Editorial: Pay raise for DDA director is emblematic of problems in Ypsilanti

The Depot Town DDA just granted Downtown Development Authority director Brian Vosburg a 6% pay increase retroactive to July 1, 2007. We are not begrudging the raise, though in this economy and constantly hearing from the Mayor and city officials that they don’t have money and the continued threats by city officials to lay off police and fire, we wonder about the size of the raise and the timing.

The issue we have is how the raise was granted. In talking with DTDDA board members after their meeting today, they were surprised to learn that Vosburg had received a 3% pay increase just one month after starting his job in June 2006. Those board members polled after the meeting did not understand that their action and vote today granted Vosburg a pay increase from July 1, 2006.

That 3% raise in July 2006 was a clerical error made by the City’s Finance department. Vosburg was not eligible for the raise as he had only been working for the city one month.

The error wasn’t caught until a year later in the summer of 2007. Instead of the City taking back the excess pay, which is what most employers do, the DTDDA and DDA let the raise stand. Then, by their unanimous vote today, the DTDDA formally granted the DDA director a new 6% raise and then made it retroactive to July 1 of 2007. What they did not understand is that their vote granted Vosburg the 3% raise he was paid in error by making that pay increase retroactive to July 2006.

This 6% pay raise is troubling on two points. First, the idea that a department manager would receive an automatic 3% pay increase just one month after being hired is stunning. Immediately after the error was found, the excess pay should have been withheld from the employees check. Most large organizations will work out a repayment process over time so as to minimize the impact to the employee. The money was paid in error and it should have been returned to the City. Vosburg had neither earned or was entitled to this pay increase and it was never approved by either DDA board.

Secondly, the process of approving the pay increase is troubling. The DDA director receives pay from two funds, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Depot Town DDA. Yes it is true, Ypsilanti has two DDA districts.

The DTDDA contributes just 25% to the directors salary the rest comes from the DDA. However, with the DTDDA setting the compensation level by their vote today, they in effect force the Ypsilanti DDA to agree to the same salary arrangements even though the Ypsilanti DDA hasn’t yet met to discuss Vosburg’s evaluation and compensation.

Instead of playing one board against the other when it comes to deciding the compensation for the DDA director, the DDA and DTDDA should have formed a joint committee of both boards to review and evaluate the director’s performance over the past year. That joint committee would then bring the evaluation back to both boards for approval. This is how it was done in the past and frankly we are baffled why this process was not used this year. We are also shocked and so were several DTDDA members to learn after the meeting that they had approved a retroactive pay increase effectively going back to July 2006 and approved a 3% pay increase for the director just one month after he was hired.

This joint committee should also be looking at the total compensation package for the DDA Director. The DDA director makes no contribution to his health care or benefits package, which costs the Ypsilanti DDA an additional $22,000 a year. The Depot Town DDA does not contribute to the directors health and benefits package.

Both DDA’s should have been looking at the total compensation and benefits package for the DDA director and not just simply salary.

We urge both DDA’s to put the brakes on any further pay increases for the DDA director and encourage both boards to form a joint evaluation and compensation committee and bring those recommendations back to the full board. This process must be open and transparent to the constituents and taxpayers of the DDA and DTDDA districts.

In the mean time, neither DDA should agree to a 3% pay increase for the DDA director because of a clerical error. An accounting error was made. You don’t compound that error by granting a pay raise retroactive to just one month after the DDA Director started his new job in 2006.


4 Comments on "Editorial: Pay raise for DDA director is emblematic of problems in Ypsilanti"

  1. mdbendor on Sat, 26th Jan 2008 11:37 am 

    The article did not include some facts that would help the reader understand the pay issue: What is the salary? What was it before and after the increase(s)? What are the responsibilities of the DDA director and do we have any measures of his job performance? (Like something that would justify a pay raise?) Who, if anyone, is in charge of this?

  2. ypsijerm28 on Mon, 28th Jan 2008 11:22 am 

    I agree with those questions and would also like to know why we have tow DDAs in such a small town? Do both the DDAs have separate staff and spaces (ie clerical works, offices, etc)?

    Also, to me it does not matter what his salary was, he hired in at a certain rate and was given a raise a month later… take the money back! Why are they doing retro pay? If he should have gotten a raise in July 07 it looks like his boss is not very good at their job and he is sol. This is another example of how the city does not function as a business properly. Why do they not have guidelines for when someone gets a raise? If he was supposed to have a review in July and a raise with that review, why is it now just coming up for vote? It is January 08 now right? Not good business practice, but how shocking for Ypsi???? (NOT VERY!)

  3. Steve Pierce on Sat, 2nd Feb 2008 4:08 pm 

    The DDA director makes about $45,000 a year and additionaly there is some $22,000 a year for health care and taxes. So the total costs to the DDA is about $68,000 a year.

    When the DDA board hired the new DDA director, the DDA board said that priority number 1 for the new director was to resolve the mess over the parking lot dumpster corrals. He was also supposed to work on updating the DDA website, improving communication with downtown business, complete an inventory of downtown businesses, and work on advertising and promoting the downtown.

    Some 18 months later and the garbage problem hasn’t been resolved. Perhaps others can chime in whether those other goals were attained and who did the work.

  4. Steve Pierce on Sat, 2nd Feb 2008 4:14 pm 

    While there are two DDA boards, there is only one staff member, the DDA director, and one office downtown. The DTDDA contributes about $10,000 a year to the DDA to pay for part of the costs of a full-time DDA director. For that $10,000 the DDA director is supposed to work on DTDDA issues for 25% of the time. The rest of the time is to be spent on Downtown DDA issues.

    Yet you can see the actual costs of the DDA director are over $70,000 a year by the time you add in the other overhead costs like cell phone, computer, Internet, office space and other direct expenses.

    The DTDDA would need to contribute nearly $18,000 a year if they were covering 25% of the DDA directors time.

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