The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



STATE OF MICHIGAN

JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL


APPROPRIATIONS:

COUNTIES:

OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES:

PUBLIC MONEY:

REGISTER OF DEEDS:

Receipt of additional compensation by county register of deeds for serving as county grant administrator

A county register of deeds, if authorized by the county board of commissioners, may receive additional compensation for serving as the appointed county grant administrator for the county survey and remonumentation program.


Opinion No. 7076

March 02, 2001


Mr. Larry J. Burdick
Isabella County Prosecuting Attorney
200 North Main Street
Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858


You have asked if a county register of deeds, if authorized by the county board of commissioners, may receive additional compensation for serving as the appointed county grant administrator for the county survey and remonumentation program.

The office of county register of deeds is an elective office. Const 1963, art 7, 4, states that the powers and duties of the office are those that "shall be provided by law."

1919 PA 237, MCL 45.401 et seq; MSA 5.911 et seq, authorizes the payment of salaries, in lieu of fees, to county registers of deeds and other county officers. Section 1(1)1 authorizes a county board of commissioners to compensate the register of deeds with salary as the board considers proper. A county register of deeds who receives a salary authorized under 1919 PA 237 may not retain any of the fees collected by his or her office. OAG, 1963-1964, No 4270, p 306 (March 2, 1964). The register must remit all fees collected by his or her office on a monthly basis to the county treasurer. 1919 PA 237, section 2.

The State Survey and Remonumentation Act (Survey Act), 1990 PA 345, MCL 54.261 et seq; MSA 5.1035(261) et seq, authorizes a county monumentation program providing for the monumentation2 or remonumentation of all property controlling corners originally established by the United States land surveys. Sections 8(1) and 14(1)(b) of the Survey Act require counties to adopt county plans as a prerequisite to receiving state grants.

Sec. 8. (1) Each county shall establish a county monumentation and remonumentation plan. Not later than 1 year after the effective date of this act, the commission3 shall create and distribute a model county plan that may be adopted by a county with any changes appropriate for that county. . . .

* * *

Sec. 14. (1) The commission shall not make a grant . . . [to a county or counties] unless all of the following conditions are met:

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(b) The applicant has established a county plan or a multicounty plan that has been approved by the commission on or before December 31 of the calendar year immediately preceding the year in which the grant is made.

The county plan adopted by each county and approved by the State Commission or Director requires the county board of commissioners to appoint a county grant administrator. This is:

[A] person appointed by the County Board of Commissioners as the individual responsible for completing and submitting the annual Application for a Survey and Monumentation Grant to the State of Michigan, and the administering of the approved annual grant. . . . [Model County Plan, Section II.]

This plan has, with slight modifications, been adopted by each of Michigan's 83 counties.

The county grant administrator's duties include: (a) annually submitting a grant application and supporting documents to the Commission by December 31; (b) selecting monumentation surveyors in compliance with qualification-based selection (QBS) as set forth in House Concurrent Resolution 206 (June 1987); (c) submitting proposed county/monumentation-surveyor contracts to the board of county commissioners for its approval and its authorization for execution; (d) recommending payment to the monumentation surveyor as provided by the
contract; and (e) submitting other documentation as required by the Commission. Model County Plan, Section IV.

My staff is advised that in some counties, the county board of commissioners has appointed a county register of deeds to also serve as the county grant administrator. If a county register of deeds accepts the appointment,4 there is no constitutional or statutory bar to the county board of commissioners providing reasonable compensation to the appointee for services rendered. The salary fixed for the register of deeds in section 1(1) of 1919 PA 237 is "compensation in full for all services performed by the . . . register of deeds." But services rendered as a county grant administrator are not rendered as a county register of deeds. The compensation provided to a county grant administrator is likewise not for services rendered as a county register of deeds. A review of the many statutory duties of the office of register of deeds discloses no duties concerning a county monumentation program. Since the duties imposed upon the register of deeds as county grant administrator are foreign to the office of register of deeds, the performance of grant administration duties may be separately compensated. See Grosbeck v Auditor General, 216 Mich 243, 250; 184 NW 870 (1921), holding that state officers performing duties foreign to their respective offices are permitted to receive compensation for those duties, in addition to their constitutionally prescribed salaries for performing the duties of their respective offices.

1851 PA 156, MCL 46.1 et seq; MSA 5.321 et seq, defines the powers and duties of county boards of commissioners. Section 11(g) of this act expressly authorizes county boards of commissioners to: "Prescribe and fix the salaries and compensation of employees of the county if not fixed by law. . . ." These prescribed compensation payments need not be made from a county's general funds. The payments may be paid from a line item in the county monumentation budget approved by the state as part of the annual monumentation grant. Payment of this compensation is analogous to compensation lawfully paid to a county treasurer for services rendered as a member of the county tax commission (OAG, 1933-1934, p 288 (July 13, 1933)), and to compensation lawfully paid to a county register of deeds for services rendered as a county abstractor, thus performing additional duties not germane to the office of register of deeds (OAG, 1945-1946, 0-4237, p 558 (December 27, 1945)).

It is my opinion, therefore, that a county register of deeds, if authorized by the county board of commissioners, may receive additional compensation for serving as the appointed county grant administrator for the county survey and remonumentation program.



JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM
Attorney General

1 Some counties may have a county officers compensation commission. See section 1(2) of 1919 PA 237.

2 The monumentation program provides, among other things, for the proper marking (monumentation) of all property controlling corners. These corners were originally established by the United States in surveys of the public domain, before conveyance of the lands by patent to private individuals. These original corners control the proper description or location of all parcels of land in Michigan. The program provides for the proper monumentation of these corners, including the substantial number of them that have been "lost" or "obliterated."

3 Executive Order No 1996-2 abolishes the commission. The powers and duties of the commission were transferred to the Director, Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services. MCL 445.2001; MSA 3.29(224).

4 The county board of commissioners has no authority to impose upon the register of deeds duties or responsibilities that are in addition to those imposed by law. OAG, 1975-1976, No 4924, p 270 (January 27, 1976).