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'Vague' county personnel policy under review

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'Vague' county personnel policy under review
Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson 56482

A Wadena County personnel policy referred to as "vague" and contradictory by a consultant for the county is under review, prompted by a visit from three highway department employees to the Oct. 6 county board meeting.

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The proper protocol for comp time approval was addressed at the Oct. 21 meeting when Ken Moyer, a highway department employee, asked for an apology from Commissioner Bill Stearns for comments Moyer said he made to highway employees in the audience at the Oct. 6 meeting.

Stearns asked, "Mr. Chair, these three here from highway department, are they on the clock or off the clock?" Oct. 6.

Moyer said he didn't have a problem with Stearns asking if they were on their own time. He did have a problem with what he recalled as other comments Stearns made, he said.

Two highway department employees said they were off the clock and one said he was on vacation.

Stearns asked why they were at county board meetings all the time.

Various highway department employees have visited previous meetings, particularly in regard to the Verndale garage issue.

Moyer replied that he was a tax payer.

He said Stearns replied "yeah right" to that comment.

"I feel that it was very inappropriate and very unprofessional," Moyer said. "If there's an issue with county employees who are your tax payers being here on their own time than that needs to be addressed."

Stearns said that he did not say "yeah right" to Moyer's comment, but instead replied "yeah."

"And that's an agreement," Stearns said. "The inflection may not have been to your liking. You probably heard 'yeah right,' but I didn't say 'yeah right.'"

A recording of the meeting showed that Stearns did say "yeah" and not "yeah right."

Stearns said that, obviously, Moyer can come to county board meetings, but he has to have a form for time off filled out ahead of time.

Moyer said he doesn't have to have the form filled out for comp time. He just needs to have the comp time OK'd by his supervisor ahead of time, which he did.

Stearns said that Moyer's department head didn't know he had the day off.

Moyer said his supervisor, Vern Kemper, did know.

"Our comp time goes through our supervisor because he is the one that needs to know," Moyer said.

Mike Gibson, who serves as a consultant for human resources for the county, said he received some calls about this issue and did some research. First of all, he reminded commissioners that he suggested last year the county redo its personnel policy.

"It's vague and there's contradictions in it," he said.

The other concern that was expressed to him was that the chain of command needs to come into effect when a county employee wants to come to a board meeting because they're unhappy with something that's happening in their department, Gibson said. Customarily, employees should first express their concern with the chain of command in their department.

"If the employee is not satisfied with the explanation that his supervisors give, he then has the right to go to the board and express his concern," Gibson said.

But, he reiterated, the personnel book is vague about what is supposed to happen.

"So you've really got some holes here that for the sake of the employees as well as the board, you might want to take a look at it and revise that booklet," Gibson said.

Moyer said that a lot of issues they came to county board meetings about were discussed in meetings with department head Joel Ulring, but that their concerns were dismissed.

Gibson said if that is the case, then normally the person an employee should touch base with is the board liaison to the highway department, which is Stearns.

"But, again, there was no direction to you so this isn't pointed at what you've done, Ken, by any means," Gibson said. "Clearly, there's

confusion."

The highway employees did not present any comments before the board when they visited Oct. 6.

Commissioner Lane Waldahl said he has said the county should redo its personnel policy so there are no hard feelings among employees, department heads and commissioners. He redid the personnel policy when he was the Wadena police chief and he would like to go through the county's as well, he said.

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