2017-07-27 / Front Page

Fire board rejects motion to release funds for chief

BY LANIA ROCHA
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

CLAYTON TOWNSHIP and SWARTZ CREEK – The Swartz Creek Area Fire Board has voted down a resolution to authorize the release of funds for the fire chief’s healthcare savings plan.

“I’m exploring my options,” said Chief Brent Cole after the Monday, July 17, fire board meeting.

The vote ended in a 4-3 count, with all Clayton Township representatives opposing the motion, and all Swartz Creek delegates voting in favor.

The chief’s healthcare savings plan, which would direct part of his salary into an account that he cannot access until retirement, has been at the crux of a longstanding debate around the fire board table.

Some board members, as well as Clayton Township elected officials, have questioned the ethics of the plan, calling it an attempt to circumvent Social Security laws.

Fire board attorney Bill Cavanaugh has said the deferred payment plan is legal, and the board has “a responsibility to make sure a check goes to that purpose” since it is part of the chief’s contract.

The fire board approved the contract in February, but postponed authorizing the release of the money because they had not reviewed the savings plan.

The vote on the contract occurred in February, two months before the majority vote on the fire board shifted to Clayton Township. Each unit of government appoints three members to the board, with the city and township taking turns having the swing vote on alternate years.

Township delegates have said they were surprised that the contract was brought up for a vote in February. The personnel committee had worked for months to draft the document, and township representatives said they thought the fire board was only going to review it at the February meeting, and vote on it at a later date.

Fire board Vice Chairman Tammy Kapraun noted that not all board members have had the opportunity to review the healthcare plan with an insurance company representative, who could answer their questions.

Meanwhile, Kapraun said, she’s still waiting for information about how utility bills are calculated at Station 1 in the city. She requested the information months ago.

Cole said he received the information from City Manager Adam Zettel, but had yet to forward it to fire board members.

The building is shared by the police and fire departments, but with the Metro Police Authority downsizing the Swartz Creek offices to a substation, the fire department is likely to take over some of the authority’s former space.

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