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Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

Washtenaw County officials bracing for potential retirement of 100 county employees

By Ryan J. Stanton

As many as 100 employees in Washtenaw County government could retire by the end of the year, possibly meaning a restructuring of some county departments.

It also could mean the county will rehire some retired county employees on a temporary basis to get through the transition, paying them both a salary and a pension for a while.

And it could mean some county employees will get 8 percent raises to step up and take on additional responsibilities.

It also means the county will be hiring soon.

Those details were shared by county officials Wednesday night as the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners adopted a two-year budget for 2012 and 2013.

The discussion came after Commissioner Dan Smith, R-Northfield Township, proposed taking away the county administrator's ability to hire back retired employees on a temporary basis without first getting approval from the county board.

"I think, given the nature of the situation, this board needs to be a little bit more involved than what's currently proposed," he said.

But other commissioners said they didn't want to get into a position where the county board was micromanaging day-to-day hiring decisions.


Barbara Levin Bergman


Conan Smith


Verna McDaniel


Ronnie Peterson

"I'm not an administrator. I'm a policy-setter here," said Barbara Levin Bergman, D-Ann Arbor, adding she trusts the administrator and her staff to make those decisions.

After some discussion, the board voted to go with an alternate proposal offered by Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, that requires the county administrator to report monthly to the county board on any temporary rehires of retirees.

Conan Smith said he believes there could be as many as 70 senior employees moving out of the organization in the next six months.

"That loss of institutional memory is potentially catastrophic for the organization," he said, adding one way to make it through the transition is to tap into the employees who are retiring.

"I think the staff, the administrator and her team understand that it's not a long-term solution for any of those positions, but it's an important tool that we afford them," he said.

County Administrator Verna McDaniel said the county is about to go through a heavy period of transition and she agreed it could be catastrophic if not managed correctly.

She said many of the 100 employees she mentioned already have retired in recent months and the rest are expected by the end of December. Because of new contracts kicking in, their retirement benefits would be less if they waited until after Jan. 1.

That's less than 10 percent of the county's work force, but it still means the loss of a great deal of institutional knowledge, McDaniel said. The county currently has about 1,350 employees.

"You commissioners do deserve to know what's going on," she said, agreeing with the new reporting requirement. "I think we should be transparent. I have no problem with that."

Departments that might see a notable loss of employees or senior level managers include Community Support and Treatment Services, Trial Court, Equalization, and Employment Training and Community Services.

McDaniel said many positions will be filled on a temporary basis, but the exodus gives her the opportunity to consider a restructuring of some departments. In some cases, she said, it's going to be tough to find new hires because of the specific certifications required.

She said the county will be looking to promote from within where it makes sense and some employees could get raises as a result.

That drew criticisms from Commissioner Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti, who reminded commissioners the county faces a $11.6 million deficit in 2014.

"You're $11 million in debt and you're spending like you're running the Roman empire," he said, going on to ask questions about the potential for raises or bonuses.

The news that some employees might be getting 8 percent raises came only after repeated questioning by Peterson, who asked McDaniel directly if there were any bonuses or raises for any employees included in the budget for 2012 and 2013.

"No raises have been given," McDaniel responded.

Peterson asked the question again, probing to find out whether any county officials are expected to get a raise in the next two years.

"No one has been given a raise," McDaniel said again.

Peterson repeated his question, asking if raises were expected.

"We haven't made that determination yet," McDaniel said.

"Is that in the works?" Peterson asked.

"I can give you a full report once we discuss it," McDaniel said.

Peterson said he's received five letters from county employees who recently accepted concessions that are affecting their quality of life. He said they're concerned other county employees might be getting bonuses or raises, which he considered unfair.

"That has no improvement on the morale around the organization — I think that hurts it," he said. "I think when you have asked folks to make sacrifices and they have done it consecutively and without any hesitation … it is not the time to reset the budget and have dollars built in there that are going to allow people to get 8 percent raises."

Conan Smith chimed in at that point to say the county has a standing policy that applies to both union and nonunion employees and calls for raises when employees are asked to do work at a higher grade than their current classification.

"So in other words, if your boss disappears and we ask you to do your boss's work, you can receive, by policy, up to an 8 percent bump in your salary," he said. "And I think it's fair given the amount of turnover that we're experiencing. That may happen. It may happen for union employees. It may happen for nonunion employees."

Peterson said he still thinks all county employees should sacrifice together.

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.



Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

It is NOT THE UNIONS getting the raises, it is ADMINSTRATIVE staff who are already making over $100,000 a year. This began as a $15,000 bonus for VERNA and five of her buddies, it is not COINCIDENCE that 3 of these self serving people , including VERNA; were on the Negotiation TEAM and won a award for their efforts from the County, for screwing over the UNIONS. UNION employees have taken CUTS IN past few years resulting in a 25 - 35% cut in pay. Union employees have been doing more than 1 job for many years without ANY INCREASE in pay. The increase is supposed to be in effect if you fill that vacant position, not do part of it. VERNA and her cronies are getting this for covering for the deputy administrator who left last year. Most of the UNION people who work for Washtenaw County, who make between $10,000 - $40,000 a year, are losing between $400 and $600 out of their pay per month, due to 10 non-paid days, increase in retirement and increase in medical costs. This does not include the $1500 to $3000 a year co-pay/co-insurance deductibles that they will be paying. Nor does it include the increase in office visits or prescription cost. Verna and her cronies waited until most of the union contracts were signed, then they proposed this extra pay for themshelves. This is a direct slap in the face, a deliberant action, knowing that if this information was was known prior to the signing of the contracts, the UNIONS would have said NO. It was dirty and underhanded. The County is top heavy; CUT the people at the top, cut their over the top retirements and severance pay for quitting. This is insult to the UNIONS and to the people of this county. County residents should demand a review of every dollar, then you will see who gets the big bucks.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

At the end of 2008 down turn I had to take on more work but I did not get a raise for the next 2 years. I am still doing the extra work. Oh, that right I don't work a government job. If the county employees don't like doing more work let them get a new job.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

With positions opening up we should expect many posters here to be signing up for the open jobs, at a reduced pay rate. We KNOW from these posts that these new hires will be able to do the job better, and for less money, than the now "overpaid" people currently in these positions. I eagerly await the new crop of cheaper, better county employees. They will gladly abandon. . the private sector for these juicy, easy jobs Get to it people! After you fill out those job applications, ask for one to run for council.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

with nearly 11% unemployment (If you believe that washtenaw county really is at 6.6%--think again--this does not include the number of ppl who are underemployed or who have stopped gainfully looking) in Michigan, why is no one talking about hiring YOUNGER professionals who are certainly capable of doing the job with adequately scheduled supervision from former, appropriate staff? This contracted wage (for supervision) would be far less than paying the former employees a salary and a pension and solves one of the recurrent problems of this recession which is that older, higher paid professionals WILL NOT retire and no new infusion of younger workers can establish themselves in their field. Want to keep professionals in MIchigan? Here's an idea--give one a shot at working for you. Their relative inexperience can and will result in innovation in practice and they want to work and are willing to work for far less than senior, retired city employees. Speaking as someone with a Master's in Public Administration, I am incredibly frustrated by this city's deathgrip on traditional tax-base to maintain services and overspending in personnel costs. Perhaps it's time to try more non-traditional work structures to be more efficient with less.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

This is about poor management by the county, both the board and the administrators. What supervisor has no clue someone they are responsible for is thinking about retiring. Why are replacements not trained to step in? Instead the "retired" employees are encouraged to train their replacement after they retire. Nice deal. Cut these double dippers off. Since they are not really ready to retire, either convince them to stay on or cut them loose and let their jobs go unfilled. Would the average citizen know the difference? The Board of Commissioners needs to quit worrying about getting reelected and do the right thing. To bad they will not.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

A rush to the door to retire.......... I fail to understand why the same concessions and benefit changes, sharing cost of health insurance, etc. etc. do NOT apply to retirees as well as current employees. These are paid by the same taxpayers. Check with a Federal Gov't retiree and you will find there is no distinction here as far as spreading financial changes in pay amd benefits to present and former employees. Former and present retirees equally share the same pains and sacrifice. This might make the 'rush-ees' rethink their motives and we wouldn't be re-hiring so many of the same people. Double dipping??

John Spelling

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:56 p.m.

"Conan Smith chimed in at that point to say the county has a standing policy that applies to both union and nonunion employees and calls for raises when employees are asked to do work at a higher grade than their current classification." For a few years now private sector employees have been asked to "do work at a higher grade" with no little to no additional compensation. No public employee should received more than 1%-2% raise, regardless of the reason. If they are unhappy with the additional work, show them the door. There are plenty of folks that would love their job. If Conan Smith supports 8% raises, he should also be shown the door.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Well said. There are many out there that are NOT getting raises and instead taking a pay cut. Seems to me the county wants concessions from everyone but themselves.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

Drew, you took the words right off my keyboard!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 5:19 a.m.

So lets assume you have a job, then lets assume you have a job in the private sector, then shall we assume you will be applying for one of these cushy, overpaid, gravy train, County jobs? Or should I assume you just like running you mouth about public employee sand the jobs they do in which you know nothing about. Wouldnt you be crazy to keep on working your private sector job when this article confirms there will be job openings? Should I also assume you will not respond to this?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:10 p.m.

Any discussions of re hire prior to retirement should be considered "insider trading". I consider it unethical and a breach of taxpayer trust. If you retire, you should be out, period. I'm convinced that any "near job equivalent" position in the private sector could assume the duties and perform sufficiently in the government position. Possibly better.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:55 p.m.

What a wonderful time to take advantage of all these departures (for whatever reasons) and restructure the entire county administration with fewer departments and supervisors!!!! That's a sure way to save money in both the short and long terms.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:52 p.m.

Thats what happens when you cut peoples pay 10-30%, then say your going to give your own support staff $15K. The good ones go BYE! BYE!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:24 p.m.

Our elected officials live in a fantasy land where money grows on trees, employees are paid better than their bosses (we the people), and pay raises aren't really pay raises. Many employees are jumping ship while the treasure is still there to grab leaving the rest of us empty handed. Just like in Greeece this all can't last forever, at some point we'll have to tax the life out of everyone or resturcture everything including wages, benefits, and retirement pay. I vote for restructuring.................and politicians with intestinal fortitude.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

I think people who regard these tactics (layoffs, early retirements and "privatizations") as simply a button to push to make municipal budget problems go away are either intellectually lazy or live in another world. The responsibilities to the job and to the employees (established by contract) can't be ignored simply because they want them to. You can cut off your arm to lose weight but you're going to find that getting the job done is going to be a lot harder.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:12 p.m.

And your point is?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

"I'm not an administrator. I'm a policy-setter here," said Barbara Levin Bergman, D-Ann Arbor, adding she trusts the administrator and her staff to make those decisions. Hmmm...really?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

"No raises have been given," McDaniel responded. Yea right BUT you have set the tone by offering raises in advance! Makes about as much sense as the school board saying UP FRONT they would be giving the new super a raise!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

The headline reads -"Washtenaw County officials bracing for potential retirement of 100 county employees" But the article reads: "She (Verna McDaniel) said many of the 100 employees she mentioned already have retired in recent months and the rest are expected by the end of December." Which is right? It appears that the County does whatever it likes.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

Ronnie Peterson is the ONLY person on the Board that truly understands the situation. Conan Smith has no problem spending other peoples money.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:22 p.m.

Verna McDaniel's repeated attempts to not answer the question about raises is disturbing. Oh, had Conan Smith paid us back yet?