Archive for Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Leavenworth County Commission did not violate open meetings laws, attorney general’s office determines

A World War I doughboy statue stands outside the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

A World War I doughboy statue stands outside the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

November 25, 2008

According to the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, the Board of County Commissioners did not violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act when discussing the 2009 budget and the reduction in force.

Last week David Van Parys, the county counselor, received a letter from Assistant Attorney General, Michael Smith, clearing the commission of any wrongdoing.

“It is my opinion no violation of KOMA have taken place,” Smith wrote in the letter. “The facts of the situation demonstrate one of the internal tensions within KOMA. ON the one hand, government must operate in an open fashion so the public may understand not only the decision, but the reasoning behind the decision. On the other hand, KOMA allows for protection of personal privacy of employees who provide the public service. When a decision impacts both the public’s right and the need to know and an employee’s future, a balance must be struck. In this case, the Leavenworth County stayed within both the spirit and letter of KOMA in order to make a difficult decision.”

On Sept. 5, the Leavenworth Times made a complaint to the County Attorney’s Office to investigate the matter. The county attorney forwarded the complaint to the attorney general’s office because of a conflict of interest.

When the commissioners learned about the complaint, they too wanted an investigation and on Sept. 18, requested a review of the events that led to the complaint.

In other business the commission:

• Listened to a presentation from the Diane Collins, the county’s human resources director, on reasons not to disband the human resources department.

There are currently three full-time employees in the department, but in January, the office will reduce to two employees. It would also change the director’s title and reduce the pay for the position. The department itself would also be split up and moved to other county departments.

Collins said her department was already behind after one of the employees had an extended absence and it would be difficult for only tow people to do the job.

“You make this permanent situation and we’re not going to be able to keep up and that’s the bottom line,” Collins said.

Also at the meeting were Linda Scheer, the county clerk, and Janet Klasinski, the deputy county clerk. Scheer explained that payroll was once done out of the clerk’s office, but was given to Diane’s office in 2004.

“That was to better service to the employees of the county with no extra cost,” Scheer said.

“I think it is more productive for that office if they were to stay together. I think it provides a better service for the county and the employees.

This brought up the question of who could backup the remaining employees if they were to go on vacation or something were to happen to them.

Heather Morgan, county administrator, said they could develop a plan to train other county employees for such a case.

Another possibility would be to automate the payroll system. Commissioner J.C. Tellefson said it could cost the county $60,000 to start an automated system, but it may save the county money in the future.

Morgan said she has worked in other municipalities that started an automated payroll system, but it was about six months before the system was running smoothly.

There was a consensus that the office shouldn’t be disbanded, but the question of who would be a backup to the department employees and if there should be a part-time employee added to the department’s staff was not decided.

• Unanimously voted to proclaim November as pulmonary hypertension awareness month.

• Met in executive session for 10 minutes to discuss personnel. No action was taken.

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