A serious split in the Southwest Barry County Sewer & Water Authority board was revealed last week at one board meeting and a special meeting that did not take place for lack of a quorum.
Because of the length of the account of what happened during last week, it will only be on WBCH website. A two-part story, this is part one, followed by part two on another page.
At the center of the disruption is the job performance and salary of authority administrator Mark Doster.
At the budget hearing board meeting March 28, the board approved 3-2, to move Doster from salary to hourly at a rate of $29.20 a hour on June 1, with him verifying his hours worked with a time clock.
David Messelink, Hope Township representative and vice-chair of the board, presented the changes in a motion that was approved with Messelink, Barry Township Supervisor Wes Kahler, and Johnstown Supervisor Barbara Earl voting “yes,” and Chair Jim Stoneburner and Prairieville Township representative Richard Van Niman voting “no.”
Messelink’s figures: Doster’s annual salary, $60,730, divided by 52 weeks is $1,167.89, divided by 40 hours results in pay of $29.20 an hour.
Stoneburner earlier made a motion to approve the budget as it was presented, meaning no change in Doster’s status, which includes a 2.5 percent raise. The motion failed 3-2, with Stoneburner and Van Niman voting “yes,” Messelink, Earl and Kahler voting “no.”
Urging Doster not to take it personally as it wasn’t his fault, “the board set your salary,” Messelink twice offered to go into closed session because it was a personnel matter. Doster declined.
Messelink said he has received complaints from citizens about his accountability and the amount he is paid for part-time hours, a contention raised by Barry County Commissioner David Jackson at the January meeting.
Doster said his salary should be judged on the outcome of his work, not the number of hours spent in the office.
He told of the rocky history in the early years; threats of bankruptcy, shortfalls in bond payments, public protests and legal challenges designed “to destroy” the project.
“The theory is to judge you on what you do. Look at what I’ve accomplished. The authority is in great financial condition, there has not been a rate increase to users in 11 years. That’s unheard of.
“ This amount is not excessive to other administrators in this area. (As an attorney) I have significantly lowered your risk of legal entanglements…I think I’m worth every penny… I’ve done an extraordinary job. If I only took one minute, it doesn’t matter, if I do my job.”
“It is exorbitant at best. I can’t justify what you make in a very, very part time job, let alone a $1,500 raise.”
Earl said she has heard complaints. ”People said it is entirely too much for that job. From 2005 to 2009, you doubled your wages.”
“The problem is that you have no accountability,” Messelink said. “No cell phone, no laptop that we authorized, no personal e-mail address, just one for the whole authority. That’s unacceptable.”
Stoneburner supported Doster: “I see value in what Mark does. I see the end results.”
Jackson, an outspoken critic of Doster’s salary, brought it up again during the budget hearing.
He said that Doster started out at $25,000 a year in 2005, and in 2016 is at a level of $90,000 in salary and benefits for a eight-to-15 hour work week.
Jackson also brought up possible “behind the scenes deals” and rumors that there is an effort to “give” the proposed Hickory Corners project to the Gull Lake Sewer Authority.
Stoneburner, who also sits on the Gull Lake Sewer Authority board, replied: “I still stand where I did before….We certainly are not going to pull (the proposed project) from us and send it to Gull Lake… I sit on both boards and I work diligently on both boards.”
Jackson said he was “confused, concerned and a little miffed” by the rumors he had heard from a board member. He said there is the possibility of conflict of interest and collusion and hinted he might see the Barry County Prosecutor.
Messelink said to Stoneburner: “We fought tooth and nail on this. Is there an effort to turn it over to Gull Lake?”
“No, there is not, ” Stoneburner said.
Doster said when hired in 2005, it was by contract for 20 hours a week. “I’ve never been a fulltime employee,” he said.
When he was made project director for sewer projects, his contract called for him to work an additional five hours a week, or up to 30 hours a week, he said. “I’m at 32 hours a week now.”
Doster said he took the administrator’s position in 2005 for $25,000 and no benefits because of its problems with cash flow.
In 2006, the bottom line had improved, and he was given a $5,000 raise, an employment agreement and benefits, he said.
In 2007, he was given the position of project manager for a specific project with a separate wage of $17,000 a year with a two-year-contract.
In 2008, he became project manager for the entire sewer authority with the positions combined and one salary, he said. His wages have gone up since then adjusted to inflation.
"There is one thing I want to make very clear,” he said. “There isn’t any taxpayer money, state or federal funds going to the sewer. It is entirely paid by the users.”