Dressed as Mickey Mouse, clerk upset over $25,000 spent on 3 employees at Disney Institute

Published: Feb. 20, 2019 at 11:48 PM EST
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(02/20/2019) - Dressed in a Mickey Mouse costume, Genesee County Clerk John Gleason expressed his anger over a decision to send three county employees to the Disney Institute for training.

"You don't need to go down there and see Goofy and the Gang to learn how to treat people," he said during a press conference in his office on Wednesday.

In September, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners authorized a $25,000 expenditure for the county's human resources director, planning director and board coordinator to attend professional development training in Orlando, Fla.

The training in Florida took place last week and the price tag for five days was more than $25,000.

"We are not spending money the way that we should," Gleason said with Mickey Mouse whiskers painted on his face.

He said the money spent to send three county employees to the Disney Institute could have been used for things like helping roll back the price of vital records.

"To me that seems more beneficial to our county and the taxpayers and the parents of newborn children," Gleason said with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears on head.

Genesee County Board of Commissioners' President Ted Henry said he saw the training as a chance to improve employee morale that had bottomed out following the recession.

Gleason, however, disagreed with that strategy.

"Do you think three people can raise the morale of 2,500 people when you have multiple departments?" he asked.

Board coordinator and capital improvements coordinator Joshua Freeman, who attended five days of training, said there's value in developing good leaders.

"If we can improve the productivity of an employee 3 to 5 percent, you're starting to talk about some pretty big money," Freeman said. "That's $3 million to $5 million a year of increased productivity because the attitude of the employee changed."

He said courses on leadership excellence, employee engagement and customer service cost $6,500. Lodging and meals totaled about $2,000, along with $250 for airfare. The total per person of more than $8,500 was paid for in part by a one-time reimbursement from the state of Michigan for unclaimed property.

"This is a one-time kind of windfall we got that we got that we were able to use towards a cause the board is pretty serious about," Freeman said.

He said the trip was nothing new, because the county sent people to the Disney Institute before the recesson.

Up next, the board will have to decide if it wants to send two county employees to a labor relations conference in Arizona in April. The price tag for that trip could run about $8,000.

The full board will vote on March 13.

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