Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 8, 2013

Benzie official ticketed before personnel meeting

BY GLENN PUIT gpuit@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — BEULAH — Benzie County’s top administrator received three traffic citations from a county sheriff’s sergeant just before a meeting about sheriff’s department personnel matters, including the possible future pay rate and benefits of the sergeant who issued the ticket.

Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel said the Feb. 15 citations issued to Benzie Administrator Chris Olson were not related to a meeting that morning that was to include Olson and the Board of Commissioners about sheriff’s personnel matters.

“No one is above the law, including myself, and we all have to obey the law,” Schendel said. “(Olson) is no different than anyone else.”

But Olson, when asked Monday if he thought the timing of the traffic citations was connected to that day’s meeting, said, “Yes.”

“I think there will be more information that will come out related to the day’s circumstances,” Olson said. He declined to elaborate.

Olson is contesting the tickets.

A court date is set for March 13 before a local magistrate.

Olson was stopped by Detective Sgt. David Tucker at U.S. Highway 31 at Highland Drive in Beulah at 8:45 a.m. Tucker issued Olson a ticket containing three citations for disobeying a stop sign, failure to signal and failure to display a valid registration.

Tucker is the husband of county Commissioner Lisa Tucker. He also is expected to be the county's next undersheriff, but he has not accepted the position, pending clarification from the county on his ability to "bump back" to a union position and keep his benefits if the sheriff's administration changes.

David Tucker declined to discuss the Olson traffic stop in detail. He said “obviously some traffic violations happened; I effected a traffic stop and some citations were issued.”

Roughly an hour and 15 minutes after the citations were issued, the Benzie County Board of Commissioners held a meeting to discuss “sheriff’s department personnel issues.” Some of the items discussed at the meeting included collective bargaining and the new right-to-work law; a secretary’s wages and work hours at the sheriff’s office; health insurance costs for command officers including Tucker; the union membership of a 911 supervisor position; and the future pay of the undersheriff’s position that could be Tucker's next job.

Also discussed was whether the undersheriff could “bump back” to a union position if the sheriff’s administration changed.

“My issue was … there are some benefits that I’ve worked to have since I’ve started here that don’t carry over to undersheriff, which is not a union position,” Tucker said.

Commissioners agreed at the meeting to make the undersheriff’s salary $51,000 a year, about $400 more per year than Tucker makes as a detective sergeant. Commissioners also discussed a letter from the county attorney regarding Tucker’s ability to “bump back" to a union position, if necessary.

Schendel said the sheriff's department is not at odds with Olson over the budget or the topics of the Feb. 15 meeting.

"I wouldn’t even say we are having issues with him," Schendel said. "These issues that we met about that morning have been ongoing in some cases for years."