By John Holler
For a second straight week, a meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners was dominated by discussion of a proposed reorganization of the sheriff’s office.
Discussion was tabled the week before and not much changed at this meeting.
At question is whether Sheriff Joe Hagerty has the authority to restructure his office, specifically the clerical division. Hagerty hired a business manager who is slated to start Monday, April 10. That person would supervise the entire division, which currently had two supervisors whose jobs would be eliminated under the proposal.
Commissioner Darek Vetsch openly questioned the actions surrounding the process, stating that the procedures and policies aren’t fair to the employees. Hagerty defended his position, saying the he is an elected official responsible for 240 employees and he has the authority to streamline the process where it is deemed necessary to eliminate redundancies and have a clearer chain of command, even if toes get stepped on.
“Change is hard, I get that,” Hagerty said. “I’ve been in this position — in my second term — and I’ve made a lot of changes, had a lot of sleepless nights. Some board members don’t think it was handled right, but it doesn’t come easy. There’s a human element to it. I get that.”
Hagerty added that he felt he has been a good partner with the board, but, when you’re an elected official, there are times you need to make tough decisions.
“I do implore the board to allow me to run the office I was elected to do,” Hagerty said. “I’m trying to be a partner here. I went through the (policy) process. I talked to Commissioner Vetsch about whose employees they are. I render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. They’re your employees. I’m fine with that. But, I am tasked with managing them and there’s 240 of them. It’s not an easy job. I take it seriously. I live and breathe this job.”
Vetsch expressed frustration that he came on the board too late and wasn’t part of the process that has gone on for months before he arrived. His issue is with the procedures and policies that were in place that brought the county to this point.
He stated that any items that come on the board agenda are the county board’s business, because it is the board that is tasked with enforcing county policies, and constituents have been asking those question if by following this reorganization plan coincides with the county’s mission statement. Vetsch added that he would like to have a third party moderate the dispute because he’s convinced at least he is in a stalemate of disagreement with Hagerty and Human Resources Director Sunny Hesse.
Hesse responded that the item had been laid over due to the need to ask questions. Hesse said she never heard from Vetsch in the intervening week, claiming she felt she was being attacked for not doing her job, yet she was never asked to clarify why the reorganization would be in keeping with county policy. Vetsch countered that he didn’t see the advantage of speaking with Human Resources.
“I’m not comfortable with H.R.’s standpoint on this,” Vetsch said. “The alignment between the sheriff’s department and H.R., I feel any discussion I have there is gray and swayed. I’m not comfortable with going to that office to have these discussions.”
Hesse countered that the decision to relieve the two employees of their current duties in 30 days (April 28) was predicated on approval at the March 28 meeting and that since it wasn’t authorized by the board, that date no longer applies.
“At this point, I would say all dates are off the table,” Hesse said. “Without a decision from this board, I don’t think it’s fair to set those dates. The dates don’t necessarily apply any longer because there hasn’t been a decision by this board.”
Hagerty said he was more than willing to meet with the commissioners to discuss the process, but made it clear that his stance as an elected official is firm and unchanged.
“Does the board feel it has the authority to determine who supervises who in my office?” Hagerty asked. “I don’t think we’re there. If Commissioner Vetsch wants to have some discussion, then we can. But, that’s something, just so you know, I won’t relinquish.”
Hagerty said to pay office employees supervisory wages would create an “H.R. nightmare,” which Vetsch believes has been occurring for some time and remains.
“We already have a H.R. nightmare,” Vetsch said. “I got letters upon letters upon letters of items that are H.R. nightmares. It’s stuff that none of them are going to want to talk about. Nobody wants to talk about them in this forum. I want to prevent H.R. nightmares.”
The board set a committee of the whole meeting for 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 12 with the hope of finally reaching an understanding on the question, which is almost sure not be a vote that will be unanimously agreed on.
In other items on the agenda, the board:
SET an evening public hearing for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 4 to discuss the potential enactment of a half-cent local option sales tax to help pay for county road and bridge projects.
WAS introduced to Tina Holty, interim 4-H program coordinator and viewed a presentation from 4-H member Chloe Lister, who attended the Presidential Inauguration representing Minnesota and Wright County.
HEARD a presentation from Medical Examiner Quinn Strobl, who delivered the annual Wright County Medical Examiner Report. The report outlines all deaths that took place in the county, the manner of death and specifics about the different factors the come into play in explaining death statistics.
ADDED the security committee to the list of advisory committees of the county board. Commissioners Charlie Borrell and Christine Husom represent to the board.
AUTHORIZED signatures on the 2016 Annual County Feedlot Report.
MADE two appointments to the extension committee – Stan Vander Kooi from District 4 and Scott Peterson as an at-large member. Both terms run through Dec. 31, 2019.
SET a social media policy amendment that determined the administration department as the authorizer of what are acceptable social media sites. The Web Committee had been charged with that task previously.
Announced the cancellation of the Oct. 10 board meeting due to five Tuesdays in the month. County boards meet four weeks a month and, in the months that have five Tuesdays, one is selected for cancellation.