Benton Township gets new comptroller despite angry audience

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — There was an airing of grievances Tuesday at Benton Township’s board meeting.

While the board discussed several items on its agenda, several audience members repeatedly interrupted board proceedings in disapproval.

Things got testy when trustees reviewed a recommendation to hire Britni McDole as township comptroller. McDole was being looked at to replace Kelli Nelson, who is scheduled to take over as superintendent in October for a resigning Elden Piontek.

Amid constant interruptions from the audience, trustees approved the comptroller hiring by a 5-1 vote. Trustee Cathy Yates cast the lone vote against the hiring, while Treasurer Debbie Boothby was absent.

The position pays about $45,000 a year. McDole will work an average of three days a week from September through May, and two days a week from June through August.

McDole is expected to start in October and continue for another three years though 2019.

Piontek, who made the recommendation, told trustees this would save the township money because McDole is considered part-time and would not be paid benefits.

“Not only is she an expert in governmental accounting, but she is also familiar with Benton Township’s accounting,” Piontek said. “I think that she will be a great asset to our team and recommend that you move forward with hiring her as our part-time comptroller.”

Piontek said McDole received a degree in accounting from Central Michigan University and has worked for Plante & Moran for nine years.

Audience members expressed displeasure in the board’s decision and questioned why only one candidate was considered. Meeting attendees were reminded repeatedly that their comments would have to wait for public comment at the end of the meeting.

The Rev. Robert DeFrance, a regular fixture at board meetings, told trustees during public comments that he was disappointed in their decision making.

“I’m really frustrated with what’s going on here,” DeFrance said Tuesday. “…You can’t just pick one person out of nowhere. You’ve got to advertise the position or something.”

Trustees later agreed to extend its contract with Jessica Fette as the township’s attorney through 2019. This decision, like all other items discussed Tuesday, was met with the ire of audience members.

Fette had been getting paid $135 per hour for the last three years. The renewal contract increases her pay to $140 per hour starting January 2017. The pay rate increases to $145 per hour at the start of 2019.

“If you average these increases out over the period of the contract, we’re looking at a 2 percent increase,” Nelson said. “Basically the rate of inflation. I feel this contract is fair and you are getting your money’s worth.”

The next regular board meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at township hall.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 21, 2016)
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