Cass County votes to terminate administrator’s contract

Published 9:30 am Monday, December 7, 2015

Cass County will once again be without its central leader, as a divided board of commissioners decided to terminate the contract of Administrator Roger Fraser Thursday evening.

In a 4-2 decision, the commissioners approved a motion to release Fraser from his duties as chief executive of the county government effective Dec. 11, 2015, during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting at the county annex in Cassopolis. Voting in favor of the action were Vice Chair Robert Ziliak and commissioners Skip Dyes, Roseann Marchetti and Dixie File; opposed were Chairperson Bernie Williamson and Commissioner Clark Cobb. Commissioner Robert Wagel was absent during Thursday’s meeting.

Fraser will receive 26 weeks worth of severance pay following the dissolution of his contract, Williamson said.

Fraser’s termination follows a heated meeting of the board two weeks ago, when the commissioners agreed to the terms of a settlement with employee Debra Troche, who the Cass County Independent Employees Association filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit on behalf of after the administrator laid her off in late 2014.

Following the settlement agreement, the commissioners tabled a motion presented earlier in the evening to not renew Fraser’s contract — a motion that was reintroduced during Thursday’s meeting.

While voting in favor of the motion in order to prevent a stalemate, File commented that she felt Fraser was doing a fabulous job as county administrator, and regrets seeing him let go from the position.

“I’m very upset and disgusted about it,” File said. “I’ve never felt this way about any other decision by the board.”

The decision to release Fraser comes a little more than two years after the board hired him to take over the vacant administrator position in winter 2013, following the resignation of Louis Csokasy in July of that year. Fraser was the third person to serve in the role since March 2010, when longtime administrator Terry Proctor resigned following 20 years of service to the county.

Prior to the decision, the commissioners discussed how the county should handle the process of selecting another administrator. Marchetti mentioned the possibility of hosting several meetings between a handful of commissioners and the county’s elected officials and department heads to determine which direction the county should take moving forward.

“We all have the county’s best interests at heart,” Marchetti said. “If we all meet and hash out a few things, firm up a few things, then we can really move forward.”

Dyes agreed with the suggestion, saying that a transitional team can attempt to correct some of the internal strife plaguing the local government before they hire Fraser’s replacement.

Williamson and File disagreed with the idea of forming such a committee, stating the board will be the ones to ultimately shoulder the responsibility of selecting a new administrator.

The suggestion of hiring an interim administrator was also briefly mentioned, with Williamson mentioning that the county had four interested applicants. The board considered hiring a temporary leader while Fraser was on extended sick leave earlier this year.

“If we go down this route [of forming a committee], I think it will take some time,” Ziliak said. “I think we should look at taking some immediate action now, so we don’t get caught with nobody here on board.”

Fraser declined a request to comment when reached by Leader Publications.