TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County commissioners on Wednesday will consider hiring a consultant to review compensation for some county positions.

The request from Donna Kinsey, director of Human Resources, recommends the county hire Management Advisory Group International, one of three companies that submitted proposals.

If hired, the company will be paid $38,500.

The recommendation to hire a consultant came from a compensation committee that was established by the Human Resources department at the direction of the board in December.

At that time several administrators were given raises, while some were overlooked, including the county register of deeds Peggy Haines, who in February filed a lawsuit against the county.

Haines, who is 71, is suing for age discrimination and claims the county withheld a raise in an effort to force her to retire. She is paid $67,000 annually and is asking for an equitable raise, back wages, damages and interest.

She has held the register of deeds post since 2000, having been reelected in November to a four-year term.

In the lawsuit, Haines claims the county has failed to give her raises based on her abilities and compared to what others in her position are paid in similar counties.

Haines was given a pay cut of $5,400 in 2012 when the county eliminated car allowances for elected officials. She said she has not been given a raise since then.

A hearing has been set for May 11 in 13th Circuit Court on a motion filed by the county seeking summary disposition of the case.

According to information submitted in the MAG Inc. proposal, the company will do a compensation study that includes analysis of the targeted positions and will develop recommendations for a pay plan. The targeted positions are not included in the information.

Board Chairman Rob Hentschel said he does not know which positions will be looked at. He said there are several county departments that are asking for a reclassification of positions because employees have obtained certifications, are more skilled and are doing more work. A higher classification also means higher compensation, he said.

“Just about every department has some kind of request along those lines,” Hentschel said.

The county spent $190,000 on a reclassification study in 2008, as previously reported in the Record-Eagle. The study’s results were later refuted and in 2010 the commission rescinded several raises for department heads and others that were based on the study.

“It was never implemented and the value of it was questioned,” Hentschel said.

County Administrator Nate Alger was among those given a raise in December, though it doesn’t go into effect until the beginning of his next contract year in July, when his annual pay will increase to $145,242. Alger’s contract was extended by three years with a 5 percent raise in each of those years.

County Clerk Bonnie Scheele also was given an $11,000 raise over two years, and pay scales for the human resources and information technology director positions have been adjusted to top out at $125,000, from a previous amount of $105,055.

The raises were recommended by an ad hoc committee proposed and headed by Hentschel, who had said he wanted to look at increases for those in high-profile positions who may find it difficult to recommend raises for themselves.

The human resources and IT positions are highly mobile ones where the people filling them could go anywhere, Hentschel said this week. Some department heads have been headhunted and offered larger salaries, but chose to stay with the county, he said.

Board members also voted themselves a 72 percent raise in December, bringing their annual pay to $12,000, with $12,500 for the commission vice chair and $13,000 for the chair. Commissioners Betsy Coffia and Bryce Hundley voted “no” on the raise.

A month later Commissioner Brad Jewett brought forward a proposal to expand health insurance benefits for commissioners equal to those of full-time county employees. The proposal was taken off the agenda at Jewett’s request after he said he did not have all the information he needed.

Commissioners can now opt into a policy that covers only themselves; expanded benefits would have also covered family members. Jewett, Hentschel and Commissioner Ron Clous are on the county health care plan.

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