County looks to outside firm to settle difference of opinions

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The county is looking to outside help to solve ongoing differences of opinions in county financial offices

The county board voted 4-1, with Commissioner Jerry Reinartz voting no, to hire Lawco to study department staffing levels and duties for the cost of about $42,500 to $47,500. County Coordinator Craig Oscarson described the issues as a “healthy difference of opinion” on the best way to do things in the auditor-treasurer’s office, the finance department and other county offices.

Though the board hedged at the cost of the study, commissioners argued it’s a worthwhile cost to ensure they have documentation. While Commissioner Mike Ankeny said it’s tough to spend money, he said an independent analysis would be beneficial.

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“We need some actual, true documentation of what we’re dealing with here,” Ankeny said.

The funding is likely to come from county reserves, and Reinartz questioned whether this is the time to use reserves for a new project when the county is struggling with a budget shortfall.

“Any reserves we’ve got, I think should be applied to that budget,” he said.

The board will use the Lawco study to make decisions on future staffing levels, staffing needs and staffing duties.

County Attorney Kristen Nelsen said it’s important to have information from a third party because some of the county’s decisions could end in litigation.

“I think that gives you a better basis for any action you take,” Nelsen said of the third party information.

County board Chairman Tim Gabrielson said the employee disputes have been simmering for years and not getting any better.

“I don’t see them getting better, I see them getting worse” Gabrielson said.

Gabrielson noted this could actually save the board money in the long run if a position is cut.

“This is probably going to be a very good investment and possibly save us money,” he said.

The study will include the auditor-treasurer’s office, Finance Director Donna Welsh’s office and Public Works.