In last agenda item of year, Oakland County Commissioners gave themselves a raise

“If you want quality, you’ve got to pay for it,” commissioner said before voting yes

Article 7, section 9 of the Michigan Constitution gives county boards the exclusive power to set compensation for county officers, unless “otherwise provided by law.”

So while it’s true that Oakland County commissioners gave themselves a $6,000 raise for the upcoming 2023-24 term, there is also no one else who could have done this. Compensation is in the purview of the county board. Whether it should or shouldn’t be, it is.

But the Michigan Constitution does not say the raise should be held for the last agenda item at the last full board meeting of the year, as it was on Dec. 8. Members of the Oakland County Commission were up for reelection in November. If voters knew their commissioners would give themselves a 17% raise, would those commissioners have been reelected?

After a brief discussion, the commission approved the raise in an 11-9 vote. The raise brings the commission’s base pay to a little over $42,000.

Several of the no votes objected to the timing of the decision.

Commissioner Michael Spisz, a Republican who chairs the minority caucus, noted that members already gave themselves a 5% raise in the 2023 budget. Another 3% raise takes effect in 2024, according to board documents.

“I bet if we went back to the agenda that's on our website, this item is not on there,” Spisz said at the meeting, challenging the transparency of the resolution. “It’s on our packet and on our tablets here, yes, but the public hasn’t even seen it yet. We don’t even have people here to make comment on it.”

“I don’t understand how anyone in this room can support this,” Spisz added.

“You’re voting yourselves a raise during lame duck?” outgoing commissioner Chuck Moss asked his colleagues, before voting no. “This seems to me a not-great way to do business, with very little transparency and very little notice.”

On the yes side, Chair Dave Woodward, a Democrat, noted that with the board shrinking in the next term, from 21 commissioners to 19, each board member will serve more people than before. He said the $6,000 raise amounted to $500 per month and is “more than reasonable.”

Commissioner Charlie Cavell, a Democrat, noted that most board members also have day jobs, and said: “If you want quality, you’ve got to pay for it.”

Oakland County Commissioners who voted yes on the raise:

Chair Dave Woodward, Democrat

Charlie Cavell, Democrat

Yolanda Smith Charles, Democrat

Marcia Gershenson, Democrat

Janet Jackson, Democrat

Penny Luebs, Democrat

Gwen Markham, Democrat

Gary McGillivray, Democrat

William Miller III, Democrat

Kristen Nelson, Democrat

Angela Powell, Democrat

Oakland County Commissioners who voted no on the raise:

Minority Caucus Chair Michael Spisz, Republican

Michael Gingell, Republican

Robert Hoffman, Republican

Karen Joliat, Republican

Adam Kochenderfer, Republican

Eileen Kowall, Republican

Christine Long, Republican

Chuck Moss, Republican

Philip Weipert, Republican

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.