Wednesday, December 19, 2007

County Board Passes Code...Work Not Over

Kudos to all of the "watchers" who stuck with it and encouraged the SLC Board to adopt a Code of Conduct at their last meeting of 2007 in Ely on December 18th. After a 4-hour discussion and a number of amendments to actually give it some "teeth", the Code passed unamimously. It was clear that Commissioners Nelson and Fink did not support it, but they realized they no longer had the votes to defeat it.

Recognition should go to Comissioner Bill Kron who chaired the meeting with respect and grace, at one point preventing Commissioner Fink from cross-examining members of the public who came to speak in favor of the Code. Commissioners Sweeny and O'Neil had always supported the Code and, in the end, Commissioners Rauker and Forsman indicated their support as well.

This is an excellent first step in restoring some civility to this Board but it will clearly continue to be necessary to watch for some time into the future,

One issue scheduled to be on the Board meeting for their January 15th meeting is with respect to the re-naming of an island in Commissioner's Forsman's district. The Bois Fort Band of Ojibwe has indicated they would like for the island to be named "Gitchi Miniss", which translates to "Big Island". Apparently there has been some "agreement" made with a local family who "sold" the island to the State of Minnesota to have the island named for themselves. Stay tuned....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Meeting in Ely on the 18th

It is unfortunate that the St. Louis County Board so often finds it necessary to undertake controversial votes at the meeting just before Christmas which is so often in Ely. I'm sure they have not noticed the difficulty folks have getting to that remote destination at this time of year.

It is also unfortunate they have not noticed that the code of conduct they are proposing to vote on lacks the important qualities that would serve to protect the county and it's employees from the repercussions of the behavioral antics of the commissioners.

The County is put in the spot of being a parent just realizing it is responsible for the acts of it's charming youngsters. Bullying and sexual harassment come home to roost in the pocket books of the voters. I suppose these fellows think that they can keep the raise to the county coffers under 5% and we'll all go back to sleep.

But I think some of the folks just look like they're sleeping. I think they care.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mandatory sexual harrassment training

I agree with Sandra about the concerns that this code gives no clear policy for violations. A clear policy is critical and I believe is required by law.
Another concern is that #6 Educational Programs only encourages attendance at trainings. I believe sexual harassment training should be required at least once every 2 years. Other trainings should be encouraged as well. Many professions have requirements for regular trainings.

new code

This is my least favorite bit of the code proposed by Commissioner Nelson:

Stat. 375 gives the Board power to set up its own rules and regulations in response to a complaint on a case-by-case basis with the advice of its Affirmative Action Officer and Administrator as the Data Practices Officer.

What's yours?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Board Budget Workshop on Dec 7th

At the recent Board workshop on December 7th, the commissioners discussed the budget. There was a lengthy discussion regarding cutting the county attorney's budget related to victim services, specifically a half-time position for a county attorney to work with crime victims/witnesses. At the same time, they discussed providing funding for the "air show", which Commissioner Sweeny pointed out seemed a bit out of sync with the "priorities" of the county in terms of limited resources. County Administrator Dana Frey questioned whether it was even legal for the county to give money to the Air Show and said he would get a clarification on this, seeing as they were not really "purchasing" services.

There was also a healthy debate on providing funding for a homeless vets project and whether or not they should "earmark" funds in the budget for this, as well as for the Air Show, Historical Society, and Vets Memorial Hall. Commissioner O'Neill advocated for the Vets Housing project (MACV) but was questioned by Commissioner Nelson on this. Apparently Nelson was not ready to commit funds to this in the budget. He did indicate that Commissioner Fink (who was unable to attend) felt strongly that the Air Show should be funded and the attorney position for victim services should be cut!

It is certainly interesting that the County Attorney's office is targeted, following the investigations into those sexual harassment complaints against Rauker and Fink back in the summer of 2007. Apparently prior to that they had actually supported funding for this position!

Other "expenditure reduction options"" included $30,000 in out-of-home placement funds and $30,000 in "non-mandatory training". There was also brief discussion on raising the salaries for the Sheriff and County Attorney in that a comparison with other elected officials in that same job category indicated they were both underpaid at present.

Stay tuned, as the budget should be formally adopted at the upcoming Board meting on December 11th.

As for that "Code of Conduct".....that is apparently on the agenda for the "Committee of the Whole" meeting on the 1th as well!