It should come as no surprise to those following Scottville politics that their agenda for Monday's meeting on the first day of February has the city commission poised to ratify a mutual separation agreement with their City Manager Courtney Magaluk. What has been surprising is the amazing amount of secrecy attached to why they are doing it and how much it will cost the small town's citizens.
Scottville Treasurer Kathy Shafer
Prior to the last meeting, the LT investigated some of the matters involved with this latest move, but Scottville leaders, primarily Acting City Manager(ACM)/Police Chief Matt Murphy and City Attorney Carlos Alvarado, have conspired to keep their initiated and long-completed investigation into Ms. Magaluk's job performance secret, denying any part of the records about the investigation from myself and the local newspaper, then holding a virtual closed session in an improperly held special meeting to allegedly discuss a written opinion from CA Alvarado.
Scottville City Attorney Carlos Alvarado
Whatever the investigation revealed, Ms. Magaluk has expressed an intention of moving on from Scottville, and no other Scottville official is indicating why she is, why they seem to be for the move, or why they are not disclosing those reasons to the public. The citizens of Scottville are left in the dark in terms of motives, intrigues, reasons, and costs of this experiment in kakistocracy.
Scottville Acting City Manager Matt Murphy
Further research has been inconclusive as to finding out anything that Ms. Magaluk did was improper or unlawful, yet the record shows that the members of the ad hoc Investigative Committee and its agents have committed a growing number of improprieties and lawless acts. As noted here, Alvarado admits at least one meeting of this committee took place, indicates that several more informal meetings may have taken place, yet in his FOIA response to the newspaper stated minutes of those meetings of an official committee set up by the board did not exist. This and six other violations of the Open Meetings Act for every one of these meetings that happened outside of public cognition accrue to the City of Scottville due to their embrace of unlawful secrecy of a public body.
The FOIA requests for the investigation reports will be coming before the commission on Monday, but over the last two weeks I have made a few other requests to find answers that they are otherwise unwilling to give. As expected these show more improprieties from the investigating authorities.
At the January 18th meeting, I asked a question at the end-of-meeting comment period of the commission as to who 'attended' the virtual closed session, they failed to answer that, nor was I able to get an answer to it when I asked it when requesting these other records. They never answered me; I did find out that the newspaper re-asked that question to Mayor Marcy Spencer after the meeting and she noted that the commission, Alvarado, and Murphy were there.
The OMA allows the public body to meet in closed session to consider material exempted by attorney-client privilege, Murphy is not a part of the public body, neither is he an attorney, he should not have been in this meeting unless he was invited to do so by the city commission; this wasn't done. But this is the least of his worries as a look at Scottville's timesheets shows that his administration is bilking lots of money from Scottville taxpayers in a way contrary to their own policies and law.
Consider their personnel manual, p. 16 describing comp time:
The currently updated FLSA summarizes what it is to be non-exempt:
A glance at the payroll record before Chief Murphy became the ACM shows he made more than $684 per week and he was the police department supervisor-- he is not non-exempt by the FLSA and cannot gain comp time. Murphy and Magaluk were the only employees of city hall that aren't non-exempt by the FLSA.
His first timesheet shows he not only was gaining comp time, but using it as well; these activities were not under City Manager Magaluk's review, you will note that the approval is given by Treasurer Kathy Shafer, who should know better. The next timesheet shows that he took even more liberties with comp time after getting a major raise to ACM on Thanksgiving (the first Thursday):
Murphy's pay for working eighty hours jumped from $1368.03 to $2152.89 between these two pay periods; when he is even less able to consider himself non-exempt, he 'earns' 20 hours of comp time. The last payroll I received has him using that comp time while working a week of half days, adding 61 and 16 and getting 80, all signed off by the treasurer:
Another issue in the personnel manual is overtime. Overtime must be authorized by Magaluk or Murphy, and will be approved ONLY in emergency situations and non-routine projects and work:
This policy under ACM Murphy's administration is not being followed among the non-exempt employees. By way of example, Treasurer Shafer worked an hour of overtime on 3 separate days, neither instance of which was approved by ACM Murphy, neither was her payroll approved by him. A commissioner's meeting is neither an emergency or non-routine.
Treasurer Kathy Shafer was hired by Scottville on a part-time basis by the City back in 2016 to assist then CM Amy Williams who did the treasurer work until then. Each timesheet shows that she is working 40 hours with plenty of overtime over the last two months, I can find no record that she has ever been given a full-time position, a 2019 publication of the MML maintains the position was still part-time. For the treasurer spot to become full time, the city commission would have had to approve it explicitly.
A comparison of the 2020 budget and 2021 budget shows that the line item for 'general government' which includes non-police city officer's wages jumps from $200,000 to $283,000, or over $73,000 more than what was originally forecast. A 42% increase of wages for city hall staff is unexplained in the public records. It was not explained when the latest budget was approved on June 1st, 2020. Shafer was getting holiday pay for Christmas and New Years Eves and Days, and for some undeclared and unauthorized reason earned 7.5 hours of comp time on New Years and 2 more on Christmas Eve, and one hour of unauthorized overtime in another unauthorized timesheet:
This continuous lack of rigor and recent lack of oversight makes one believe that there may be a different city officer more responsible for making the City almost miss their revenue sharing report's deadlines than a city manager about to give birth. One would think that a treasurer working full-time in a small town like Scottville, where the prior city manager did her job for decades, should have plenty of time to fill out the easily completed forms for revenue sharing. This data is more in line with the treasurer's office.
One is inclined to believe that the City's intentions to keep the investigation secret by not complying with the FOIA is to protect someone and/or their collective self. A minor investigation by the Ludington Torch uncovers that ACM Murphy since his ascension, and even before, is asking for more remuneration than he is qualified for, that he's not overseeing the treasurer's timesheets to correct the errors. He has been holding unlawful meetings, he has been at closed sessions that he was not invited to attend.
This minor investigation also uncovers the 'part-time' city treasurer padding her own timesheet with hours she is not authorized to have, collecting holiday pay she should not qualify for, approving payroll made by exempt employees that contain comp time, helping create a budget that pads the city hall payroll by 42% to accommodate, etc.
If the investigation by Defective Aaron Sailor had any merit, he should be aware that the obvious abuse of the taxpayer's money appears not to be at the hands of Ms. Magaluk, but of the two employees currently handling the city's finances in her absence. This was even noticeable back earlier in the summer when the commission voted to make Murphy the ACM when Ms. Magaluk was set to take maternity leave. You will note that even then the city clerk noted that the details of Murphy's remuneration for being the ACM was to be decided out of the public eye-- at the committee level his pay rate would be finalized:
Scottville committee meetings do not have to follow the OMA because they are supposedly advisory committees, not able to finalize decisions, like raising the chief's two week pay rate from $1368 to $2152.
All these errors, all of these violations of laws and ethics are not being committed by a city manager whose only demerit against her so far is that she almost missed a deadline for submitting paperwork to the state which might have cost the City of Scottville 1/6 of their annual revenue sharing earnings (a little over $20,000). Thank goodness we had a part-time treasurer to work 25 extra hours, receiving overtime and holiday pay in order to complete what should have taken her much less time:
The financial gains made by these insurgents, one of who is likely to change his ACM position into a full-time position due to his education in municipal management, likely pales in comparison to what City Attorney Alvarado has made throughout this period in attending meetings without minutes or notices, and battling FOIA requests of records that should be made available.
I agree FS. I was wondering why she did not complete the application if it would have only taken a short time to do so. In her defense, I think she admits to the error and did volunteer to show up and fix the problem but was given no cooperation. Either the other City officials had no clue on what to do or they were intentionally dragging their feet so they had an excuse to get rid of her. Scottville citizens should vote out all of these elected officials that caused this to boil over unnecessarily.