County Makes Appointments to RTA, Other Groups

Appointments to three groups – the southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA); the Washtenaw County food policy council, and the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission – were made at the Washtenaw County board’s Jan. 22, 2014 meeting. The board also made its annual appointments of county commissioners to various boards, committees and commissions.

Yousef Rabhi, chair of the board, appointed Alma Wheeler Smith to fill an opening in the RTA. Richard Murphy – one of two RTA board members from Washtenaw County – was not seeking reappointment. The deadline to apply for this opening had been extended, but there were only two applicants. The other applicant was Jim Casha, but as a Canadian resident he was ineligible to be appointed for the seat to represent Washtenaw County. The RTA state enabling legislation (Act 387 of 2012) mandates that board members must be residents of the county or city that they represent.

Alma Wheeler Smith, a former state legislator, is the mother of county commissioner Conan Smith (D-District 9). Her term will be for three years, ending Dec. 31, 2016. She attended a portion of the Jan. 22 meeting but did not formally address the board. Conan Smith abstained from the vote, citing what he called a perceived conflict of interest. Because of that, he said, “I did my best to stay out of [the selection process], passionate though I am about the RTA and my mother.” Although the state statute authorizes the county board chair to make the RTA appointments, Rabhi put forward a resolution for all of his nominations – including the RTA – to be confirmed by the full board.

By way of background, the RTA was established by the state legislature in late 2012. It includes a four-county region – Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne – with each county making two appointments to the board, and the city of Detroit making one.

The county board chair appoints both of Washtenaw County’s members to the RTA board. Those appointments were first made at the end of 2012 by Conan Smith, who was chair through the end of that year. Liz Gerber, a University of Michigan professor of public policy, was appointed to a three-year term. Murphy, who works for Smith at the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, was appointed to a one-year term.

In other appointments made on Jan. 22, Dan Ezekiel was appointed to fill a term that was recently vacated by long-time county parks & rec commissioner Nelson Meade, who stepped down at the end of 2013. Ezekiel was one of the founding members of the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission. His most recent term ended in mid-2013. He was term limited for that position. For the county parks & rec commission, Ezekiel’s term ends on Dec. 31, 2016. He also attended the Jan. 22 county board meeting, but did not formally address the board.

Jeremy Seaver and Sara Simmerman were appointed to the Washtenaw County food policy council, for terms ending Dec. 31, 2015.

The board also made its annual appointments of county commissioners to various boards, committees and commissions. [.xls spreadsheet of 2014 appointments] Only minor changes were made to previous appointments from 2013. In addition, during the Jan. 22 meeting the board created a new committee to explore the cost to the county for providing employee health insurance coverage for autism. Members of that committee are Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6), and Andy LaBarre (D-District 7). The board had received a staff presentation earlier in the evening about the possibility of offering coverage for autism.

In addition to their salaries, commissioners receive stipend payments based on the number of meetings that a commissioner is likely to attend for a particular appointment. One or two meetings per year would pay $50, three or four meetings would pay $100, and the amounts increase based on the number of meetings. Each commissioner typically has several appointments. Commissioners who are appointed as alternates receive the same stipend as the regular appointments. Some appointments were not designated to be paid because no meetings were expected to be scheduled.

Commissioners can waive their stipends by giving written notice to the county clerk. Otherwise, the stipend payments are made automatically.

In 2013, only Dan Smith (R-District 2) waived all of his stipends, according to the county clerk’s office, which administers the stipends. Felicia Brabec (D-District 4) waived her stipend for the accommodations ordinance commission. Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) was not appointed to any boards, committees or commissions and therefore did not receive any stipends.

For 2013, the following stipends were paid:

  • Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8): $2,700 (11 paid appointments, including several stipulated by virtue of Rabhi’s position as board chair, plus 3 unpaid appointments)
  • Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5): $2,350 (11 paid, 2 paid alternates, 1 unpaid)
  • Conan Smith (D-District 9): $1,800 (6 paid, 2 paid alternates, 1 unpaid)
  • Felicia Brabec (D-District 4): $1,450 (8 paid, 1 alternate with stipend waived)
  • Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1): $800 (4 paid)
  • Andy LaBarre (D-District 7): $550 (3 paid, 1 unpaid)
  • Alicia Ping (R-District 3): $400 (2 paid, 2 unpaid)

In total, seven commissioners were paid $10,050 in stipends for 2013. There is no mechanism in place for validating attendance, other than checking the meeting minutes of these various groups. No one is designated to do that, however.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]