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Gibson declines union talks position

Mike Gibson declined the Wadena County Board's offer to perform union negotiations for the 2010 contract talks following a split vote.

The county board voted 3-2 to hire Gibson to perform the task after several commissioners expressed satisfaction with the job he did last year, according to a review of a tape from the June 2 meeting.

"I wouldn't accept the position under these circumstances," Gibson said after commissioners Rodney Bounds and Ralph Miller voted against rehiring him.

"It's nothing against you personally," Bounds told Gibson about his vote. "We have to make a decision if we're going to employ you again."

If the county hires another person to do a similar job to Gibson's maybe that person should be involved with the negotiations, Bounds added.

Bounds made several statements saying he thinks the county needs to sit down and decide whether it needs the coordinator position or not.

Commissioner Lane Waldahl said this vote wasn't about the coordinator position, it was about union negotiations. The coordinator position can be discussed when the county is working on the 2010 budget.

"If you don't want it in 2010, that's what you need to say," Waldahl said about the position.

The county contracted with Gibson in 2008 to serve as a temporary human resources consultant. Handling union negotiations was one of the major tasks the board assigned Gibson. Since Gibson's contract expired earlier this year the board has continued to ask him to perform a number of services for the county including the finalization of the 2009 49ers union contract. The motion to retain Gibson nearly died after Chairman Dave Schermerhorn asked if there was a second and commissioners hesitated to reply.

Miller said, "I knew you'd be looking at me," to Waldahl after the request for a second.

Waldahl said he was looking at both Miller and Bounds.

"Look all day," Bounds replied.

Waldahl seconded the motion himself before it died.

Commissioner Bill Stearns moved to retain Gibson for union negotiations after he addressed the recommendation from department heads to cut $70,000 budgeted for a possible county coordinator position in 2009. Instead, the county will need to budget money for professional services for union negotiations, Stearns said.

Waldahl said that after doing negotiations himself in the past and watching how it was done this year, he doesn't think commissioners should be involved.

"I concur," Stearns said. "I thought it went smooth this year."

Bounds said one or two commissioners could be involved with the process, but the county also needs to have someone with more expertise.

Gibson said it can be dangerous to have commissioners perform negotiations because they can accidentally make a committment. A neutral person has to go back to the board before any language can be approved.

Bounds asked when negotiations need to take place.

Shortly, Waldahl replied.

Gibson said, "Frankly, you guys should be talking about it right now."

Commissioners agreed to put $70,000 in a central services budget for union negotiations.

Waldahl suggested that amount because of what it cost when the county had to hire a labor attorney in previous years, he said.

Commissioners who voted to retain Gibson expressed some frustration with the way the vote turned out and the need to put money that had been cut into a central services budget for expenses such as a labor attorney.

"Big spenders on this board," Stearns said.

Schermerhorn added, "We have to reinvent the wheel."