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Wednesday, December 19,2012

Bernero v. Rodgers

What's a fair salary for a township supervisor? And is it relevant to a consolidation discussion?

by Sam Inglot
You can almost feel the love between the executives of Lansing and Lansing Township when it comes to consolidating their two communities. 

During an interview about consolidation on the City Pulse “Newsmakers” TV show last week, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero questioned Lansing Township Supervisor Kathleen Rodgers’ motives against consolidation as well as the election of her son, Leo Rodgers, as treasurer. 

What kind of township supervisor, Bernero wondered, makes $65,000 a year? And did she install her son to watch over the township books, as Bernero suggested?

“Well this isn’t about me and Kathleen Rodgers,” Bernero said after listening to a transcribed quote from Rodgers about how Lansing offers virtually nothing for township residents should a consolidation occur. “Kathleen Rodgers is probably one of the highest paid township officials in the state and country vis--vis her population. She has a population of about seven or eight thousand people and she’s a very well paid township supervisor who has recently installed her son as township treasurer. So it’s a very interesting township, a little burg that they’re running over there that probably should be exposed further.”

Rodgers responded in an email: “It appears Mr. Bernero has a problem with women getting paid equal pay for equal work.”

Let’s start with Rodgers’ $65,000 salary. Lansing Township is a local anomaly not just because it’s broken up into five noncontiguous segments, but also because the supervisor acts essentially as its top elected official and township manager, Rodgers said. In neighboring townships that have both, the manager is a full-time job while the supervisor is part time.

Rodgers is the only full-time township supervisor in the Lansing area. Delhi, Delta and Meridian townships all have part-time supervisors and full-time township managers. Lansing Township is also the smallest township in the region, dwarfed in population by Meridian, Delhi and Delta.

The salaries for supervisors in Delhi, Delta and Meridian townships, as part-time positions, are all less than $24,000. Supervisors act as overseers of the township board meetings and help set policy with other board members.

Meanwhile, township managers are responsible for executing the policies set by the township board and oversee the day-to-day operations of the township. In those same townships, manager salaries range from about $104,000 to $112,000. 

Considering what it costs neighboring townships for a supervisor and manager — between $125,000 and $135,000 annually — Rodgers’ $65,000 salary plus health insurance and a pension is about half that.

Debra McGuire, director of education and communications at the Michigan Townships Association, said the salaries of township officials vary greatly and that there is no set schedule for township officials’ compensation. 

For Rodgers, her salary is beside the point. 

“I hardly see the relevance in a discussion on consolidation to say what someone’s salary is,” Rodgers said. “I don’t have to defend my salary to the people of Lansing, it’s none of their business.”

As for her son’s election in November against a write-in Republican (he was unopposed in the primary), Rodgers said it would be impossible to install him, given the fact that township board members are elected.

But the Rodgers were involved in a last minute switch at the filing deadline on May 15. Kathleen Rodgers, the township treasurer for 20 years, filed for re-election on May 2. Leo Rodgers filed for re-election to the township board on the same day. 

Minutes before the deadline, Kathleen Rodgers decided to run for supervisor in a contested Democratic primary. Once she made that decision, Leo Rodgers decided to run for treasurer so there would at least be a candidate, as Kathy Rodgers put it. 

Kathy Rodgers said there was nothing wrong with how her son got into office: He filed before the deadline, ran against a Republican write-in candidate; and won.

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