County approves contract with future admin Kieft

MANISTEE – The Manistee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday gave its stamp of approval to an employment agreement with David Kieft Jr., the county’s next controller/administrator.

“We have a new controller/administrator on the horizon,” said board chair Jeff Dontz after commissioners approved the contract by a 6-1 vote at its regular monthly meeting.

Kieft, formerly the supervisor of Muskegon Charter Township, was officially offered the position on Dec. 19, after the board’s months-long interview process to fill the pending vacancy, as Manistee County’s current and longtime controller/administrator Tom Kaminski is set to retire on Feb. 28.

On Jan. 12, Kieft appeared before the board’s personnel committee to negotiate the details of his contract with the county.

The term of the agreement is for three years – effective on Kieft’s start date, Feb. 20 – and is renewable on an annual basis. Kieft will be paid an annual salary of $80,000 in 2017-18, as wages for the following years are to be determined.

The contract states, “Adjustments to the employee’s annual salary may be made by the employer at its discretion, with use of performance measures to be evaluated yearly. Annually the board will provide review and evaluation.

“The employee and employer will work on a brief survey to rate the employee’s performance,” the agreement reads. “The salary shall be subject to payroll deductions required by law or requested by the employee and determined to be available and proper.”

In no event shall the annual compensation be less than $80,000, according to the contract.

In lieu of mileage reimbursement under the Manistee County’s Personnel Policy Manual, the parties agreed that Kieft will be provided an annual vehicle stipend of $3,800. He is also entitled to the same economic fringe benefits provided to the county’s non-union, non-court staff, including any required premium contributions, but excluding any benefits not appropriate for an executive employee.

Prior to the board’s approval of the contract, commissioner Margaret Batzer questioned a few items in its contents, first asking how the $80,000 salary was reached, considering an original draft of the agreement set the first-year figure at $70,000.

“That $70,000 was a starting point for negotiations,” said Dontz, a member of the board’s personnel committee.

“There was a survey done recently, showing like-counties and the pay scales for their administrators/controllers,” explained commissioner Karen Goodman, chair of the personnel committee. “Those results reflected the $80,000.

“After negotiating for a length of time, I felt confident and comfortable going with this rate now and looking at the wage again next year.”

Batzer also pointed out that Kieft, despite having a bachelor’s degree in business leadership from Baker College, does not have a master’s degree to his name, which was a requirement originally listed in the county’s posting for the controller/administrator position.

“One of the requirements (listed) for this position is that the county controller/administrator should have a master’s degree … in either business administration or public administration,” she explained. “Mr. Kieft does not have that currently, so I would like to add that, as a condition to his employment, he achieve (a master’s degree) in the next five years.”

Commissioner Mark Bergstrom, a member of the personnel committee, asked who would pay for the additional schooling. When Batzer suggested the responsibility fall on Kieft, Bergstrom said that it could cost up to $25,000. Dontz added that substantial time and effort would also be involved.

“I feel like a five-year timeframe is very fair to meet that minimum requirement of the position,” Batzer said. “Many positions require a person to achieve an additional degree in a certain time frame. I feel this is a very reasonable request.

“One of the things this board has discussed at length is applying standards across the board in a fair and consistent way, and this falls within that framework.”

Dontz said he understood Batzer’s sentiment but didn’t believe the amendment to the contract was necessary.

“My thoughts, initially, are that we’ve made this selection,” he said. “We had criteria that we used as a baseline, and the board had the authority to adjust as they felt needed, depending on the candidates.

“While I can appreciate your thought in regard to that, I don’t know if that would be a deal breaker … for Mr. Kieft.”

Batzer made a motion to amend the contract, adding the condition that Kieft obtain his master’s in a five-year time frame, but she lacked support for an official vote.

“I believe that education is important too, and is a reflection of the capabilities of an individual,” Bergstrom said after the motion died, “but to require our potential administrator to obtain a master’s at this point, without any financial support from the county, I think that’s asking a lot.”

The board then voted 6-1 in favor of approving Kieft’s contract as presented, with Batzer dissenting.

The search to fill the county’s controller/administrator position began in July, when Kaminski announced his plan to retire at the end of February.

Narrowing the field of applications and conducting interviews with the final candidates was charged to the board’s personnel committee. Kieft, Manistee’s Tyler Leppanen and Cadillac’s Precia L. Garland were each interviewed for the position leading up to the board’s selection of Kieft, who served as supervisor of Muskegon Charter Township since 2008.

With property already in Manistee County and plans to purchase a home for a permanent move to the area, Kieft said this particular position was his “dream job.”

Under the general direction of the board of commissioners, Manistee County’s controller administrator carries out directives and implements policies of the board related to research and policy development, personnel and employee relations, budget and financial management, purchasing, data processing, grant funding and other areas as directed.

The duties also entail negotiating labor agreements, handling grievances and working with legal counsel on litigated matters. The controller/administrator directly supervises staff engaged in financial management, personnel and employee relations, as well as the equalization director, housing administrator and county planner.

The position is also to provide administrative support to the board, and supervise maintenance and custodial department personnel.

Kaminski has worked in the county’s administrative office for the past 31 years, beginning in 1986 as an administrative assistant to the board.

His position evolved rapidly in the 1990s as the administrative office assumed more and greater functions of the county’s government. Kaminski was named administrator in 1991 and then controller/administrator when Manistee County adopted the controller statute in 1997.

avatar

Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

Leave a Reply