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Kahl takes Walworth County Auditor position until filled

The Walworth County Commission Tuesday, Feb. 8, appointed Deb Kahl as the county auditor and took a step to fill the 4-H adviser position.
Kahl was appointed as auditor and the resignation of Eva Cognones from that position was accepted after a discussion as to how the process would proceed. Cognones had sent a letter expressing concern that the county be without an auditor and did not want to officially resign until someone was in place to cover the position. That letter added some confusion to the process but after some clarification of the reasoning behind Cognones concerns, Kahl took the oath of office for the auditor’s position.
There has been one application for the deputy auditor’s position, but none for the full-time auditor. Kahl suggested the commission wait until after the April filing deadline for the primary election in June, to fill the position. She said some of those interested may not want to take the job and then have to face a primary election in June.
Kahl said she will act as auditor until a replacement is found and will step down at that time. She told the commission she does not plan to file a petition for the position.
The commission also approved sending a letter of recommendation to South Dakota State University in support of an applicant for the 4-H adviser position that has been interviewed here for that position.

Reimbursement issues
The commission, addressing an issue brought to light by the state audit, discussed the requested repayment of a reimbursement for hotel rooms during an out-of-state commission event four years ago.
Since the request for reimbursement for the hotel rooms was not requested and approved before the event, the state auditors flagged the issue in their report. The commissioners debated whether or not the request to the former auditor Becky Krein and commissioner Marion Schlomer should be required to pay back the county those funds that were paid during the approval of claims in the weeks that followed the event.
Commissioner Kevin Holgard argued that the commissioners had approved those payments during the claims approval process and that they should not be able to request reimbursement of those funds.
Walworth County State’s Attorney Jamie Hare pointed out that the commission has been ignoring the state auditor’s reports for years and that they needed to start heeding the recommendations of those reports.
Commissioners were reminded several times that not all county employees followed the rules concerning travel requests in the past, but Hare said the commission needs stop ignoring the auditor’s reports and deal with this issue.
Kahl said she would review the minutes from that time to see if there was a discussion about the event and how the approval for payment requests was handled.
The issue was tabled until the next meeting.

Opt out
Houck requested the commission decide whether they would pursue an opt out to pay for the day-to-day operation of the county in 2022-2023. He said the county will go broke in two years if the commission does not request the opt out funding. He said if not all commissioners were onboard with the opt out request, it was no use pursuing the issue.
The commission would need to approve the opt out before a July 15 deadline if they wanted to approve it.
Commissioner Duane Mohr said he wanted to wait until the South Dakota State Legislature made a decision on a bill that would allow a one cent sales tax to fund building a jail in state counties.
Houck pointed out the opt out would not be for building the jail, but for operation of the county’s business.
After Houck asked for a commitment to pursue the opt out, both Holgard and Commissioner Scott Schilling voice their opposition to the opt out and that the people of the county had spoken when they voted down the opt out in 2021.
Without a consensus on the commission the issue was dropped.
Before ending the meeting, Houck said he wanted to clear the air about two stories that appeared in the Mobridge Tribune last year before the opt out vote that blamed the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department for the county’s money issues. He said since the jail closed in 2020, there was no budget for transportation and housing of inmates at other locations. Houck said the commission was forced to supplement the sheriff’s budget to fund these issues.
He said the information in the two Tribune stories indicated that the problems with the county’s budget were the fault of the sheriff’s department and law enforcement. He said it was a “bold faced lie” and that the people responsible for that information in the paper knew it.
He said the county has spent just over $1 million transporting and housing prisoners.

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