2006-06-15 / Front Page

Road board rift continues

By Tom Hamp

The atmosphere of contention begun over a month ago by Roscommon County Road Commissioner Larry Paxton against his two fellow board members continued June 8th at the board’s regular meeting. At the commission’s May 11th meeting Paxton had read a six-point motion, which failed for lack of support, that among other things called for disciplining an employee based upon a Michigan Department of Transportation report that stated a rest area was poorly kept. But at Thursday’s meeting, Paxton admitted there had been no investigation by the road commission into the employee, Al Burns’ (spouse of RCRC Manager/Chief Financial Officer Gloria Burns) non-performance at the rest area. The admission followed Paxton’s reference to a memo from the board’s attorney, Michael R. Kluck, citing the possibility of a conflict of interest with Gloria Burns and her husband. However, that memo did not preclude Gloria Burns from being the commission’s manager. According to RCRC policy, any conflict of interest matters involving Gloria Burns would be handled by the commission’s superintendent, Dave Vaughn. Commissioner George Pappas said he knew of a “couple of matters of discipline that she refused to get involved with and were given to the superintendent.” “With all of the talk about rest areas you never talked to me,” Gloria Burns told Paxton, “no one ever contacted Al Burns.” That’s when Paxton admitted there had been no investigation of the MDOT’s report of non-performance. “No investigation, that’s totally out of line,” Gloria Burns told Paxton. Vaughn told the board that he had changed the hours of rest area cleaning from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. VanWormer then told Vaughn that he could not change the hours because the hours had been set by a board directive the first week of May. After an executive session following the regular meeting the hours were discussed a second time and it was decided that the hours would remain 6 a.m. to 2:30 P.M. After Paxton again admitted there had been no investigation into the MDOT report, Gloria Burns said that if the road commission “can’t investigate then you can’t discipline.” Although Al Burns was singled out for discipline for lack of performance, two other shifts handled by two other road commission employees were also included in the MDOT report but were not cited for discipline in Paxton’s motion. Later in the meeting during Commissioner’s Reports, Paxton distributed and read a memo to commissioners and staff assailing Pappas and VanWormer. “What we are now faced with is a dysfunctional road comission because you, George, (Pappas) are always in to ‘I win you lose,’” Paxton said. (Full text of Paxton’s memo is printed below on this page.) Following the reading of the memo, Pappas said “I’m a happy camper and I’m glad I’m a road commissioner.” VanWormer then called for a special meeting June 15th at 6:30 a.m. “for any employee, question or concern to meet with this board.” “We are no longer going to discuss personnel complaints at these meetings after tonight,” VanWormer said. “Let’s end this. As far as I am concerned and this board is concerned it ends on the 15th.” Before approving the minutes of the May 25th meeting, Pappas said he wanted a quote published in the Houghton Lake Resorter regarding a discussion on workers working four, 10-hour days added to the minutes of the May 11th meeting. The quote stated Pappas said “when crews work on patching roads for 10 hours, for example, ‘that’s pretty hard work.’” VanWormer seconded the motion which passed 2-1 with Paxton voting no. Paxton then took issue with the meeting minutes stating they had been “transcribed” by RCRC secretary Stefanie Simmons. Paxton said no tape recording is used to transcribe the minutes and that minutes should state they had been typed. The meetings are tape recorded but the quality of the tape is too poor to use. The commission tabled a motion to purchase a digital recorder for meetings after learning the cost was $4,800. In other matters, the commission voted unanimously to pay formen for three hours of overtime each week to complete paperwork requiring extra hours. Jim Anderson, CPA, presented the 2005 Financial Audit Report to the board and Gerrish Township Supervisor Greg Gaylor appeared to request upgrading Maplehust and East Higgins Lake Drive to County Primary Road Status. Cost estimates will be prepared for discussion at the next meeting.

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