Paycheck-signing policy discussed at Housing Commission meeting

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette The Ontonagon Housing Commission, including vice chairman Rich Ernest (left) and chairman Pam Coey, met with an attorney to discuss legal issues at a special meeting on Monday.

ONTONAGON — The village’s Housing Commission had questions answered and were left with a few more after Monday’s special meeting with Marquette attorney Laura Katers Reilly.

There were a few questions Reilly was unable to answer without further examining the commission’s existing policies. The meeting ended with a unanimous vote to have her issue recommendations on the personnel policy and bylaws.

The issue of payroll approval was raised after the Housing Commission director and secretary signed paychecks without the required signature of the chairwoman or vice chairman. The problem arose as Chairwoman Pam Coey was on vacation and Rich Ernest was unable to be contacted.

As housing commission employees are paid in the same week for that week’s work, the timeline was very short to get the checks out at its regular time, explained Executive Director Sally Jarvey.

Ernest was uncomfortable with that explanation.

“You shouldn’t be allowed to sign your own paychecks, and based on your bylaws or our bylaws as a commission, (they state) that all checks should be countersigned by the president,” he said.

Jarvey and secretary Sue Lockhart explained that with the president out of town and Ernest unresponsive after email and messages left via phone, the employees still needed to be paid.

“If you’re unavailable, does that mean nobody gets their payroll checks? Is that legal?” Lockhart questioned.

Jarvey expressed surprise at the short paycheck turnaround and other commission members suggested reviewing the policy.

“I would say that this is a question of needing to refine the proceedings,” Reilly commented.

The personnel policy was also recommended for review to determine if employees are contract-based or at-will hires. This is another area Reilly stated she would need to examine the employees’ hiring and subsequent paperwork, although she noted the baseline in the state of Michigan is at-will employment for employees.

The appeal process of renters withholding deposits and conflict of interest questions were also brought up for potential policy review.