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Wadena board reviews audio tapes to quell elected officials' salary concerns

At a special board meeting on Jan. 24, the Wadena County Board of Commissioners spent two hours listening to scratchy and at times barely audible cassette tapes of meetings held Jan. 4 and Jan. 20, 2011, that dealt with elected officials' salaries.

The session was requested by County Attorney Kyra Ladd after Sheriff Mike Carr Jr. rejected the 2012 salary increase he was given. Carr's salary increase was included in a board motion on Jan. 3, 2012, that covered all four elected officials - county attorney, county sheriff, county recorder and county auditor/treasurer.

At Carr's request, on Jan. 19 the board rescinded the motion it had passed giving all four elected officials the equivalent of a "one step increase" over their 2011 salaries. So in order for Carr to turn down his increase, all four officials' increases were cancelled.

Then the board decided it wanted to do some research on salaries before giving the three remaining elected officials their one step increases. This angered the three people involved, who now had their salaries put back to 2011 levels because of Carr's action.

County Attorney Kyra Ladd told the board that there was no need for delay, and hinted that she might bring court action unless the board listened to the 2011 audio tapes of the meetings at which salary agreements were discussed and understanding reached with the county's unions.

Board members agreed to refresh their recollections by listening to the relevant tape sections, and scheduled a special meeting for Jan. 24.

On Jan. 24, after two hours of listening to the tapes and reminding themselves of what was said, why it was said, and the details of the union agreements made in January 2011, Commissioner Bill Stearns stated that he saw no reason why the three remaining elected officials should not receive the increases that they were entitled to under the 2011 discussions.

Board Chair Ralph Miller said that the vote had to take place at the Feb. 7 board meeting, because that is what was agreed to on Jan. 19.

After some more discussion, the meeting was adjourned at 11:21 a.m.