Judge seeks compensation for employee handling two jobs

Sixty-sixth District Court Judge Ward Clarkson speaks to the board of commissioners’ Public Safety and Courts Committee Tuesday.

CORUNNA — The Public Safety and Courts Committee advanced a motion Tuesday to increase the compensation of the Circuit Court Administrator Krissi Lab by approximately $15,000 while she is serving the dual role of interim Friend of the Court.

Sixty-sixth District Court Judge Ward Clarkson told committee members that a stipend of $15,000 would be appropriate, rather than changing Lab’s base salary, since her additional duties are intended to be temporary.

Former Friend of the Court Kristy Bray left in early May for a similar position in Washtenaw County. Clarkston said Washtenaw County pays much more than Shiawassee County. Bray had been with the county since 2016.

Committee members, as well as Clarkson, said they hope to fill the Friend of the Court position quickly.

However, several commissioners took issue with the selection process for the new Friend of the Court and the lack of applicants the search process has produced.

“When we hired our finance director, we formed a hiring committee of four people to conduct that search and hiring process. Can you tell me what the process is and who would go through those applications?” Commissioner Cindy Garber, R-District 6, asked.

“We advertise statewide through the courts, and ultimately Judge Stewart decides,” Clarkson replied.

Garber said she was hesitant about one person doing both jobs, even temporarily.

“Both of those positions are full-time jobs that require someone to work hard full time,” she said. “The court administrator is a great worker, but it’s just impossible to do both jobs at the same time at a high level. I worry this consolidation is going to lead to a decrease in the quality of service our residents receive.”

Clarkson said the position can’t remain unfilled, even temporarily.

“We need to have someone in charge there and our court administrator is doing great. We have had her in charge of Friend of the Court until we find one. It’s a lot of work doing both jobs. I don’t think this should be a job that someone has indefinitely, but until we find a qualified candidate or someone shows up out of nowhere it seems unfair for her to do all that work without the extra compensation,” Clarkson said.

The Friend of the Court department investigates and makes recommendations on custody, child support and other financial disputes involving children during divorce. It also collects and distributes support payments.

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