Salary for new Marquette County Court position raises questions

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) -- A new position at the Marquette County courthouse, Director of Court Operations, is causing some waves with the Marquette County Board of Commissioners. Last April, they approved the new position with a salary of $77,000, in addition to health benefits. But Charity Mason, who currently holds the position, reported a total 2016 income of $93,771.84. Board members said they wanted to know why.

Last April, the Marquette County Board of Commissioners approved the new position with a salary of $77,000, in addition to health benefits. But Charity Mason, who currently holds the position, reported a total 2016 income of $93,771.84. Board members said they wanted to know why.

"It's my job as a county commissioner, as well as my colleagues', to be the fiscal watchdogs, and it is our duty to handle the budget," said Joe DeRocha (District 2), vice chair of the board.

Commissioners said they did not authorize retroactive payments Mason received, or additional "on call" pay, but the court said they were clear about the raises.

"The court has been open about the salary connected with the position and the total budget impact that the board approved," said Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer A. Mazzuchi. "I respect their commitment to being responsible with public funds, and we have that responsibility as well in the running the courts and staying under budget. And we have operated within our budget."

DeRocha questioned why the director of court operations was earning significantly more than other county positions, like county clerk and county treasurer, whose salaries fall in the low-to-mid 60,000s range.

The court said the director of court operations salary was comparable to the same position in other counties. They added the job was necessary while Marquette County judges take on the responsibilities of retired judge Thomas Solka.

"It's a very important job at this point in our transition especially, and looking forward, to try to move toward consolidating some of these things," Judge Mazzuchi said. "It's been a very busy time in the court system with kind of rearranging things after the loss of a judge, so it's very important work within the system."

Several solutions have been voiced, including bringing the salary back down, reducing county funds allocated to the county courts or eliminating the position altogether.

"I believe that the judges have the ultimate right to set their budget as they see fit," DeRocha said. "I also believe that the county commission has its authority to set the budget to the courts as they see fit."

The board is awaiting their civil counsel's legal opinion on the situation, which will determine the action they take at their next board meeting on May 2.



 
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