The rich get richer and the Right has their head in the sand.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:18 a.m.

Does anyone realy expect these folks are going to work longer hours to take on thes additional duties? In the private sector, if you can get by 3 months without someone, you have to question the position in the first place. Somehow beaurocrats reason that by saving money eliminating this position justifies this bonus stipend.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Correction: William Agee, not Phil Agee. William Agee was Benedix top dog, Phil Agee was a CIA mischief maker.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 1:01 p.m.

After Phil Agee's Bendix takeover of Allied Signal backfired and Bendix was taken over instead, Bendix operated without a Chairman/CEO/President for over two years, but Agee invented the 'Golden Parachute' for failed executives in the process. Those at the top will always find a way to get more. 'The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.' - White Queen


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

Your right, but the county lacks that business sense. Want to come run us?


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:08 a.m.

Move higher paid people all you want. Your cuts have created a situation, much like Ann Arbor's where lower paid people are doing the work of two people. If the moves you want to make don't pay well enough to suit the current job holders....then hire someone who will be satisfied with the current pay. That is the way you treat the lower paid workers. The rich get richer...... The following headlines today in the Detroit News: "More in Michigan fall into poverty"......The poverty rate in 2010 was its highest in at least four decades, and incomes continued to fall . "10 Michiganians among Forbes 400 richest".


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:03 a.m.

Disgusting. "Shared sacrifice" in it's real form.

Marilyn Wilkie

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 10:59 a.m.

""The point is this is a very complex organization and we need bright people who have been here and bring in years and years of experience and expertise — " Perhaps it is "the people who have been here" that precipitated having to make the cuts in the first place and are responsible for it.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 10:24 a.m.

Am I missing something or does it seem like those at the top always try to find a way to get more at the expense of others? Not only should the union question the move, but so should taxpayers.

Tom Smith

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

Nope. That's been the M.O. for years now. After a certain point, you have to wonder what they're trying to accomplish besides getting some kind of high score.