After a warning that the commission would not tolerate personal attacks on county employees, Walworth County Commissioner Kevin Holgard, halted a line of questioning at the Thursday, July 25, commissioner’s meeting, making a harassment charge against a member of the public.
During the open forum portion of the meeting, former county employee Patti Bauman expressed her concern about having the auditor also fullfill the duties of the landfill supervisor. Auditor Becky Krein has been working as interim landfill supervisor and Bauman expressed concern that is was too much work for one person to do. She told the commissioners that down the road one or the other will suffer and if the auditor deputies are doing landfill work, they should be compensated for that work.
Linda Beaman, who has attended the commissioner meetings recently, has been involved in several heated exchanges with commissioners at those meetings. She has requested specific information concerning the county business, information on discussion for upcoming meetings and questioned moves made by the commission.
Beaman has been warned that her line of questioning was bordering on interrogation. At prior meetings, some commissioners have told Beaman they were not on trial.It has caused some meetings to become tense and contentious.
It all came to a head on Thursday when Beaman, allowed to speak in the public forum part of the meeting, began to make statements about what is happening in the auditor’s office since auditor Becky Krein has taken over the duties of the landfill supervisor.
Beaman, who had presented the commission with a 1972 attorney general’s opinion opposing an elected official holding two, full-time positions, asked the commission to explain how they expected Krein to do the work for the auditor’s office and the landfill position.
Beaman charged that landfill reports were not being comprised on time, bills were being paid late and auditor deputies were doing landfill work.
Holgard called a point of order, told Beaman if she continued the manner of questioning, perceived to be a personal attack on a county official, he would pursue harassment charges against her.
Commission chair Scott Schilling intervened and asked that Beaman just move on and that she cease targeting one person with her questions. Beaman denied that she was targeting any one person, that her questions were about the office of the auditor.
She then continued to question the commissioners on how one person could hold two full-time positions and began a line of questioning concerning the use of Facebook before Holgard again halted the conversation.
Holgard halted the meeting with a point of order.
“We are not here to be on trial,” he told Beaman. “This has turned into a civil case and I am not going to sit here and hash over this stuff every week.”
He went on to say that it is his recommendation to the board that if Beaman kept up with her questioning tactics, he would go after her with a civil case.
Commission chair Scott Schilling again intervened and said the commission has dealt with this issue with Beaman before. Beaman pushed Schilling on the use of Robert’s Rules of Order and how she should not be interrupted during her addressing the commission.
Holgard halted the meeting with a point of order.
“Point of order. I move for harassment charges,” he told the board.
At that point, the conversation ended, and the commissioners moved on.
The commissioners went into executive session to discuss the landfill position and when they reconvened in regular session, a motion was made to hire Krein as the landfill supervisor and pay her $2,000 a month for those duties out of the landfill budget. There will be no additional benefits connected to the landfill job.
In a roll call vote, commissioners Marion Schlomer and Holgard voted in favor of hiring Krein and commissioners Jim Houck and Davis Martin voted against the hiring. The tie was broken with Schilling voting in favor.
Holgard told the board the county was getting a capable employee for $24,000 a year, which is much less than what they would have to pay someone else in that positions. He said he was confident Krein would do the job well and hiring her saves the county money.
Schilling told the commission that work that had been done in Campbell County around the Salt Lake area, was causing problems on Walworth County farmland. He said a ditch area had been cleaned out around a culvert and the result is that farmland in Walworth County is being flooded.
“I don’t see how it is right to help one family (in Campbell County) and hurt six more (in Walworth County),” he said.
Walworth County Highway Department Superintendent Gary Byre told the commission that as long as the water levels are as high as they are, issues like this will come up. He said he had not been contacted about the issue and didn’t believe the work in the ditch could be causing the problems.
He asked the commission for time to investigate the issue before any action was taken. The commission agreed to that.
The commission also held the annual budget meeting, agreeing to pay all county employees a certain raise rather than an across the board 3 percent hike. It was pointed out the percentage raise benefitted the highest paid employees the most and those on the lower end of the pay scale did not benefit as much.
The raise will be between 70 and 73 cents per hour.